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Tag: Travelling abroad

Moving on: Applying for settled status if you’re an EU citizen and travelling to Europe

This month we’ve written a further article for Insidetime ‘Through the Gate’ section which highlights the impact of a criminal record when making a settled status application and travelling to the EU with a criminal record after Brexit.

After agreeing a trade deal with the EU, on 1st January 2021 the UK left the single market and customs union. Since then, our helpline has started to receive calls from people with a criminal record worried that leaving the EU will stop them from visiting Europe for a holiday.

The majority of people leaving prison will be on licence, which can make travelling abroad difficult – a standard licence condition is … ‘not to travel outside the UK without obtaining the prior permission of your supervising officer.’ But will a trip to Europe be possible once your licence ends?

The European Commission has previously stated that after Brexit, UK passport holders will need to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) visa waiver; similar to an American ESTA. This is likely to cost around £6 and will be valid for several years. However it has recently been reported that the introduction of the System is likely to be postponed until late 2022/early 2023.

The ETIAS visa waiver will require applicants to answer basic questions about their past criminal convictions, namely: ‘Have you been convicted of any criminal offence over the previous 10 years and in the case of terrorist offences, over the previous 20 years?’

The answers you give will be checked against the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) and Interpol.

The decision on whether or not to grant you an ETIAS visa waiver will depend on the specifics of your case. If you’ve been convicted of terrorism related offences or sex-trafficking, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, murder or rape, you’re likely to be denied entry into Europe.

If your offence falls outside the scope of the question (for example, if you were convicted of theft 12 years ago), then you can answer ‘No’ and your criminal record shouldn’t be a barrier.

If you’re on the Sex Offenders Register

Since 1st January 2021, access to the Schengen Information System (SIS), the information sharing system for security and border management in Europe, has been removed. This means that the police will no longer be able to use SIS to log travel details of anybody travelling to the EU who is on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR).

Although there is no direct replacement for SIS, we’ve been told that the police will continue to use Europol and other relevant data systems if they feel it necessary to share information with the EU. They can also make use of Interpol Notices to monitor the travel of individuals on the SOR across international borders.

Applying for settled status if you’re an EU citizen and have a criminal record

The deadline for applying for settled status is 30th June 2021, but it’s important that you don’t leave it until the last minute to apply. To be granted settled status, you will usually need to have been living in the UK continuously for five years – referred to as ‘continuous residence’.

If you’re currently in prison, you will need at least five years’ continuous residence from the day you are released to be considered for settled status, unless you already had five years’ continuous residence before you were sent to prison. (For example, if you have lived in the UK for less than 5 years, went to prison before 31st December 2020, and are due to be released after 1st January 2021 your application for settled status is likely to be refused. This is because your continuous qualifying residence could not begin until after 31st December 2020).

If you’re considering applying whilst in prison, then you’ll probably need to use a paper form given the difficulties you may have in accessing either your identity documents or the online application form. To request a paper form you should contact the Settlement Resolution Centre (telephone number 0300 123 7379). Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to request the relevant identity documents from the prison (we’ve been told that prison governors will make these accessible) before you send it.

As part of the application process, you will be asked for details of your convictions. The Home Office will then check your application against relevant criminal record databases, including the Police National Computer. Your application may be referred to the Immigration Enforcement team for further assessment if:

  • In the last five years you have received a conviction which resulted in a prison sentence;
  • You have ever received a conviction which resulted in a prison sentence of 12 months or more for a single offence;
  • In the last three years, you have received three or more convictions (including non-custodial sentences) unless you have lived in the UK for five years or more;
  • You are currently in prison and your case is awaiting deportation consideration.

If your application is refused you will usually be given the opportunity to appeal to the Home Office against the decision. We would always recommend seeking specialist advice prior to making an appeal and the prison library or resettlement department should be able to provide you with details of organisation that can assist you with this.

Changes to immigration rules and travel to Europe from 1 January 2021

What you’ll find in this post:

Changes to the immigration rules for non-UK citizens

On 22 October 2020, the Home Office announced further details of their new Immigration Bill, which created many ‘rules’ to come into effect on 1 December 2020.

The new points-based system, sets out a specific set of requirements for which all applicants will score points.

The Government’s points-based system aims to create a ‘high wage, high skill, high productivity economy’ which is likely to make it harder for workers from certain sectors to come to the UK, for example those working in social care. The new Bill also sets out the grounds upon which an application must (mandatory) or may (discretionary) be refused due to an applicant having a criminal record.

