How to Travel With a Criminal Record

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Having a criminal record does not necessarily mean you will not be allowed to travel, but convictions may be grounds for refusal to grant a visa, entry or passport application. Unless otherwise specified, a criminal record does not prohibit you from traveling domestically, but can create problems when traveling internationally.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
  • Obtain a passport. A criminal record should not affect your passport application, unless you are currently on probation, have outstanding warrants, or bail conditions specify that you stay in a certain area. Even in these situations, it is possible to get international travel approved by the court. However, the HHS child support database and the Marshals Service WIN database are checked automatically with each passport application and are grounds for denial.

  • Each country has different rules and policies about allowing entry to travelers with criminal records. When planning a trip, it is important to check with the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit. You are not obligated to give your name or any contact information when inquiring with the country's embassy.

  • Some countries, such as the United States, require travelers with criminal records to get a waiver, which is a matter of a fee and an application. In the U.S., this good for five years, but validation varies by country. Other countries have no restrictions to criminal records, while some deny entry to only those convicted of specific crimes, such as murder, or anything having to do with guns or drugs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most visa applications will ask about any convictions and their nature. A criminal record does not necessarily mean your visa application will be denied.
  • If you are on probation or facing charges, check with the proper authorities about your travel restrictions.
  • If you break a law in country that you have entered illegally (even something as small as speeding), then you can be charged with illegal entry if you did not declare a previous criminal record at customs. A misdemeanor can quickly turn into a felony.
  • With the amount of people that go through customs every day, it would be impossible to check the criminal background of each traveler. However, the country you are entering will be able to use your information (name, passport number or finger prints) to pull up your criminal record through the CPIC system, if they choose to do so.
  • If you were pardoned in your country, this is not internationally recognized, so your criminal record in the system may not show the pardon.

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