The aim of this page is to set out whether people travelling to China require a visa to travel and if so, whether there is any necessity for them to disclose their criminal record.
Why is this important?
Applying for any type of visa can be expensive and time consuming, and it’s important to know therefore what, if anything, you’ll need to disclose about your criminal record. Also, if you do disclose a conviction, how it might affect your chances of success in getting a visa.
Do I need a visa to go to China?
British nationals wishing to enter mainland China (but not Hong Kong or Macao) will require a visa.
As of 11th January 2016, in line with reciprocal visa arrangements between China and the UK, the Chinese Embassy and Consulates will issue two year multi-entry visas for eligible British nationals for stays of up to 90 days for commercial/trade activities and for individuals travelling as a tourist or to visit family members/relatives.
What do they ask about your criminal record on the visa application form?
The application form asks:
‘Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country? Yes/No’
There is very little guidance as to what the Chinese consider should be disclosed. The Embassy states that disclosure of a conviction would not automatically stop you from getting a visa but you should answer the question honestly so that you do not risk being turned away on arrival at the border or expelled after entry in China. Any conviction given at either a magistrates or crown court should be disclosed to comply with Chinese law.
How long does it take to get a visa?
The normal processing time is four working days providing you have all the necessary documentation and have a passport with at least six months validity.
Where can I apply for a visa and what’s the cost?
As of 1 November 2018, all applicants aged between 14 and 70 will need to make their visa application in person at a Chinese Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) will now have to be provided. The price varies from $30 to $140 depending on your nationality, the type of visa you are applying for and the country where you are applying from.
There are extremely severe penalties for drug offences in China, including the death penalty. The Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals including on entry to the country. If you test positive you can be prosecuted regardless of where and when you consumed the drugs.
If you do disclose details of a drug offence on a visa application, it is our belief that your visa is likely to be refused.
The case study below relates to an individual helped by our helpline:
Applying for any type of visa can be expensive and time consuming and so it’s important to know what, if anything, you’ll need to disclose about your criminal record. Also, if you do disclose a conviction, it’s useful to know how this will impact on you being granted permission to enter Japan.
Do I need a visa to travel to Japan?
If you are a British citizen or British national, you will be able to enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You will need to provide evidence that you have a return or onward ticket.
With a criminal record, you can still travel without a visa for up to 90 days
If you have a different type of British nationality or you wish to enter Japan for another purpose (for example a longer stay, study, settlement or employment), then you will need to apply for the relevant visa.
What do they ask about criminal convictions on the visa application form?
If you need to apply for a visa, then it’s important to note that Japan has some of the strictest conviction-related bars to entry, covering many offences and having little regard to the length of stay or the purpose of the stay.
An excerpt from the visa application form (as of September 2016) can be found below.
Are there any other occasions when I would need to disclose my criminal record?
If you are visiting Japan as a tourist or visiting family or friends, you will need to complete an Embarkation and Disembarkation (EDcard) before being allowed entry into Japan. There is a question on the form which asks:-
Have you ever been found guilty in a criminal case in Japan or in another country?’
Whether you disclose your conviction on the EDcard is something only you can decide. Japanese Immigration have no links to the Police National Computer and officials would need to seek permission through Interpol to be provided with criminal record information. We have little evidence on what happens if you do tick yes to this question.
Have you travelled to Japan and ticked yes to this question? What happened? Let us know
However, when you present your EDcard, the immigration officer will take your photograph and will scan both your index fingers. This is part of recently introduced anti-terrorism laws but can worry some people who believe that it will flag up their criminal record – they don’t have access to UK police records, so this process is only likely to flag something up if the Japanese authorities hold any information about you.
I have just returned from a trip to Japan and am not the sort of person to lie on a form so did tick “yes” to the question, “Have you ever been found guilty in a criminal case in Japan or in another country?”
In my case my conviction was within what Japan deems acceptable as it was not a prison sentence of more than 1 year and not related to any of their restrictions.
