Can a Criminal Record Prevent You from Traveling Abroad?

You made a mistake, broke the law and were convicted of a crime. You served your time, paid your fines and made it through your probation without any problems. You've put this part of your life behind you -- or so you thought. Now you're planning a trip outside the country and wondering if that criminal record is going to keep you from your dream vacation or a necessary business trip.

In some cases, a criminal record can prevent you from being able to obtain a U.S. passport. In even more cases, it may prevent you from entering another country.

The good news is that the State Department is only required to deny you a passport if you've been convicted of a drug-related felony that involved transporting drugs to or from another country. The State Department may choose to deny a passport to people convicted of other drug-related crimes -- even those carrying misdemeanor charges. However, if your only conviction is for something relatively minor like possessing marijuana, you won't have to worry.

You have your passport. The next question if you have any criminal record is what the regulations are for the country you're going to. Every country makes its own rules. Some are stricter than others. The State Department website details these restrictions.

One of the stricter countries is a popular work and vacation destination for many Americans -- Canada. Under Canadian law, any American who has a conviction on his or her record can be denied entry -- even a DUI. Further, they can deny entry to people who have faced charges here in the U.S. that didn't result in a trial or conviction if they believe that they did something that would be considered a crime in Canada.

If you are currently facing criminal charges, this is all the more reason to have an experienced attorney on your side who can work to mitigate the consequences, whether through a not guilty verdict or a plea to a lesser charge. If you have questions regarding the impact of your existing criminal records on your ability to travel, your attorney can provide information and guidance.

Source: USA Today, "Traveling With a Criminal Record," Teo Spengler, accessed Dec. 28, 2017

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