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UK versus the USA – The Criminal Records Debate

I have a older sister, a Green card holder, who resides in the USA, and I’ve travelled there many times pre the 9/11 attacks.

I am deeply proud to say that as a reformed and rehabilitated law abiding ex-criminal with spent convictions, I have considered going back to the states to see my sister many times, but have increasingly felt that the visa application may possibly be a step too far. I have convictions that are felt by the Americans to be just too serious to allow me the chance to see a close family member and have a 2 week holiday. Thankfully, as an EU citizen I travel everywhere in Europe with my wife, without fear of being asked about my past, or having to obtain a visa or have a criminal records check. The Unlock forum has hundreds of questions in regards to the USA and holiday visa’s, and it seems a major talking point, and sadly a very upsetting issue for many people.

Thinking about the flip side, I started to wonder, how Americans cope with having possible restrictions placed upon them whilst travelling the world.

It’s obvious from research, that US citizens need to also apply for a visa for visits to the UK if they have a criminal record, but I have not found any actual details on what crimes the British consider serious or not, and how hard it actually is to get into the UK from the USA if you have a criminal past.

Moving on from the visa debate, and knowing first hand how hard it can be to get a job with a record, faced with ever increasing employers that stipulate high level DBS checks, I wondered how the Americans addressed this issue.

Wow, I was in for a shock.

As of 2011, 65 Million US citizens had a recorded criminal record. That’s a crazy 1 in 4 people. More people in fact than the whole population of the UK (2014). The US National Employment Law Project website highlights this issue, and the problems faced by Americans looking for work.

On a serious note, it’s really no different being in the UK or the USA, as both countries face the same problems with travel visas and employment issues.

I have put my travel plans on hold to the states, and I will continue to enjoy the freedom I have as an EU British citizen to travel everywhere in Europe without any restrictions.

The world is a massive place, and rather than think about the places I am not allowed to go to, I’d rather think about all the marvellous other places that I can.

By Peter* (name changed to protect identity)

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