The border guard asked me why I had ticked “yes”, and I gave a brief description of my conviction. I was then taken to a side room and after a short wait another guard handed me a form in English to fill in about my conviction. I filled this in and handed it back with my basic DBS check certificate which I had recently received and had decided to take with me. This disclosed my conviction as it was unspent. They seemed happy that I had bought a certificate disclosing my conviction with me and took the form, my basic DBS check and my passport and went behind a counter for a few minutes. When they came back they had put a normal temporary visitor sticker in my passport and one of the guards showed me across the border.
I would say the whole procedure only took about 10 minutes to complete, so I wasn’t delayed for too long.
From my experience I would say that if your conviction is within what is OK for Japan then don’t be afraid to tick the “yes” box. They did seem happy I took my Basic DBS check with me. I don’t think it’s necessary but it seem to speed things up.
This information is designed to set out the types of visa required for travel to Australia and how a criminal conviction may affect your ability to get a visa.
Why is this important?
People with criminal records are not barred from travelling to Australia. However, it’s important to know how a criminal record determines the type of visa you should apply for and whether or not you are likely to meet the good character test.
Visas are required for all travel to Australia. British citizens can obtain the following types of electronic visitor visa:
A Visitor Visa gives more flexibility in the length of stays that are permitted in Australia. There is a substantial charge for this type of visa and they can often take over a month to process (seehere for more details).
You may require other visas for transit through Australia to another destination or if you are visiting Australia for reasons other than a holiday.
As part of the eligibility requirements to obtain any of the above, it states that:
You must not have any criminal convictions, for which the sentence or sentences should not equal a total period of 12 months duration or more (whether served or not), at the time of travel to, and entry into, Australia.”
This implies the following:
If you received two 6 month sentences, you would be ineligible to apply online, and would have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
If you have received a 12 month sentence, but only served, for example, 6 months, you would still have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
If you have received a 12 month suspended sentence, and therefore never stepped foot in a prison, you would still have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
The Australian authorities do not recognise the difference between concurrent and consecutive sentences. Therefore if you were convicted of two offences and received two six month sentences to run concurrently, the Australian authorities would consider this to equal a 12 month sentence and you would have to apply for a full Tourist Visa.
Good character test
If you fall into the category of ‘criminal convictions’ set out above, in order to travel you must pass what the Australian government calls ‘the character requirement’ (as defined in Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958). You are likely to fail this test if you have a ‘substantial criminal record’.
A person is deemed to have a substantial criminal record if they have been:
sentenced to either death or life imprisonment
sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more
sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions), where the total of those terms is two years or more
acquitted of an offence on the grounds of either unsoundness of mind or insanity and, as a result, the person has been detained in a facility or institution.
they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct
You are also likely to fail the good character test if there is a risk that you would:
engage in criminal conduct in Australia
harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person
vilify a segment of the Australian community
incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community
represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community by becoming involved in activities that are disruptive to or threatening harm to that community
Applying for a visa if you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence
In February 2017 amendments were made to the Australian Migration Act 1958 which will affect those who have been convicted of a sexual offence who are considering travelling to Australia.
Any new visa applications will be refused or existing visa’s cancelled if, a court in Australia or a foreign country has:
convicted you of one or more sexually based offences involving a child; or
found you guilty of such an offence, even if you were discharged without a conviction (for example you received an absolute discharge).
If an Interpol green notice is in force, then the Australian authorities will infer that you would present a risk to the Australian community and any visa application will be refused or existing visa revoked. Interpol green notices are often given to people on the Sex Offenders Register
What happens if you do not pass the good character test?
Even if you fall into the above, you will not automatically be refused a visa. Another requirement of the ‘good character test’ will look at what you have done (and how you have behaved) since being sentenced. You may want to give some thought to what evidence you could provide to show this. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection will use their discretion as to whether or not to approve your application.
How will your application be decided?
