Having a criminal record makes international travel very difficult. Because most countries try to protect their citizens from outside criminal activities, they have strict laws about who can enter a particular country and who cannot.
As a result, if you have a criminal record, you won’t be allowed to enter most countries where you’re required to obtain a visa prior.
List of Countries You Can’t Travel to With a Criminal Record
Here is a list of countries that don’t allow convicted felons to enter:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- The United Kingdom
- United States
What Countries Can a Convicted Felon Travel to?
You can travel to the following countries if you are a convicted felon:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- The Dominican Republic
- The Philippines
- United Arab Emirates
Remember: The countries listed above do not ask you to provide your criminal history upfront but still have active laws which prohibit felons from entering the country. This means that while you don’t have to provide evidence of your criminal history, you will be denied entry if your history is discovered.
Can I Visit Europe With a Criminal Record?
If you have visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Zone, then you can enter even with a criminal record. If you don’t have visa-free access, you may be required to show your criminal history during the visa application process. But, still, you can usually enter any country in Europe if you have a criminal record and:
- Your conviction does not pass 3 years.
- You were not arrested in crimes related to human trafficking or drug smuggling.
However, once ETIAS is launched in 2023, entering countries in Europe with a criminal history will be more difficult. ETIAS will provide background checks for every person who wants to enter the Schengen Area, and without receiving an entry authorization, you cannot visit member countries.
Am I Allowed to Enter Canada With a Criminal Record?
You usually can’t enter Canada if you have a criminal convention. However, you may gain entry if you submit an application for rehabilitation. If you are granted this waiver, then you can enter Canada despite your criminal history. But, waivers aren’t granted in severe crimes such as human trafficking.
Can I Enter the US With a Criminal Record?
You can’t enter the US with a criminal record. But, sometimes there are exceptions; for example, if you were convicted of only one crime with a sentence of a maximum one year, this is considered a “sentencing exception.” In other cases, you may be eligible for special entry permission.
What Is Considered a Felony When It Comes to Travelling?
Felonies that prohibit you from traveling include serious crimes such as:
- Human trafficking
- Manslaughter (unintentional killing)
- Rape/sexual assault
- Child pornography
- Manufacturing and selling drugs
- Animal cruelty
- Tax evasion
Minor misdemeanors that might be overlooked when you travel internationally include:
- Petty theft
- Public intoxication
- Reckless driving
- Disorderly conduct
- Indecent exposure
- Possession of Marijuana (personal use)
You have to keep in mind that the definition of a “serious crime” and “less serious” is regulated by each country. As a result, a minor misdemeanor can be considered a felony in another country, and you may still be denied entry. In addition to this, it’s important to remember that time is an essential factor in deciding whether your criminal record affects your travel.
Some countries consider the crime non-existent (or you’re rehabilitated) if enough time (10 or 15 years) has passed since you committed the crime – and you haven’t been convicted of other offenses in the meantime. On the other hand, certain countries don’t care how much time has passed; you won’t be allowed to enter with a criminal history in any case.
Can I Travel If I Was Acquitted?
A few countries may allow you to enter if you were only accused of a crime but not legally prosecuted or convicted. However, this changes from country to country; you should check with a local embassy/consulate before leaving the country.
What If I Have a Criminal Record And I Need to Travel for an Emergency?
You can still travel even with a criminal record if it is an emergency. Some countries, such as Canada and the US, issue waivers allowing you to travel. But, these waivers, which are issued only in emergencies and for humanitarian reasons, are difficult to obtain. Also, if you do get permission, you’re allowed to enter the country only once.
Things to Keep in Mind When Traveling With a Criminal Record
To make your traveling experience more manageable, you should take note of the following things when traveling with a criminal history:
- Prepare before traveling. Before you get ready to travel, you should check with your destination country and see their immigration laws. Know what is considered a serious crime and what crimes may be overlooked.
- Be honest. If you must divulge your record, be completely honest even if you think your crime is a minor offense. If you lie in your visa application or at the entry border, you may face serious consequences.
- Be patient. When you travel with a criminal record, you have to be prepared to wait longer in border patrol. Even if you have a waiver allowing you to enter, border patrol officers will review everything in detail before deciding whether to let you enter. In this case, you have to be patient and wait while your case is processed.