Mandatory grounds

Immigration rules state that permission must be refused where the applicant:

  • Has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a prison sentence of 12 months or more; or
  • Is a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law; or
  • Has committed a criminal offence, or offences, which has caused serious harm.

Discretionary grounds

Immigration rules state that permission may be refused where the applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they received:

  • A prison sentence of less than 12 months.
  • A non-custodial sentence, or received an out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record.

There are no timescales to these discretionary grounds unless you are applying as a visitor, or wish to enter the UK for less than 6 months. In these cases, permission will not be refused providing more than 12 months have passed since the end of your sentence (or date of conviction in the case of a non-custodial sentence).

It’s important that you disclose all criminal convictions when making your immigration application as the Home Office are likely to view your non-disclosure as dishonesty (even if you’ve made a genuine mistake); dishonesty is another ground for refusal.

Further information can be found in the Home Office guidance, Grounds for refusal – Criminality.

If you are a non-UK student wishing to study in the UK, you can apply for a student visa six months prior to the start of your course. You will have to prove that you:

  • Have an offer from an approved educational institution.
  • Can speak English.
  • Are able to support yourself during your studies.

Travelling to Europe from 1 January 2021

Following the government’s announcement of a trade deal with the EU, the UK left the single market and customs union on 1 Jan 2021. Travellers to the EU are likely to notice some changes when they travel to the EU in future.

Travelling to the EU with a criminal record

The European Commission has previously stated that, after Brexit, UK passport holders will need to apply for an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) visa waiver. This is similar to an American ESTA, will probably cost around £6 and will be valid for several years. It was recently announced that the introduction of the system would be postponed until 2023.

The ETIAS visa waiver will require you to answer basic questions about any past criminal convictions you may have. Your answers will then be checked against the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) and Interpol.

If the ECRIS does not find any record of you in the database, you will automatically receive the approved document via email.

In the event that ECRIS does find a record of you, your application will need to be assessed manually. The decision as to whether or not to grant you the ETIAS visa waiver will depend on the specifics of your case. Any person suspected of being involved in terrorism-related offences or crimes such as sex trafficking, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, murder or rape are likely to be denied entry into Europe.

If your offences are minor, then you will generally be allowed entry into Europe.

Travelling to Europe if you’re on the Sex Offenders Register

As of 1 January 2021, the UK has no access to the Schengen Information System (SIS), the information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. This means that the police will no longer be able to use SIS to log details of any travel plans.

We understand that although there is no direct replacement for SIS, Visor (PPU) officers can still use the Interpol Criminal Information System. Where they believe “a person to be a possible threat to public safety”, the police may decide to issue a Green Notice.     

Travelling to the EU after 1 January 2021

Back in January 2019, we published an advice post, travel to the EU post-Brexit which set out our understanding of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) in particular, questions relating to criminal records.

The ETIAS form will ask applicants to disclose convictions relating to specific offences over the previous 10 years (20 years for terrorist offences) and we would therefore expect most applicants to be automatically approved.

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s recent announcement (22 October) that “EU criminals could be banned from entering the UK under tighter border rules” has led to our helpline receiving calls from individuals concerned that this announcement could lead to the EU implementing similar requirements for UK citizens travelling to the EU.

EU citizens coming to the UK

The changes laid out mean that from 1 January 2021, EU citizens will be subject to the same rules that apply to non-EU citizens, namely:

  • Those sentenced to at least one year in prison will be banned from entering the UK
  • Those sentenced to less than one year in prison could also be banned, with the Home Office taking into account a person’s criminal record as well as their links to the UK, such as family members
  • Individuals who haven’t received a prison sentence could be banned from entering the UK, if
    • Their offending is persistent or causes serious harm (such as sexual offences)
    • It is decided that their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, or
    • They have a criminal conviction of any kind in the past 12 months and are seeking to enter the UK for the first time.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK on or before 31 December who wish to work, study or visit and want to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021 should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme upon arrival in the UK. We have information on that here.

UK nationals travelling to the EU

As it stands, there is no long-term agreement with the EU on trade and some other key areas when the transition arrangement expires. The UK faces losing access to the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) which means it will not be possible for UK authorities to check the criminal record of an EU citizen. Likewise, should a similar system be implemented by the EU, the criminal record of UK travellers couldn’t be checked either. Unless an agreement is reached with the EU in relation to the sharing of criminal record data, the system will be reliant on an individual’s honesty when self-disclosing.

Whilst visitors from the UK could, in theory, be asked to provide a police certificate to evidence their criminal record, this would increase the cost of a family holiday and is probably unlikely to get agreement from countries in the EU who are reliant on tourism.

