When preparing to visit (or immigrate to) another country, one might have to go through the process of applying for a visa from the destination country. A visa is a document, usually stamped in a person’s passport, that gives that person official permission to enter a particular sovereign country. The process of applying for a visa varies from country to country. Some countries do not allow people who have a felony on their criminal records to obtain a visa, so they are unable to visit.
It is notable that the destination country may have different regulations regarding what constitutes a felony. This can impact the granting or denial of a visa. For example, a traveler from Australia hoping to visit China may have committed a criminal act that is considered a regular offense in Australia, but if China defines that same act as a felony, the Chinese government may still deny that visitor a visa.
Countries that deny entry to visitors convicted of a felony
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
In Australia, tourists who wish to visit but who have a criminal record must first apply for a visa. Certain offenses can generally disqualify someone from obtaining permission, but whether or not a visa is an issue is up to the discretion of the official reviewing the paperwork. If the offense occurred a long time in the past and the person has been in good standing since then, a visa may still be granted. However, if your crime resulted in a prison sentence of a year or longer, you will likely not be allowed to immigrate to Australia.
Canada reserves the right to refuse entrance to any would-be visitors who have a criminal history. This includes those who have committed felonies, primarily if the offense resulted in a 10-year prison sentence. However, if the person was officially pardoned or considered to be rehabilitated (according to the Canadian law definition of the term), they may still be allowed to enter the country. Similarly, people who wish to immigrate permanently are subject to extra scrutiny if they've committed crimes such as theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving, DIU, or certain drug-related offenses. The potential immigrant must wait until five years after their sentence is completed and demonstrate to Canadian authorities that they've been reformed.
Japan allows visits of up to 90 days without a visa. However, a visa is required for a longer stay, and visitors who have been imprisoned for more than a year (or have a drug-related conviction) are likely to be denied a visa. Similarly, Japan has a zero-tolerance policy against immigrants with drug-related convictions.
Those wishing to immigrate to New Zealand must not have committed a crime that resulted in imprisonment in their original country of 12 months or longer within the past ten years. Those sentenced to five or more years in prison are also not allowed, no matter how long ago the sentence was handed down.
One must fill out a visa application and list any criminal convictions on the form to visit Russia. If severe enough, those convictions can disqualify someone from obtaining a visa. A visa is not required to visit Japan for 90 days or fewer, but to get a long-term visa, one must pass a criminal background check. If Japanese officials find that a person has a new drug-related offense, mainly if it resulted in prison time, the visa may be declined.
Visitors to the United Kingdom who have an American passport do not need to apply for a visa. However, for people with passports from a country for which the UK requires an advance visa, the government will conduct a background check. The permit may be declined if the officials reviewing the application believe that the person intends to commit harm while in the UK. Additionally, the immigration official at the border may refuse entrance.
The United States may have the world's largest foreign-born population and attract immigrants from all over the globe, but that doesn't mean it lacks entry requirements. Those who have been convicted of offenses that would be defined as aggravated felonies in the United States—which is loosely defined as any offense that merited imprisonment for a year or longer in the person's home country—are unlikely to be granted entrance or permanent residency.
Countries that will deny entry to felons if discovered
Some countries have laws prohibiting people who've been convicted of a felony, but don't actively screen visitors' criminal records. In these countries, a person convicted of a felony may be allowed in on good faith, but kicked out if and when their criminal record is discovered.