Home Travel Countries You Can & Can’t Enter If You Have A Criminal Record

Countries You Can & Can’t Enter If You Have A Criminal Record

by SharonKurheg

We all know that we should make good life choices. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. For example, if you have a DUI on your record, there are a bunch of countries that you can’t visit (here’s the list).

Sometimes a person’s bad life choices can go far beyond a DUI. After all, depending on circumstances, a DUI offense can be considered a mere misdemeanor. Granted, if it wasn’t your first (or sometimes second) DUI, or if your blood alcohol level was significant, or if (heaven forbid) you killed someone, it could be a felony (the laws vary from state to state). But then again, there are plenty of crimes that are considered felonies. These are some of them:

  • Human trafficking
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter (unintentional killing)
  • Rape/sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Child pornography
  • Manufacturing and selling drugs
  • Assault
  • Animal cruelty
  • Cybercrime
  • Tax evasion

If you have a felony on your record, just like with a DUI, there are several countries that won’t let you in, period. These are the rules for the top 20 countries in the world (as per a 2019 ranking by the United Nations World Tourism Organization) in terms of tourism.

Some are countries that require a visa to enter. Others may let you in at the discretion of authorities. And they “may or may not” let you in if you were only accused of a crime but not legally prosecuted or convicted – check with a local embassy or consulate before you try to go.

France

Questions about criminal convictions are not asked when applying for a Schengen visitor/business visa and French border agents usually don’t ask any questions about this either. This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Spain

Whether or not you can travel to Spain with a criminal record depends on the severity of the crime, and when/where the offense happened. Travelers convicted of misdemeanors are unlikely to be banned from entering the country. However, anyone with a criminal record for more serious or recent crimes may face additional entry restrictions or a travel ban.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

United States

There are several crimes that render you ineligible to enter the US. The two main categories are:

  • crimes involving moral turpitude, and
  • aggravated felonies

Generally speaking, moral turpitude means, crimes that make a person seem untrustworthy, such as fraud or rape. Regardless of your conviction, if you declare a crime involving moral turpitude, you’ll probably be deemed ‘permanently ineligible to enter the USA’. However you may be able to apply for a waiver of permanent ineligibility after a period of time.

Being convicted of an aggravated felony is even worse. This used to include murder and smuggling drugs or guns. But it’s since been expanded to include things like bribery, human trafficking and kidnapping people for ransom. Anyone deported or excluded for aggravated felony can’t enter the U.S. until all court-ordered punishment has been completed and an additional 15 years have elapsed.

China

Article 21 of the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China denies Chinese visas to many kinds of aliens, and Article 25 of the same law bars many kinds of aliens from China, including those “(m)ay endanger China’s national security or interests, or disrupt social and public order, or engage in other illegal or criminal activities.” If you have a criminal record, you may want to visit the nearest Chinese consular offices before considering travel.

Transit passengers of many countries are allowed a few days in major cities, but other than that almost everyone needs a visa to enter China. The visa form asks about a criminal record in China or any other country, and you need to give details if you reply yes.

Italy

Felons can travel to Italy as long as they have completed their sentence and any required probation period. You cannot enter Italy if you’re on probation.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Turkey

On the Turkish visa form, there aren’t any questions about criminal history, other than having been deported from Turkey. However those who are labeled as potentially posing a public order, security or health risk can be refused entry.

Mexico

There aren’t any questions about a criminal record in the Mexican visa application, nor in the arrival card you need to fill out.

However if your passport reveals a criminal record when scanned, you may be denied entrance into Mexico.

Germany

Those who have served more than 3 years of jail time, or have been convicted of human trafficking or drug offenses with more than 2 years of jail time, are likely to be refused entry.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Thailand

Any jail term except for a petty offense, negligence or something excepted by Ministerial Regulations will disqualify you from entry.

United Kingdom

People asking permission to enter the UK will usually be refused if they have previously been convicted of a criminal offense punishable by at least 12 months imprisonment.

A person may also be refused permission to enter the country on the basis of their character, conduct or associations or if they represent a threat to national security.

Entry clearance officers will take account of any available local intelligence about a person’s criminal activities overseas, but the agency doesn’t have access to foreign governments’ criminal records.

There are questions about past criminal convictions on the application forms. Click here for more info.

Japan

Japan prohibits any person who’s been sentenced to imprisonment or imprisonment without work for 1 year or more, except for political crimes.

Austria

The only restriction for felons flying would be if they have a felony warrant outstanding against them.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Greece

There don’t appear to be any problems for people with past criminal charges to enter Greece.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Hong Kong

The visa application has no questions on previous crimes. To enter Hong Kong, you only need a passport and a filled-in arrival card to get into Hong Kong, where you just need to fill in personal and passport data and where you will stay.

There are also no provisions regarding criminal history in Immigration Ordinance.

Malaysia

Having been sentenced to any jail term is one of the things that will get you labeled as a “prohibited person.” However visitors aren’t asked about this in the visa application (and most nationalities don’t need a visa anyway).

Russia

As of this writing, Russia is in the midst of invading Ukraine. That being said, some people may eventually want to travel there. The shorter version of the Russian visa application form is applicable to most nationalities who need a visa, and those applicants are just asked about their planned trip, current employer and relatives in Russia. The more extensive form, specifically for residents of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Georgia requests for reports of former arrests and convictions. According to the visa form, replying “yes” to those questions doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get a visa but you may have to go to the consulate for an interview.

Portugal

There don’t appear to be any problems for people with past criminal charges to enter Portugal.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Canada

If you try to enter Canada with a felony conviction on your criminal record, you could be deemed “criminally inadmissible to Canada,” and denied entry at the Canadian border.

However it is possible to overcome the inadmissibility by submitting an application for “rehabilitation.” This process can take a long time and requires numerous references to prove that you’ve been rehabilitated and that further offenses are unlikely.

Poland

The only restriction for people with a history of criminal activity would be if they have an outstanding felony warrant against them. The other possible issue would be if their name is on what is called the no-fly list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for those suspected of being terrorists.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

The Netherlands

The only restriction for people with a history of criminal activity would be if they have an outstanding felony warrant against them. The other possible issue would be if their name is on what is called the no-fly list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for those suspected of being terrorists.

This may change once ETIAS visas are included in the mix, since there will be more checks on third-country arrivals.

Countries you can visit with a criminal history

As you can see above, different countries have different rules about allowing entry to people with histories of criminal activity. Some countries have something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of attitude. So if you have such a history and want to travel, perhaps consider visiting one of these:

  • Brazil
  • Cambodia
  • Chile
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Nepal
  • Peru
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Tanzania
  • The Dominican Republic
  • The Philippines
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates

Note: the countries listed above don’t blatantly ask you to provide your criminal history. But they each still have their respective laws that prohibit felons from entering the country. This means while you may not have to provide evidence of your criminal history, you will be denied entry if your history is discovered.

Feature Photo: Pixabay

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