There are still a lot of arrangements which need to be finalised before the transition period ends at the end of this year (travel included) and we will publish more details as we become aware of them.

Looking to travel to the US? You need to know if your offence is classed as “a crime involving moral turpitude”?

‘Moral turpitude’ is a legal concept in the US and is important when trying to work out whether you can travel under the Visa Waiver Scheme (ESTA) or whether you need to apply for a visa from the US Embassy.

The information that’s available from the US Embassy can make it difficult to match your UK offence with a US equivalent, and so it’s not always easy to work out if your offence would be deemed to be a “Crime Involving Moral Turpitude” (CIMT). This confusion can mean that people who would be eligible to travel with an ESTA go to the unnecessary time and expense of applying for a visa. Likewise, some people can end up mistakenly travelling on an ESTA when they should have applied or a visa.

To try and help with this, we’ve published some new information which sets out a list of the 80 most common UK offences and those which, in our opinion, would be deemed to be a CIMT.

As this information is new, we’re keen to get your thoughts. Let us know what you think of it and how it could be improved by emailing us at or completing our feedback form.

Moving on: Travelling abroad with a criminal record

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on travelling abroad with a criminal record.

A copy of the article can be found below.

Whilst you’re in prison, you’ll probably have heard lots of conflicting information about travelling abroad with a criminal record. Unless you’re on licence, there’s rarely anything stopping you from travelling abroad and at the moment you can travel freely within the EU.

When and where you can travel to will depend on the country you wish to visit, the nature of your offence and sentence you received. Visiting countries like the USA or Australia will usually mean applying for a visa. However, don’t be put off by this. We know of many people with a criminal record who’ve successfully been granted visas.

Travelling abroad whilst on licence

It’s more than likely that you’ll face restrictions on travelling abroad all the time you’re on licence. A standard condition of any licence is ‘not to travel outside the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man without the prior permission of the responsible officer’.

Therefore if you’re considering travelling abroad, it might be an idea to approach your probation officer informally to start with. You’ll be able to get an idea of whether they’d give you permission prior to putting your request in writing. Each probation area will have their own approach to travelling abroad, so get a copy of your area’s policy to find out how closely you meet their criteria. If you’re refused you can go through the complaints system, details of which you should be able to get from your probation officer.

Moving abroad whilst on licence

Moving to another country can be extremely problematic all the time you’re on licence. Although you’re not in prison, the time you’re on licence is still classed as part of the sentence given to you by the court.

Usually, you’ll need to spend some time in the community in the UK on licence before you can be considered for resettlement overseas. This is to ensure that any risk you pose of re-offending can be assessed as well as evidencing that you’re able to conform to all your licence conditions.

In deciding whether to grant you permission to move abroad, your probation officer will consider whether you have any family ties or other connections (for example you lived overseas prior to going to prison) as well as reviewing whether your offence is related to the country you wish to travel to.

Travelling when you’re on the sex offenders register

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence, you may find that even when your licence ends, you will remain on the register. If this is the case, you’ll need to continue to notify the police if you intend leaving the country for 3 days or longer.

Once you’ve informed the police of your travel plans, your supervising police officer may decide to ‘flag’ your passport with an Interpol Green Notice. This notification on your passport will alert overseas immigration officers that an individual who is on the sex offenders register is visiting. Depending on the country you’re travelling to, you may be denied entry and sent back to the UK. Examples of people we’ve heard this happen to are those looking to visit places like Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

What information is held about you on your passport

The UK has been using ‘biometric’ passports since 2006. These passports contain a microchip which stores a digitalised image of your passport photograph as well as the biographical details printed on the passport. It does not contain any information which can’t be found on the physical version of the passport. It’s a myth that the chip holds details of your criminal record.

Travelling to Europe post-Brexit

As I’m sure you know, Brexit should be finalised by March 2019 and although the exact outcome is yet to be finalised, there is talk that the ease with which we currently travel to the EU may change.

The European Union has proposed a new visa scheme for all visitors to the EU, called a European Travel Information and Authorisation System. If approved, it will place some restrictions on who can and cannot travel. However, until the withdrawal date and during the transition, the current immigration arrangement for British nationals will continue as they are currently.

What’s new from ACRO Criminal Records Office?

Unless you’ve travelled abroad and needed a police certificate or applied for a subject access request (SAR) to help get a better understanding of your criminal record, you may never have come across ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO).

They have just published their annual report for 2016/17 showing an annual income of almost £13 million and we thought it might be useful to highlight some relevant information from that report.

