Can Felons Travel? What You Need to Know About Felony Travel Restrictions

Can Felons Travel? What You Need to Know About Felony Travel Restrictions

Traveling in the modern world often includes many regulations, restrictions, and complications. While it's certainly not impossible for most people, it is worth your while to research yourself and your situation before you make any travel decisions. 

One of the biggest things to focus on is your legal status as a criminal or convicted felon. In the eyes of the law, a person's status will often lead to many different implications on their ability to travel internationally.

Of course, this doesn't apply to every country — in fact; your legal status won't be a problem in many countries around the world. But learning about the countries where you might have to jump through some extra hoops to get into can help ensure your traveling experience is as smooth as possible.

This is everything you need to know about felony travel restrictions and what they can mean for you as you travel worldwide. It's always better to be knowledgeable and educated about things like this, so read on.

What Are Travel Restrictions? 

Travel restrictions are rules about who can travel to certain countries and where. When you get a felony conviction, it may prevent you from entering certain countries. Sometimes, you must check the entry requirements of the countries you intend to visit before your trip. 

Almost all travel restrictions are imposed by the court, the government, or the airlines you would use to travel. 

What Are the Types of Travel Restrictions?

  • Restrictions Imposed by the Courts
  • Restrictions Imposed by the Government
  • Restrictions Imposed by the Airlines

Here’s everything you need to know about these different types of travel restrictions:

Restrictions Imposed by the Courts

If a judge has ordered you to stay away from a particular person or place, that order will be on your criminal record. For instance, if you're convicted of stalking, and your parole officer wants to ensure that you don't approach the victim again, he may order travel restrictions for up to five years after your release.

Restrictions Imposed by the Government

Sometimes it's not just a court that imposes these rules — it could also be federal or state government agencies who want to prevent felons from leaving their jurisdictions and crossing over into others'. 

The most common example in this category is paroled felons being required not to cross state lines while they're still on probation (or parole).

Restrictions Imposed by the Airlines

Travel restrictions are imposed by airlines because they want customers who will behave themselves during flights (and won't lose their minds when things go awry). 

If there is a person who has a history of causing trouble on flights, they will likely be banned from using that specific airline. 

Whenever you're traveling, make sure you stay calm and collected. This will help ensure you never get banned from flying.

What Is a Felon?

A felony conviction is the most severe type of criminal charge and can significantly limit you in the future. A misdemeanor may stay on your record forever, but a felony stays with you for life. 

While having a criminal record doesn't necessarily mean that there will be travel restrictions in your future, knowing how different types of convictions can affect you when traveling is essential.

Felony convictions will appear on background checks conducted by employers and landlords when they run your name through databases that are used to prevent criminals from accessing certain places or positions. Felonies are also sometimes considered by potential employers during the hiring process.

This means that even if you're not convicted but have been charged with a felony at some point, it could still affect your ability to get work later if a company does background checks on all applicants.

Can Convicted Felons Travel? 

Yes, but it depends on your country of citizenship. If you're a US citizen, then yes. You can travel to most countries worldwide as long as you have a passport and a visa (if necessary). 

If you are Canadian, yes, again. Canada has pretty liberal rules regarding Canadian citizens traveling outside of the country. Most countries will let Canadians in without requiring them to apply for visas beforehand (depending on which country they're visiting). 

Suppose you have a felony on your record. In that case, you may be subject to criminal restrictions, limiting your ability to enter certain countries or even preventing you from traveling overseas altogether.

If you have a criminal record and want to travel internationally, you must know passport and visa restrictions laws. People with felony convictions are generally eligible for passports or visas, depending on their circumstances.

If you're a US citizen, you can apply for a passport even while your felony conviction is still pending. You should have no problem if your sentence has been completed or dismissed (including probation). 

If you're not a US citizen, you must be able to show that your conviction was overturned by the court or otherwise vacated by law before applying for an international travel document like the visa waiver program (VWP).

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record? 

The answer to this question is complicated, as each state has laws regarding removing criminal records. In general, a felony will remain on your record for ten years or more. Some states allow felons to expunge their records after a certain period (generally around five years), but not all felonies are eligible for expungement.

Expunging a felony from your record is a complicated process that takes time to complete. The first step is determining which state you want to expunge the felony from because each state has rules and regulations for how this can be accomplished. Some states even have different procedures for different types of felonies. In most cases, however, you must petition the court to seal or pardon your record (or both).

How To Research Specific Country Requirements

If you can complete a passport application, acquire a US passport, and are looking to cross an international border, it's essential to do some research beforehand. Dealing with travel immigration authorities while having a criminal history can result in a need to complete specific entry requirements apart from having a valid passport.

Many countries will do a criminal background check on people looking to enter their countries. If you get to the border, you may have to explain a felony record and other criminal offenses and criminal convictions if you want to enter the country. Even if there are less severe crimes on your record, it would be well worth your time to try and expunge as many charges against you as possible.

Some countries may require specific application forms to be completed, especially if you are making a visa application. Many countries in the Schengen zone need additional clarity on your past and present if you want to get into the country efficiently.

Seeking Legal Advice Before Traveling

Depending on your personal history, you may want to seek legal advice from a law firm before booking a flight. For example, if you have been convicted of a crime and now face felony travel restrictions, it's important not to travel internationally without first getting the proper clearance from authorities.

Several conditions could make your situation more complicated. If you've been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs), for example — including murder, rape, and drug trafficking — you might need special permission from the Secretary of Homeland Security before leaving the country.

If you've been convicted of any other type of crime or have an outstanding criminal warrant issued against you by another country or state/province within Canada or Mexico, then consult an attorney before traveling abroad. This could affect whether or not certain countries will allow entry into their borders when boarding their planes.


If you have a felony conviction, many factors can affect your travel plans. Understanding how these restrictions will affect your ability to cross international borders is essential before booking any flights or making other travel plans. If you have questions about international travel and the consequences of felony convictions, don't hesitate to contact an immigration attorney who can provide professional legal advice on this topic. ETIAS eligibility will not be impacted by a previous felony conviction, however, an ETIAS decision of approving or denying an application will depend on an applicant’s criminal history.



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