Moving on: Travelling abroad with a criminal record

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on travelling abroad with a criminal record.

A copy of the article can be found below.

Whilst you’re in prison, you’ll probably have heard lots of conflicting information about travelling abroad with a criminal record. Unless you’re on licence, there’s rarely anything stopping you from travelling abroad and at the moment you can travel freely within the EU.

When and where you can travel to will depend on the country you wish to visit, the nature of your offence and sentence you received. Visiting countries like the USA or Australia will usually mean applying for a visa. However, don’t be put off by this. We know of many people with a criminal record who’ve successfully been granted visas.

Travelling abroad whilst on licence

It’s more than likely that you’ll face restrictions on travelling abroad all the time you’re on licence. A standard condition of any licence is ‘not to travel outside the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man without the prior permission of the responsible officer’.

Therefore if you’re considering travelling abroad, it might be an idea to approach your probation officer informally to start with. You’ll be able to get an idea of whether they’d give you permission prior to putting your request in writing. Each probation area will have their own approach to travelling abroad, so get a copy of your area’s policy to find out how closely you meet their criteria. If you’re refused you can go through the complaints system, details of which you should be able to get from your probation officer.

Moving abroad whilst on licence

Moving to another country can be extremely problematic all the time you’re on licence. Although you’re not in prison, the time you’re on licence is still classed as part of the sentence given to you by the court.

Usually, you’ll need to spend some time in the community in the UK on licence before you can be considered for resettlement overseas. This is to ensure that any risk you pose of re-offending can be assessed as well as evidencing that you’re able to conform to all your licence conditions.

In deciding whether to grant you permission to move abroad, your probation officer will consider whether you have any family ties or other connections (for example you lived overseas prior to going to prison) as well as reviewing whether your offence is related to the country you wish to travel to.

Travelling when you’re on the sex offenders register

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence, you may find that even when your licence ends, you will remain on the register. If this is the case, you’ll need to continue to notify the police if you intend leaving the country for 3 days or longer.

Once you’ve informed the police of your travel plans, your supervising police officer may decide to ‘flag’ your passport with an Interpol Green Notice. This notification on your passport will alert overseas immigration officers that an individual who is on the sex offenders register is visiting. Depending on the country you’re travelling to, you may be denied entry and sent back to the UK. Examples of people we’ve heard this happen to are those looking to visit places like Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

What information is held about you on your passport

The UK has been using ‘biometric’ passports since 2006. These passports contain a microchip which stores a digitalised image of your passport photograph as well as the biographical details printed on the passport. It does not contain any information which can’t be found on the physical version of the passport. It’s a myth that the chip holds details of your criminal record.

Travelling to Europe post-Brexit

As I’m sure you know, Brexit should be finalised by March 2019 and although the exact outcome is yet to be finalised, there is talk that the ease with which we currently travel to the EU may change.

The European Union has proposed a new visa scheme for all visitors to the EU, called a European Travel Information and Authorisation System. If approved, it will place some restrictions on who can and cannot travel. However, until the withdrawal date and during the transition, the current immigration arrangement for British nationals will continue as they are currently.

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Debbie Sadler