Travelling abroad

If you’re looking to move abroad or require a visa to visit certain countries (for example the US), you will probably need to apply for a police certificate and in 2016/17, ACRO received 131,560 applications. The majority of the certificates had no conviction information disclosed however 12,796 (almost 10%) showed ‘live’ convictions and 7,875 (6%) showed ‘no live trace’.

A survey undertaken by ACRO highlighted that 88% of respondents from Embassy’s and High Commission’s etc. stated that Police Certificates were an important component in their decision as to whether to issue or deny a visa. Therefore, being very clear about what’s on your certificate and knowing how to disclose it to an immigration officer could have a significant impact on your chances of success.

Convictions received overseas

As at March 2017, it has been possible for the UK to exchange criminal record information with 25 out of 27 EU member states via the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

In 2016/17 there was a 22% increase in the number of notifications sent to ACRO which related to UK nationals who’d received a conviction overseas. Of the 12,336 notifications received, 7,064 resulted in conviction information being added to the Police National Computer (PNC) – 1,531 were for violent offences and 325 related to sexual offences.

In October 2016 ACRO were notified that a UK national who had received a conviction for a sexual offence in Cyprus was returning to the UK. ACRO informed the local police in the area he would be returning to who contacted the gentleman at home to arrange a risk assessment and consider possible ways that he would be monitored in the community

Deletion of criminal record information from the PNC

For the last two years, ACRO has been responsible for coordinating the record deletion process on behalf of all police forces in the UK. In 2016/17, 1,512 people applied to have their records deleted from the PNC. Of these, 479 were successful, 10 had part of their records deleted, 494 were refused and 266 applications were not eligible. The deletions related to police intelligence (sometimes referred to as additional information) and in some cases, DNA and fingerprints.

If you’ve had an enhanced DBS check done in the past and the police have chosen to disclose additional information, then it may be worth considering making an application to have it removed, especially if it’s had an adverse effect on your ability to get a job or join a college or university course.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our police certificates, convictions obtained overseas and disclosure of police intelligence on enhanced checks sections
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Do you want to travel to the US? Have a look at our updated information

The most popular section on our information site is our “travelling to the US” one, and our helpline receives many enquiries from people with a criminal record looking to travel to the US.

In 2015 over 4.9 million people visited the US from the UK. A significant number of these will have some form of criminal record. Many will have successfully applied for a visa whilst others will have been able to travel under the Visa Waiver Program because they didn’t need to disclose it. Some will have decided to take the risk and not disclose.

So we’ve spent quite a bit of time re-looking at the details we have on our information site on this, to make sure that we’re doing our best to clearly set out the situation and help people find answers to the questions they’ve got.

What have we done? We’ve updated our existing information with a new information page specifically for travelling to the US, and we’ve then created four separate (but linked) pages which will hopefully make it easier to find what you’re looking for:

  1. Do I need a visa?
  2. Travelling without a visa
  3. Applying for a visa
  4. Will I get a visa?

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our travelling to the US section
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.

We’ve voted to leave the EU – what are the consequences for people with a criminal record

The votes have been counted and we now know that we’ll be leaving the EU. The consequences could be huge, and the coming years may initially be economically and socially disruptive. But, how will it affect you if you have a criminal record?

This is a question that’s come up quite a bit over the last month or so. It’s still very unclear, but we’ve tried to answer some of the questions that we’ve had.


There has been talk that in the event of the UK leaving the single market, we’ll need a visa to travel to other EU countries.

The UK is second only to Germany in terms of tourists visiting other countries in the EU. We think it’s unlikely that the governments of Spain and Greece would single us out for tougher treatment at borders and we doubt there will be a need for visas to travel to the EU on holiday. If this were the case, there’d be no need to worry about disclosing your criminal record to get a visa like you do if you want to travel to the US.

If Brexit were to lead to a more radical split of the EU, then the Schengen arrangements (which controls border crossing between most of the member states) would presumably end and border checks may be re-introduced. We don’t feel this will happen any time soon.


Undergraduates in England pay the highest tuition fees in the world, leading to some students looking to go to cheaper European universities. The National Union of Students have said that the effect of Brexit may lead to student visas being required and international fees being charged for courses. The introduction of student visas may mean there would be a requirement to disclose a criminal record, irrespective of the course that you’ll be studying.


The ability to work in the EU without a work permit is down to our EU membership. One of the key arguments of the leave campaign was that we operate a quota system for migrant workers. If this is imposed, British citizens may face similar restrictions. As in the case of student visas, applying for a work permit (and perhaps a Police Certificate) may require you to disclose your criminal record in a way you don’t need to at the moment.

