Travel SOS: Can I travel with a criminal record?

David has a criminal record and is worried he won’t be allowed to travel to Germany.

Travel SOS: Can I travel with a criminal record?

David has a criminal record and is worried he won’t be allowed to travel to Germany with his wife.

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Q. David
When I was young and foolish, I picked up a criminal record for drug possession (it was the 70s, everyone was doing it, and I just got caught). It hasn’t really been an issue but now that my wife has retired, she wants to travel, starting with a trip to Germany next year to visit some relatives. Will my criminal record hamper our travel plans in retirement?

A. Germany forms part of the Schengen Area of Europe, which is an area comprising 26 European states that function as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.

The travel rules for the EU, specifically the Schengen Area, regarding character concerns is relatively lax.

Questions about criminal convictions are not asked when applying for a Schengen visitor visa, and border agents and landing cards don’t ask this either.

If any officials or forms ask you if you have a criminal history, you still have to answer truthfully, but in general if it is not more than three years of imprisonment, or crimes involving drug offences that resulted in more than two years of imprisonment, then generally they will not refuse you entry or a visa on those grounds.

Countries like Germany have specific rules that state anyone convicted of an offence relating to public order with a sentence of more than three years, a drug offence with a sentence of more than two years, and any offence related to alien smuggling is deportable (a ‘must deport’).

They are, however, more concerned with offences committed in their country, rather than outside of the EU.

Do not lie in any visa application or when answering questions from officials, because in Germany that is a ‘can deport’.

Not all countries have the same rules regarding character concern, so some EU countries may be more lax. However, Germany is known to be a rather strict country so it is a good guideline on rules for the rest of the EU.

In terms of your future travel options, most countries don’t stop someone from entering because of insignificant or antiquated criminal history. The United States is generally the strictest when it comes to criminal records, no matter how minor or how long ago it may have been.

There are numerous crimes that makes you ineligible to enter the US, including ‘crimes involving moral turpitude’. Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States for which the definition can be imprecise and the list of offences, which vary somewhat by jurisdiction, may include everything from shoplifting to murder.

If you are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, you are ineligible to enter the US and little relief exists for this.

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    COMMENTS

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    11th May 2019
    9:06am
    have always thought it should be drummed into kids at school that if they get a criminal record it could prevent them travelling in other parts of the world when they are older. might stop some of them offending
    Karl Marx
    11th May 2019
    9:54am
    This persons comment is typical of an old druggie, but everyone was doing it. BS, not everyone did drugs. Some countries won't let you in, some countries will limit your stay. Some countries ask on their visa applications if you have a criminal conviction, like China.
    A criminal conviction stays with you for life so you have to man up to the consequences latter on in life.
    Anonymous
    11th May 2019
    12:07pm
    Spare us your holier-than-though sanctimoniousness.
    Karl Marx
    11th May 2019
    2:15pm
    Uh, please explain
    Paddington
    11th May 2019
    10:11pm
    I never did drugs. No one I know did drugs.
    casey
    11th May 2019
    11:30am
    In the 70's I drank beer, smoked cigarettes, as did most people. But I never touched drugs of any description. I don't know where David's comment of "everybody was doing it" comes from!! News to me, and I didn't lead a sheltered life by any description.
    Karl Marx
    11th May 2019
    2:17pm
    Same, but knows-F-A above thinks we are holier-than-though because we aren't ex druggies lol
    KSS
    11th May 2019
    11:35am
    You might also like to consider what the rules are for people visiting Australia. If you have any conviction that entailed a 12 month incarceration at any time in the past for any crime, you have to declare it and you may be denied entry.

    People must accept there are always consequences for your actions even if they are not apparent at the time. Further, travel and visas are NOT a right. It is a privilege and a visa is bestowed solely at the discretion of the country issuing it. Whining about youthful indiscretions will not pass muster when it contravenes the law of an overseas country.
    Eddy
    11th May 2019
    7:57pm
    Does one have to declare 'spent convictions'? That is convictions for minor crimes that expire after a specified period? While I would always encourage people to be truthful when applying for travel documentation some countries may acknowledge that 'spent convictions' are not an impediment to visa applications.
    Ginaus
    12th May 2019
    2:32pm
    How pathetic; all those muslim terrorists have no problem getting into Germany..
    Ginaus
    12th May 2019
    2:32pm
    How pathetic; all those muslim terrorists have no problem getting into Germany..


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