The end of a prison sentence is not necessarily the end of punishment for someone convicted of a felony. Depending on the specific conditions of your probation and parole, you may encounter restrictions on international travel after release. Though certain restrictions are common knowledge, a convicted felon should consult an attorney before making any international travel plans.
The key to international travel is the passport. If you break certain laws, the U.S. government can either revoke or refuse to issue the document. For example, if you are convicted of international drug trafficking, your passport application will be denied automatically. Also, if you are in a release program for felonious possession or distribution of narcotics (on either the state or federal level), you also will be denied. Further, the Secretary of State can request denial of a passport if you are deemed a threat to national security in the United States or abroad.
If you are convicted of a felony in federal court, there are also restrictions on how you may travel. For example, certain drug offense convictions (e.g. 49 U.S.C. 31310) will result in a 10-year ban on getting a driver’s license. So, if you want to drive to Mexico, you will need a chauffeur or a bus ticket. Also, an airman certificate may be suspended or revoked for felony offenses such as airborne hunting (49 U.S.C. 44709) so you will not be able to fly your own plane to another country.
Immigration Law and Deportation
Legal and illegal immigrants can be deported after serving time for felony convictions. For example, under federal law, a single crime of “moral turpitude” can result in deportation if the offense is committed within five years of admission to the United States. Also, non-citizens who are convicted of drug offenses may be able to leave the country but will not be granted reentry. Lawful residents may be eligible to remove these restrictions through legal action but not for aggravated felony convictions.
Entry Restrictions for Countries Outside The United States
Even with a legal passport, many countries do not admit known felons from the United States. For example, Canada will not admit someone who has been involved in organized crime. So, if you have a RICO conviction, you will be denied entry to the North.
For many ex-convicts, a vacation to Paris would be a nice thing to do after a long stretch in jail. However, Manuel Noriega might not feel the same. The former dictator was extradited to France to stand trial for money laundering as soon as he was released from federal prison in the United States. In his case, foreign travel was not optional but mandatory. The risk of extradition depends upon whether the United States has a treaty with another country for exchange of fugitives and prisoners.
For example, if you have a warrant for your arrest in North Korea, don’t panic. However, Canada, Mexico and most Western European countries have long-standing extradition treaties with the United States.