Exchange of criminal record data

Through the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), an electronic exchange mechanism is in place for the sharing of information between EU members. ECRIS is not extended to any non-EU countries, however countries that are fully part of Schengen (i.e. Norway and Switzerland) do exchange information.

Broadly speaking, the EU court has rules that personal data can only be transferred to non-EU countries that have data protection laws ‘essentially equivalent’ to EU law. The UK would therefore have to commit to continuing to apply a law similar to EU law or risk disruptions in the flow of personal data. It’s likely that our data protection law will be ‘essentially equivalent’ to EU law.

European Convention on Human Rights

Currently the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a code of conduct enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It exists separately from membership of the EU but it does have a fundamental impact on EU law decisions.

It’s worth noting that withdrawal from the EU will not automatically affect the UK’s status as a signatory to the ECHR.

Are our rehabilitation laws at risk?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is a piece of legislation that the UK Government reformed in 2014. It should not be impacted by the UK leaving the EU.

The filtering mechanism brought into force in 2013 was off the back of a successful legal challenge which used ECHR arguments. However, the way it was introduced was through amendments to UK legislation, the Police Act 1997. Again, it should not be impacted by the UK leaving the EU.

For more information

  1. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on Brexit on our online forum
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Working abroad and the use of Police Certificates

Many people who have a criminal record consider moving abroad as a way to ‘escape’ their past and improve their chances of employment.

People looking to emigrate to countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Caymen Islands, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA have always needed to apply to the National Police Chiefs’ Council Criminal Records Office (ACRO) to get a copy of their Police Certificate as part of their visa process.

Police Certificates contain details of all convictions, reprimands, warnings and cautions which have been recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) although it doesn’t disclose anything that is eligible to be ‘stepped down’. Read more about the step down model here.

If your criminal record has been ‘stepped down’ then your Police Certificate will come back with ‘No Live Trace’ recorded. Anyone who sees this, and understands the phase, can assume that you have a criminal record from the past, even if they can’t see the details.

If this applies to you, then we advise that you contact ACRO to obtain details of the conviction information which was not disclosed on the certificate. The country concerned will probably want you to disclose everything, and they’ll know from your Police Certificate that there’s something on your record. By getting these further details from ACRO, you’ll be clear about what’s been recorded on the PNC and you’ll be able to contact the relevant Embassy and disclose the information.

A recent case

We have recently heard from somebody who has been working successfully in the Middle East for many years without needing to disclose a very old conviction. A couple of months ago, they were offered a well-paid job in Saudi Arabia for a company they’ve worked with in the past. However, as a result of a new work residence visa process, they were asked to provide their employer with a copy of their Police Certificate.

Their conviction was spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and is eligible for filtering from DBS Certificates. As a result, they wouldn’t have to disclose it to employers in the UK that require basic, standard or enhanced checks. However, because of the statement ‘No Live Trace’ their new employers may be aware that there is something ‘lurking in the background’.

They told us:

After a lot of soul searching and stress, I’ve decided that rather than risk damaging my previous good character and reputation, I would turn down this great job due to “personal reasons”. I count my blessings that this is a fairly new requirement and I’ve been able to work in the Middle East for many years. However, I do wonder whether his really is an acceptable rehabilitation.

Although ACRO state on their website that a Police Certificate should not be used for employment purposes, in the case of a work visa, it does become directly related.

The lesson here is that if you are thinking of living or working abroad, be clear what the entry/work visa requirements are for the country you’ll be moving to. If it’s somewhere that requires a Police Certificate, then it may be in your best interest to be upfront and honest about your criminal record to your potential employer as it’s possible that they’ll become aware of it even if they haven’t asked you during the application process. This could potentially save you money as well as a lot of unnecessary worry.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information on Police Certificates 
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about working abroad and Police Certificates posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the category/tag of travelling to the USA 
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Getting permission to travel abroad while on licence

It can be very difficult, while on licence, to get permission to travel abroad. It very much depends on the reasons why you need to travel, and how willing your Probation Area is to grant you permission.

Generally, we find that people get permission refused, so we were pleased when, a couple of weeks ago, we received a report from somebody who was granted permission, so we want to share this:

“My probation trust has just granted me permission to travel for business purposes. My application was for travel to The Netherlands, returning the same day (business meeting). My index offence is a s.20 wounding and I still have about 4 months of licence. I applied about 3 weeks ago and it took this long to get a decision (it went all the way up to the regional direction) and it took a bit of chasing from my end”

For more information, visit the Travelling abroad while on licence page.

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