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Criminal History and Traveling Abroad

Planning to escape the routine and winter weather for a tropical climate or historically rich culture? If you’re hoping for a trip overseas, don’t pack your bags before reading this – or you might find yourself on the first flight home.

If you have travel restrictions due to a criminal record, planning a vacation can get a little complicated. A criminal record includes violent crimes and felony (which encompasses repeat DUI and DWI) but each country handles foreign criminal offenses in its own way.

There are a few factors to consider when traveling to other countries, like time since completion of sentence, the nature of the offense, number of offenses and reason for entering the country.

European Travel

Many of the European nations are part of the Schengen Agreement, which allows visitors to travel freely within the borders of 26 nations. Similar to the way we travel through different states, visitors to other European nations can travel without all the bureaucratic restrictions.

Countries in the Schengen Agreement:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

These nations all adhere to the same laws when it comes to travelers with criminal records. Criminal records are linked to immigration databases in many countries, and convictions may be grounds for refusal to grant a visa, entry or passport application.

Mexico and Canada

Our neighbors to the south and north experience an influx in travelers every year, and while they both share borders with the good ol’ U.S.A. they don’t share the same regulations when it comes to travel.

Going on a cruise to Cancun or flying down to an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta? You won’t have trouble going if you’ve got a DUI/DWI or misdemeanor criminal history. The country is lax when it comes to entering and staying there. A passport is needed and if you need to renew a passport with a criminal record, the process is fairly simple as well.

Canada, on the other hand, is a different story. If you have been charged or convicted of any crime, including driving while impaired, you may be prohibited from entering Canada to visit, work, study or emigrate.

Down Under

Australia has some of the strictest laws when it comes to allowing travelers with criminal records into the country. Non-citizens who apply for visas must meet the requirements of a character test that includes not having any of the following:

  • Substantial criminal record
  • Conviction of an offense while in immigration detention
  • Association with an individual, group or organization suspected of or involved in criminal conduct

“Substantial criminal record” is defined as:

  • Sentenced to death or life imprisonment
  • Sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more

A traveler’s visa can be canceled on the grounds of a substantial criminal record or past/present criminal conduct, which would permanently exclude him or her from ever entering Australia.

Applying for a Waiver

In some instances when you need to travel to a country but are denied entry, you might try applying for a waiver. First you’ll need to check with the embassy of the country to which you want to travel and make sure your particular criminal history is admissible. You can check out this list of embassies.

Candidates will need to provide proof of identification to get the application, similar to getting a driver’s license or passport. Some countries do make provisions to allow people with criminal records to enter under certain circumstances.

Don’t Let a Criminal History Ground You

A conviction shouldn’t tell you where you can and cannot go in the future. If you’re facing criminal charges, keep your record clean by contacting the Thiessen Law Firm to fight for justice for you.

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