It’s no secret. A criminal record can have a serious impact on your job, your immigration status, not to mention your personal and family life. For many people, one of the most problematic results of a criminal record is a travel restriction. Here are some brief and general guidelines on the matter.

General factors to consider

Needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. One very important factor is the degree of seriousness of the crimes for which you were convicted. Many offenses are considered to be fairly light, like impaired driving or disorderly conduct, and generally cause no problems at the border. On the flipside, if the infraction is serious, or one of “moral turpitude”, entry is far less likely. Common examples include murder, manslaughter, rape, theft, bribery, forgery, aggravated battery, prostitution, fraud and narcotics offenses.

Another factor is how recent the convictions are. Obviously, older records tend to carry less weight than fresh ones.

Lastly, the amount of convictions on your record could play a role. This means that multiple convictions, even for
lesser crimes, could make you inadmissible for entry.

For travel to the United States, it would generally be a good idea to contact the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) beforehand in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. For travel anywhere else, contacting the embassy would be a wise move. Generally speaking, if you’re planning a stay of less than 90 days, entry and travel across Europe should not be a problem. You won’t be required to apply for a Visa, and given the mobility agreements among European Union members, you most likely won’t have to go through customs from one country to the next.

A few options

Waiver: This option doesn’t apply to everyone, and the application process can be quite lengthy, lasting between 6 to 12 months. The cost is US $585.00 per application, regardless of the decision on the application. Aside from gathering substantial documentation, part of the process will involve submitting a statement explaining each conviction, as well as explanations regarding your rehabilitation or reform. U.S entry waivers can be approved for one, two or five years. It is highly recommended you contact a lawyer for advice on applying for a waiver.

Pardon: Again, this one doesn’t apply to everyone, and is even more time-consuming. A pardon is a criminal records suspension. If granted, the summary and indictable offenses for which you were previously convicted will be stricken from the public record. It will essentially erase your criminal record and allow you to travel freely. The waiting period is 5 years for summary offenses, and 10 years for indictable offenses.




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