When a visa applicant or visa holder does not pass the character test, immigration officials will decide whether to refuse the application or to cancel a visa. Exercise of this discretion will take into account a wide range of factors, including the protection of the Australian community, the expectations of the community, the best interest of any children under 18 years of age, as well as other considerations such as the non-citizen’s links to Australia, and any relevant international law obligations.
‘I managed to get into Oz with a record (24 month sentence) even though my offence made it impossible to enter the country. I had to bend over backwards to get all the necessary paperwork together but the point is that if you have a record there is a chance of getting in. I’m working with explosives now – this would have been unheard of in the UK.’
What if they say no?
If your visa application is cancelled on the grounds of either a substantial criminal record, or another character issue, you are permanently excluded from Australia.
There is generally no appeals procedure if you have been refused an eVisitor or ETA. The only visitor visa that may have a right to appeal in very limited circumstances is the sponsored visitor visa.
If you have a substantial criminal record or a character issue then you should seek advice from the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA). This organisation has contacts in the UK, providing migration advice to prospective migrants, workers, students, families and humanitarian entrants and to employers seeking to obtain skilled overseas workers.
The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
This information forms part of our travel section and focuses specifically on those people travelling to Canada for 90 days or less for leisure purposes who have a criminal record. It sets out the various processes that the Canadian authorities have in place and helps you identify which programme you should follow to travel to Canada.
Why is this important?
Changes to the visa exempt travel process means that those travelling to Canada will be asked for details of their criminal record at the time they apply for their Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA). It’s important that you know if you will be eligible to travel under the eTA and what you will need to do if you’re not eligible.
As of the 15th March 2016, British Citizens visiting or transiting Canada by air will require an Electronic Travel Authorisation. Exceptions include US Citizens and travellers with a valid Canadian visa.
If you travel by land or sea, you won’t need an eTA when entering Canada but you’ll still be required to present acceptable travel documents and identification. For a list of these, see here.
The Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
You can apply online for your eTA, it should only take a few minutes to complete. You will be asked to provide details of your passport, your email address and your credit card details. In most cases, your eTA will be approved within minutes of applying.
The question on the eTA around criminal records is as follows:-
Have you ever committed, been arrested for, been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence in any country?
Select ‘Yes’ if you have ever committed, been charged with or convicted of a crime in any country. Please provide as many details as possible. Failure to include additional and sufficient details may result in slower processing.
If the above statement applies to you, then you’ll need to answer ‘Yes’ (even if your conviction is spent). However, on receipt of your application, the Canadian Embassy will process your eTA using the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 as a basis for deciding whether you would be ‘deemed rehabilitated’. If this is the case, then you will be issued with an eTA.
If the eTA is declined, you will need to apply for a visa.
It’s important to note that the eTA follows the concept of ‘deemed rehabilitation’ as outlined below but does not take into account changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which came into effect in March 2014 and still relies on the 1974 Act.
If you’re unsure of the details of your criminal record, then you should get a copy of your Subject Access Request so that you’re very clear about what you need to disclose.
What should I do if my eTA is refused?
If you are refused an eTA because you have committed or been convicted of a criminal offence, you will need to apply for criminal rehabilitation under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Under this Act, if you have committed or been convicted of a crime, you will have to apply for a Visa. As a result, in their words, you may be “criminally inadmissible”. Criminal offences include both minor and serious offences, such as theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving and driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For a complete list of criminal offences in Canada see the Canadian Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Depending on what crime you committed, how long ago it was and your behaviour since, you may be admissible to Canada.
You may be allowed to go to Canada if:
you are able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated or
you apply for rehabilitation and are approved or
you are granted a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon) or
you get a temporary resident permit.
Deemed rehabilitation, under Canada’s immigration law, means that enough time has passed since you were convicted that your crime may no longer bar you from entering Canada.
You may be deemed rehabilitated depending on:
the crime you committed
how serious the crime was
how much time has passed since you completed the sentence (10 years for one indictable offence, 5 years for two or more summary convictions)
whether you have committed more than one crime
In all cases, you may only be deemed rehabilitated if the crime would be punishable in Canada by a maximum prison term of less than 10 years.
