There are four main ways that a criminal record may cause you difficulties when travelling abroad.
Firstly, some countries have entry restrictions. For example, you may have to apply for a visa. There is a useful website for those looking to travel or live abroad. If you are travelling to a particular country, you can search their entry requirements, and most will have links to their respective Embassy. If a particular country requires a Visa for you to travel, you need to look at whether there are any questions about criminal convictions, or whether having a criminal record makes you ineligible to apply for a visa. We have more details of some of the more common countries we receive enquiries about here. Otherwise, it will be a case of making enquiries to the relevant countries Embassy.
Secondly, if you are on licence, it will normally be a condition of your licence that you cannot travel abroad, and you will therefore need to seek permission from Probation before doing so, otherwise you risk breaching your licence. There is detailed information below about this here.
Thirdly, if you are currently serving a non-custodial sentence (e.g. a community order), whilst normally there are no restrictions on travelling abroad, if your travel interferes with elements of your community order (for example, if you need a variation on the meetings that you have, or when you carry out your community payback), then you will need to seek permission from Probation. More information about this can be found here.
Fourthly, if you have been convicted of sexual offences, it may be that you are subject to specific notification requirements before travelling. There is a link to further information about this here.
Please note: Foreign countries are not obliged to follow the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. However, it is open to a country to recognise a particular conviction as being spent, depending on what their own process is.