Travelling abroad, in brief.
- Having a criminal record does not bar you from travelling abroad. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.
- If you are on licence, you will normally need to get permission to travel outside the UK. This would usually only be given in exceptional circumstances.
- There is no link to your criminal record from your passport. The chip on a biometric passport only stores a digitised image of your photograph and biographical details which are printed in your passport.
- You will be required to apply for a visa when travelling to certain countries (for example the USA and Australia). Visa applications are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) and you would therefore need to disclose both spent and unspent convictions.
- Following Brexit, UK citizens will no longer be able to travel freely within the EU. They will need approval via the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) which is likely to be introduced in late 2022/early 2023.
How can a criminal record impact travelling abroad?
Travelling abroad while on licence or on a community order
Standard licence conditions state that you cannot:
“Travel outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man except with the prior permission of your supervising officer or for the purposes of immigration deportation or removal.”
There are no general exclusions from travelling abroad while you are serving a community order.
Travelling abroad while on the Sex Offenders’ Register (SOR)
Bring on the SOR means that you will have to notify the police of all foreign travel.
Once you have informed the police, your travel arrangements will be risk assessed and any appropriate action taken – this may include sharing the information with other agencies and countries. Where the police believe ‘a person to be a possible threat to public safety’, they may decide to issue a Green Notice through the Interpol Criminal Information System. If a Green Notice is issued then customs/immigration will be aware of it when your passport is scanned. Immigration will then decide whether to admit you or deny you entry.
- Travelling abroad whilst on the SOR
- Information contained on UK passports
- Travelling to the EU and the European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS) – Unlock
Applying for a visa
As part of the visa application process (especially if you are looking for a work or residency visa) you may be asked to provide a formal record of your convictions to overseas immigration. This is done by way of a police certificate.
Police certificates will disclose all cautions and convictions unless they have been ‘stepped down’.
If your caution/conviction has been ‘stepped down’ your police certificate will state ‘No Live Trace’. This means that there is criminal record information held on the Police National Computer (PNC) but it has been removed from the police certificate. Immigration officials will therefore be aware that you have a past criminal record, even if they can’t see the details.
If you have never had a criminal record, your police certificate will show ‘No Trace’.
Frequently asked questions
This would normally only occur if you travelled without prior notification or in breach of a foreign travel order preventing you from travelling outside the UK – therefore, committing a further offence. In the event you had fulfilled your commitment to notify (and therefore travelled with implied permission) there should be no reason for UK police to disclose your conviction or communicate with foreign law enforcement. There is currently only limited routine sharing of criminal record information across states (based around risk assessments); primarily within the EU.
‘No Trace’ means that you have no convictions, reprimands, final warnings, or cautions held on the Police National Computer.
‘No Live Trace’ means that there is criminal record information held on the Police National Computer but it has been ‘stepped down’. Anyone who sees this, can see that you have a criminal record from your past, even if they can’t see details.
See more about how ‘No Live Trace’ might be used by agencies such as the US Embassy on our information on police certificates.
If the information is held abroad you would have to contact the embassy of the country concerned or that country’s data protection authority.
If your information is held in the UK, you are covered by the Data Protection Act, so you can apply for the information they hold on you from that country’s embassy.
]All the time you are out of the UK you are considered to be ‘unlawfully at large’ and your licence will stop.
If you returned to the UK, your licence would start again and you would be liable for recall to prison for the length of time you have left on licence. See the section above about travelling abroad whilst on licence.