Also, in accordance with a Canadian decision, Burgon (case dated 21st February 1991 in the Federal Court of Appeal in Canada), criminal convictions obtained in the UK are generally assessed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 instead of under the Immigration & Refugee Protection Act. As a result, once your criminal record becomes spent under the 1974 Act, you cease to be inadmissible to Canada and are regarded as ‘deemed rehabilitated’.
It should be noted however that there are exceptions to the above. We’ve recently had sight of a letter from the High Commission of Canada to an individual who was refused entry to Canada, despite his conviction being spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which stated:
The Saini decision [Saini v MEI 151 NR 239 CRCA] allows discretion to a visa officer (or port of entry officer) not to give effect to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of the UK when looking at all the facts of a case.
In addition, based on the Saini decision, a visa officer needs to be satisfied that a pardon under a foreign jurisdiction is similar to one in Canada. For some offences, it is not possible to apply for a pardon under the Criminal Records Act in Canada and therefore in some instances the ROA will not be applied to a particular situation.
You do not have to apply to be deemed rehabilitated, but you should be sure you will qualify before you try to enter the country.
You are able to get assessed by the Canadian embassy, to ensure that you are not refused entry or subject to other enforcement action. To be assessed, fill out an application for Rehabilitation, but in Section A, check the box “for information only”. You will not have to pay a processing fee. An officer will review the form and tell you what to do next. More information on this process is available here.
There is a useful video below which sets out the status of ‘Criminal rehabilitation’
‘Rehabilitation’ in this context means that they feel you are not likely to commit new crimes. If you are not eligible to be ‘deemed rehabilitated’ you must apply for individual rehabilitation to enter Canada.
To apply for individual rehabilitation , you must:
show that you meet the criteria
have been rehabilitated, and
be highly unlikely to take part in further crimes
Also, at least five years must have passed since:
the end of your sentence (including probation), and
the day you committed the act that made you inadmissible
You must apply to the Canadian visa office and pay a processing fee. Note: Applications for rehabilitation can take over a year to process, so make sure you plan far enough in advance.
If you have been convicted in Canada and wish to apply for a record suspension, check with the Parole Board or Canada. If you get a Canadian record suspension, you will no longer be inadmissible.
If you received a pardon or a discharge for your conviction in a country other than Canada, check with the visa office closest to you to find out if the pardon is considered valid in Canada. This will help ensure you do not travel to Canada only to be refused entry or subject to other enforcement action.
In the UK, once a conviction is spent, you become ‘deemed rehabilitated’ under the Canadian process (see above).
Temporary resident permit
A temporary resident permit lets you enter or stay in Canada if:
it has been less than five years since the end of your sentence, or
If you have a valid reason to travel, but you are inadmissible, they may still issue a temporary resident permit. Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must show that your visit is valid.
An article about travel restrictions based on a criminal record can be found on the Collateral Consequences Resource Center website. Although this is written with an American audience in mind, the information is still relevant to travellers from the UK.
The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
Currently, if you are an EU citizen you may travel anywhere you wish within the EU without hindrance or restrictions. However, you will need a valid passport up until the day that you return in the UK. This is likely to change once we leave the EU when it will be necessary for EU citizens to get approval to travel via the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Further information can be found here.
The Schengen Agreement signed on the 14 June 1985 is a treaty that led to most of the European countries abolishing their national borders to form the ‘Schengen Area’. You can use the Schengen visa eligibility checker to find out if you need a visa when travelling from the UK to any Schengen member state.
Travelling to Mexico
If you’re visiting Mexico as a tourist you don’t need a visa, but you will need a tourist card, which you can get on arrival by completing an immigration form available at border crossings or on-board flights to Mexico. The tourist card does not ask any questions about cautions or convictions.
You may need a visa to undertake certain adventure or eco-tourism activities like caving, potholing or entomology, especially if they involve any scientific or technological research.
