Criminal Record and Travelling Overseas

More people than you might think have a criminal record. The law about rehabilitation and what you have to declare is very complicated, and catches lots of people out. Having very old convictions or cautions might come back to haunt you when applying for a new job, or getting a DBS check. One of the situations which catches a lot of people out is overseas travel. This is mainly because once you leave the UK, our laws no longer apply. Other countries around the world can – and do – make different laws about who they’ll let into their country. Could all of this affect you?

Travel to the US and a Criminal Record

The most common situation where you could be asked about your criminal record is when travelling to the USA. British passport holders usually don’t need a visa when crossing the Atlantic. Instead, we can apply for an online ESTA approval. One of the questions on the online form is about your past criminal record. If you reply that yes, you have been convicted of a crime that resulted in serious damage to people or property, then expect an instant refusal. In some cases, you might be able to get an appointment at the US Embassy to plead your case, and get authorisation to travel in another way.

Many people are tempted to lie, saying their record is clean and hoping the American authorities won’t find out. There’s no information sharing between the US and UK police, but if US immigration catches you telling fibs, expect to find yourself on the next plane home. There’s lots of information online about what you have to disclose, and what you don’t.

Travel without Visas

Lots of other countries allow UK passport holders into the country for short periods without applying for a Visa. If you’re going on holiday or business to somewhere in the European Union, Turkey, Mexico or Japan, you’ll be allowed to stay for three months, no questions asked. And obviously, if nobody’s asking about your criminal record, you have no obligation to tell them. If you decide to apply to stay on in a country after your tourist visa has expired, then you might have to go through a more stringent vetting process.

Emigrating Overseas

Your criminal past could be more of an issue if you’re thinking about moving overseas permanently. A standard part of the immigration process for many different nations is getting a certificate of good character. This is similar to a DBS certificate in that it will show your most recent criminal convictions along with more distant serious convictions. A criminal record doesn’t mean that you won’t be allowed to emigrate to Canada, New Zealand or Australia. Each case is decided on its merits.

If you need a police records check for emigration, then you’ll need a separate check. DBS checks are not valid for this use. Get in touch with ACRO, the UK police body which issues police certificates to emigration applicants. You can apply for your certificate online.