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Can I get a Visa If I Have a Criminal Conviction?

Several countries across the globe have strict policies against admitting foreigners with criminal records. The rules and regulations with regard to granting visas to persons with criminal convictions vary from country to country.  

In some nations like Canada, minor criminal convictions recorded years ago can cause travelers getting their Canada eTA visa refused. However, in some other nations only violent or grave crimes result in visa denial.  

Generally, it is highly difficult for people with a record of conviction in serious or sexual offences or repeated crimes to get a visa. 

Some nations ban their citizens with criminal convictions from traveling abroad and their passports are confiscated. Individuals on parole too will not be allowed to travel to another country. If they have been convicted for crimes in a foreign country, it will be counted as a serious offence.

It is to be noted that most visa application forms have a question about previous deportation and visa denial.  

What is a Criminal Conviction? 

A criminal conviction is a formal judgement issued by a court against a person who is proven guilty. 

If a case is deferred to pronounce judgement, it is not considered as a conviction. 

This may include a driving under influence offence or tickets issued by a traffic police personnel. Some of the other conditions that can be termed as a conviction as per various immigration laws are as follows: 

  • Penalty or punishment for violation of immigration laws
  • A guilty judgment from a court of law
  • An immigrant pleads guilty in a case.

Immigration and visa laws are nuanced and vary from country to country. Most nations have some waivers in place with regard to allowing entry to travelers with criminal conviction.  

What are the Different Types of Criminal Convictions? 

In most countries criminal offences are categorized in three groups based on the graveness of the offences and the punishments. They are felonies, misdemeanors and infractions.  

Criminal offences are further divided into property crimes and personal offences. It is the elected lawmakers who make the laws that identify the behaviors that constitute a crime. 

This can be different in different states and countries and the punishment attached to a criminal offence can also vary.  


They are minor crimes that do not involve a jail term as a punishment. Most petty offences fall under this and those who are found guilty are punished by fines. At times, they are not required to attend courts. Generally, most traffic rules and noise violations come under infraction.  

However, failure to pay the fines on time or accumulation of infractions could become a misdemeanor and, in some cases, this may lead to a possible jail term. Some cases of infraction include: 

  • Running a traffic stop sign
  • Over speeding or speeding in school zones
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Conversing over the phone while driving
  • Littering
  • Building code violations
  • Parking lot violations
  • Noise law violations

Most infractions are violations of local laws and they may not affect travel plans. 


The severity of the punishment for a misdemeanor comes between infractions and felonies. Misdemeanors are not as serious as a felony. 

Misdemeanor crimes include violations against people, property, public order and public safety. Misdemeanors are further classified based on the severity. 

Class 1 misdemeanors attract serious punishments. They include fines, community service or probation. 

However, the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor is a jail term of 12 months. Individuals convicted of misdemeanor offences may be barred from certain jobs or may be denied a visa by certain countries.  

The offences under this category are:  

  • Physical assaults and harassment
  • Property vandalism and trespassing


These are serious offences punishable by jail terms of more than a year and in severe cases capital punishment. 

Felonies include both property and personal crimes like murder, rape and kidnapping. These crimes are impossible to expunge and will remain permanently in the identity record of an individual.  

Getting a visa for such individuals is almost not possible. However, some countries do grant them short-term visas on various conditions.  

How This can Affect Travel 

Criminal records make traveling very difficult. Most countries in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Asian countries like India have strict regulations against criminal inadmissibility. These countries directly ask the visa applicants if they have any criminal records.  

Some other nations like UAE do not ask for previous criminal records upfront. However, they have active laws that prohibit applicants who have committed severe crimes from entering. This means that if any criminal history is discovered, applicants may be denied entry.  

Can Someone with a Conviction Get a Visa? 

Most countries have some kind of visa waivers in place for applicants who have committed minor offences.  

While nations like the USA and Canada have strict no-admission policies for foreigners with criminal records, countries like Australia and Schengen nations allow people who have committed minor offences to enter.  

They have to undergo strict checks and verification processes. The final decision is left to the discretion of the officials in the embassy of a nation.  

Traveling to Europe  

Travelers who hold a Schengen visa will not be getting a European criminal conviction check at the border control. They can travel from one Schengen country to another freely.  

Travelers who do not have a Schengen visa may face criminal admissibility checks at the borders. 

Foreigners with records of minor crimes can still enter in most European countries if their jail term is not exceeding three years or they are not convicted in cases related to human trafficking or smuggling.  

The European Union is planning to launch the European Travel Information and Authorization system by 2023 and once it comes into effect travelers will have to give pre-checking data to cross borders between Schengen area countries.  

European countries also have a shared database of criminal records of their citizens and this makes it easy for the member countries to identify travelers with criminal records.  

Traveling to the USA  

America does not allow entry to foreigners convicted in criminal cases if they are planning to stay for a long period. 

However, the country has a visa waiver program for foreigners who want to visit the country for not longer than 90 days. 

Foreigners with criminal convictions applying for a US visa cannot do it online. They have to approach the closest US embassy or consulate. 

Officials in the embassy will assess the situation and decide if the applicant is eligible for a US visa.  

Traveling to Canada  

Canada too has a strict no-admissible policy against foreigners with criminal records. They can, however, apply for a temporary resident permit for short-term visits. 

They cannot apply for the permit online and have to visit the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate.  

Traveling to Australia  

Australia allows foreigners with criminal inadmissibility in certain circumstances. 

Foreigners have to apply for a visitor visa subclass 600 and complete a character verification by the officials of the Australian home ministry.
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