Convicted felons may face travel restrictions that limit their ability to move freely. However, in most cases, felons that have served their sentence can enter other countries, assuming they have a valid passport. There are several exceptions, with some countries explicitly prohibiting felons from going abroad.
In this article, we provide more information on travel restrictions for felons and which countries they are allowed and not allowed to visit.
Can a Convicted Felon Leave the Country?
Leaving the country with a felony depends on several things:
- Whether the felony sentence is complete.
- The nature of the crime.
- The travel restrictions imposed by the government.
Restrictions of Travel During Probation
In many cases, convicted felons will be sentenced to imprisonment. They have to complete their sentence before they are free to travel. In other instances, criminals are sentenced to probation and fines rather than prison time. When felons are still on probation, their movements will be restricted. These limitations depend on the conditions of their probation determined by the nature of the crime.
For example, felons on probation must report to a probation officer regularly to check that they are sticking to the terms of their sentence. It would be impossible if the convict was abroad or in another state at the time of the meeting. If the felon wants to travel, they should get permission from their probation officer, who will approve it, considering the nature of the crime. Once the probation period is over, travel restrictions ease.
Restrictions of Travel After Serving Your Sentence
After the felon has served their sentence, be that probation, federal arrest, or parole as determined by court order, they can travel freely. However, to do so, they must obtain a valid passport. Most felons can get a US passport without any obstacles, but it does depend on the conviction and the individual’s current financial status. Under federal law, your state department cannot issue a passport if any of the following apply:
- The person was convicted of a felony drug charge that involved crossing international borders.
- The felon committed a crime that plotted against the US government.
- The individual owes over $2,500 in outstanding child support or government loans.
- The offender has active warrants against them.
A valid passport makes traveling easier. However, whereas felons will not run into any problems moving around the US, they may face issues trying to enter other countries. Their passport is a form of international identification, and it will always allow the person back into the US, but it does not guarantee entry into another country. Few countries ban felons that have committed serious crimes.
Note, depending on where you want to travel, some countries require US citizens to acquire visas before entry, alongside their passports. While many US felons can get a passport, getting a visa can be more challenging. When applying for a visa, you must tell the truth about past convictions. Anyone found lying could get a permanent travel ban on their record.
Are There Countries That Don’t Allow Felons?
The answer to the question “are felons allowed to leave the country?” largely depends on which country the felon wants to enter. To find out whether or not a country imposes restrictions on felons, you need to look at the immigration policies of this country. For most of them, the acceptance or denial of entry depends on the crime in question, with certain offenses such as crimes of a violent nature causing the most limitations.
Below see the entry conditions of some countries many US residents want to visit.
The United Kingdom
Any US felon can enter the United Kingdom if their conviction is considered spent. Spent convictions US felons can enter the United Kingdom if their conviction is considered spent. Spent convictions refer to those that happened over ten years ago if the prison sentence was between six and 30 months. In cases where the prison sentence was over 30 months, the conviction can never be spent. This means felons that have committed more severe crimes and thus received larger and harsher penalties might struggle to gain entry to the country.
The European Union
Almost all EU countries do not have “borders”, meaning if a felon can enter any of them, they will also be granted access to the rest of the countries. The EU is pretty lenient in allowing a person with a previous felony conviction into the country. Most felons will be allowed in if the prison sentence is less than three years. The exception is if the crime involved trafficking people or drugs, with a two-year prison sentence limitation.
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Canada has strict entry requirements, and it is one of the only countries that ban the entry of almost all felons. Indeed, no criminal can pass through the border without special permission, and people can be stopped even for an old felony arrest on record. Canadians are particularly strict on individuals with an arrest or conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), regardless of whether they were charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense.
If you wish to come to Canada, you must submit a rehabilitation request. It is true even if the crime and conviction happened over ten years ago. In Canada, a felony is never overlooked automatically after a designated period has passed. The felon must not be involved in any current criminal activity to be deemed rehabilitated. However, it is solely down to the authorities to decide whether the offender is safe. If not, travel is not permitted.
According to Australian legislation, a visa will only be granted to people with no convictions resulting in prison sentences of longer than 12 months. This means that felons with longer sentences will struggle to gain a visa and thus access to the country. They also won’t allow anyone to enter who has been convicted of two or more offenses, whose combined sentences are more than 12 months in total or anyone with a suspended prison sentence of this length.
The “can a felon leave the country” rules depend on whether or not their sentence has been served. When it has, most convicted felons can apply for a passport that allows them to leave the US. The exception is people with drug trafficking offenses, crimes that pose a security threat to the U.S., or those with outstanding debts for $2,500 or more.
However, the ability to leave the U.S. does not guarantee entry into the country in question. Always check the country’s immigration policies before traveling, and never lie on visa applications. It could result in a permanent travel ban to the county.