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travel & criminal record?

Seussin

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  • Added on: September 11th, 2006
I was asked this question the other day, thankfully it does not apply to me, however I really had no answer for this person since I had no experience. Does anyone know how having a criminal record affects your ability to travel? Of course I am assuming the record is due to something stupid they did when they were young (still an adult though) and not a major offence.
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Stoo

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  • Added on: September 11th, 2006
Travel? I really don't think so...unless one has been explicately banned from traveling by their home country or barred entry elsewhere.

A felony record will be a problem for permanent immigration. I personally had to get a letter from the State of Hawaii to present to Swiss officials to assure them I was a good Stoo. I know others who have had to do similar for other countries.
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Ms. Loomis

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  • Added on: September 11th, 2006
From what I understand, you are free to travel FROM the U.S. as a citizen with a felony conviction under your belt as long as you are not probation or facing charges. Even if you are on probation and you have a lenient probation officer, you could still arrange for out of the country vacations. That is my limited understanding. I am not sure about entry requirements to other countries.
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elAdi

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  • Added on: September 11th, 2006
Hm. Interesting. I don't know how thorough visa checks are. Some countries are fairly fussy with it and I can imagine that your criminal record might be checked. As soon as it has something to do with guns or drugs, I can see them turning you down - even if you were just busted for smoking a joint. If you get your visas from home, it's not a big deal - if your visa is declined...well, you just don't go there. It would be more problematic (and/or expensive) if it happens to you on a border, while having to leave a country due to a expiring visa.

Keeping a clear criminal record was always something I made sure of, due to my desire to travel and live abroad. I had my (tempting) options to make a good and quick buck...but looking back (with all my friends now having a criminal record - although it's not a big problem at home), I'm really glad I earned my money to travel/expatriate the hard way. Wink

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whalewatcher

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
I don't see how applicants for visas issued at the border can be checked for criminal records (yet), unless you have a note in your passport or your details are posted on the countries 'most wanted' list. Unlikely if you were busted for smoking a joint.

However, the new ID cards are a different kettle of fish.

Here in the UK, it is possible to 'spend' a conviction which results in less than 2 years in jail (or is it ten?), so after (admittedly) a lengthy period, your record should be cleared. It is silly to hold youthfull transgressions against a person for life!

However, this record includes minor 'felonies' such as fines. Personally, I'm going to put this to the test when applying for UK citizenship. Should have done that sooner Roll Eyes

Stoo

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
quote:
Some countries are fairly fussy with it


What countries specifically?

I agree whalewatcher...how on earth are immigrations officials in foreign countries going to instantly probe for a criminal background check in your native country? Unless you are on an Interpol watch list, I just don't see anyone being denied entry that would normally be granted to someone without a criminal record.

Look at all the fuss about US-bound flights originating in Europe and the US governments requirement that the airlines provide the passenger list and credit card details a few hours before landing. (The current row is over sending the data before the aircraft even takes off.) It is a monster problem.

The more I think about it the more ridiculous the idea seems. Not that immigrations officials wouldn't do it if they had the power...but rather that the Orwellian capabilities don't exist.

Has anyone here ever been asked about a criminal background when entering a country?
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jv

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
When I applied for an Indian visa in Kathmandu, they had this funky process where they’d fax your country’s embassy, asking them if you had a criminal record. If they replied the same day, you’d get the visa on the same day. If they didn’t reply in a week, they just assumed you were clean and gave you the visa.

Problem was, most countries never bothered replying. Seemed like a worthless system. That's the only time I've seen an explicit criminal-record check for a tourist visa.

KateL57

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
The fbi claims that they need 7-10 days to process a document that you have no criminal record (as a requirement for working in many countries), and the wait if you don't specify that you need it expedited is 6-8 weeks, so it seems extremely unlikely that this could be done on the spot at borders. I don't think a less-than-7-day result would be totally logistically impossible, but just considering the number of people they'd have to do it for...probably not.
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genaro

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
so what did you do?

socalgirl

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
My bank robbing conviction has never been a problem....
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braslvr

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
quote:
What countries specifically?



Canada for one. If you have had a felony drug conviction in the US (I haven't BTW), they will know immediately upon scanning your passport, and you will be denied entry. There are ways to get special permission, but they take much time and effort.

Stoo

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  • Added on: September 12th, 2006
quote:
Originally posted by braslvr:
quote:
What countries specifically?



Canada for one. If you have had a felony drug conviction in the US (I haven't BTW), they will know immediately upon scanning your passport, and you will be denied entry. There are ways to get special permission, but they take much time and effort.


Hmmm...interesting. I could see such checks with tightly coupled countries like Canada and America, EU, Oz & NZ. But there would have to be some sort of special database or something...hmmm...

EDIT: I just went searching for info on this Canada thing. The travel.state.gov'sTips for Travelers to Canada page says ALL convictions bar one from entering Canada...including drunk driving. But a database, to include all federal and state convicts, at the finger tips of Canadian immigration officials seems far fetched. It would be HUGE.

quote:
Drunk Driving
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction) is cause for exclusion from Canada. A waiver of exclusion may be obtained from a Canadian consulate in the United States, but several weeks are required. There is a processing fee for the waiver.

...

Previous Convictions
Section 19 of Canada’s Immigration Act prohibits the admission of people who pose a threat to public health, safety, order, and national security. Prior to attempting a border crossing, American citizens who have had a criminal conviction in the past must contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate well in advance to determine their admissibility as visitors into Canada. If found inadmissible, an immigration officer will advise whether a waiver (Minister’s Permit) is possible.

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braslvr

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  • Added on: September 13th, 2006
Scary, huh? And a "ministers permit" is exactly what you need, but it takes time. Database? Absolutely! A drivers licence will normally sound the alarm, and passports are sure to.

I remember the days(not all that long ago) when we rarely even had to show ID when crossing the US-Canadian border by land. But even then, if they did happen to check, you were toast,
so the database has been around for some time.

Of course, in the end it's up to the immigration agent who processes you, so you may skate by... or not.

Rocknrod

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  • Added on: September 14th, 2006
quote:
Originally posted by genaro:
so what did you do?


Or what are you thinking of doing? Big Grin
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oswiu

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  • Added on: September 14th, 2006
Canada and the US do, indeed, have access to one anothers' criminal records databases right at border crossing points, but only to a limited extent.

Basically they can see if you've ever been fingerprinted by any law enforcement agency in either country. That said, they generally don't check the database unless they have some reason to.

I know this because I was once pulled in for secondary screening when crossing into the US by land (they were distressed by the Pakistan visa in my passport) and the agents there knew that I had once been fingerprinted in Canada (an incident 6 years previous in which I'd been arrested, but the charges dropped.)

Most criminal convictions technically disqualify one from entry into the US, though there are a few that don't. Interestingly, drunk driving is one of the few you can get away with, but shoplifting is a nono.

Also, when I applied for my working holiday visa in NZ, I made the mistake(?) of telling them about my arrest, and had to go through a whole ordeal in order to provide documentation showing that I'd never been convicted of a criminal offence.

The short version of all this is that a criminal record can technically be a problem for international travel, but except for a very few special cases (like the US and Canada) you'd have to have terrible luck to get caught out.
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