If you’re in any doubt, check with the Mexican Embassy in London well in advance of your visit and ask for written confirmation if necessary.
Tourist Card (FMM) Facts:
The FMM is a document issued by Mexico’s INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración)
Casually called a tourist card or tourist visa
Issued to U.S., Canadian and other nationalities for vacation purposes
Requires a valid passport or passport card
Cost as of February 2013, $295 Pesos (appx U.S. $25) per person
May be issued for up to 180 days
What information is asked on the tourist card (FMM) form?
The following information as it appears on your passport:
Date of birth
Purpose of trip
How you are entering Mexico: air, sea, land
Is the tourist card (FMM) available online?
No. It must be obtained from an INM office.
Is it possible to enter and exit Mexico multiple times with the same tourist card (FMM)?
Tourist cards (FMM) are not multiple entry and therefore, each time you enter Mexico, you will need a new one.
What if I lose my tourist card (FMM)?
If you lose your tourist card, visit the nearest INM office in order to obtain a new one.
Does the tourist card (FMM) have to be returned to INM?
Yes. The back of the FMM document states “…surrender it upon leaving the country.”
Tourist Card Tips:
Make sure that the Mexican officials stamp your card.
Keep your card in a safe place.
It is recommended to write down your FMM number in case it is lost or stolen.
Return the tourist card (FMM) to an INM office upon leaving Mexico.
Travelling to New Zealand
Do I need a visa?
You may need a Visitor Visa if you intend to stay temporarily in New Zealand. You can use the Visa Wizard to check.
If you are a UK passport holder who can provide evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK you can be granted a Visitor Visa for up to 6 months under the Visa Waiver System. You will be required to complete an arrival card on the aircraft/ship on your way to New Zealand. You must also:-
Hold a valid ticket out of New Zealand to a country you have the right of entry to
Have enough money to support yourself during your stay
Hold a passport valid for 3 months beyond the date you are leaving New Zealand
If you are not eligible to travel through the Visa Waiver System, then you will need to apply for a Visa.
The following people will not be eligible for a Visa unless a character waiver is granted:-
• People with criminal convictions for immigration, citizenship or passport offences
• People convicted of offences for which they have been imprisoned
• People who have provided false or misleading information
• Certain excluded, deported or removed people
• People wanted for questioning, under investigation for, or charged or convicted of criminal offences over a set threshold
Unsubstantiated allegations and civil matters are not sufficient to demonstrate that a person is not of good character. People are, however, required to declare whether or not they are under investigation by a law enforcement agency in any country.
In the case of character waivers, each application is considered on its individual merits and taking into account, for example, the seriousness of an offence, the number of offences and how long ago the offence occurred.
Under sections 15 and 16 of the Immigration Act they will not grant you a visa if:
you have been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years or more (this applies even if any of your offences have later been taken off the record)
in the past 10 years you were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more
you are subject to a period of prohibition on entry to New Zealand under section 179 or 180 of the Immigration Act 2009
you have been deported or removed from New Zealand under any enactment (whether before or after the commencement of the Immigration Act 2009)
you are excluded from New Zealand under any enactment
you have, at any time, been removed, excluded, or deported from another country
you have been involved in terrorist activities, or belonged to or supported any organisation involved in terrorist activities
it is believed you are likely to commit – or to assist others to commit – criminal or drug offences, or an act of terrorism, in New Zealand
it is believed you are likely – due to any international circumstances – to be a danger to New Zealand’s security or public order
it is believed you are associated with an organisation or group that has criminal objectives or is engaged in criminal activities and for that – or any other reason – you’re considered to be a threat to the public interest or public order of New Zealand.
They carry out character checks on everyone 17 years or over included in residence applications or applying for temporary entry for 24 months or longer. They may also undertake a character check on anyone else that they consider may not meet their character requirements.
If you are visiting South Africa for up to 90 days on holiday, you do not require a visa. The basic requirements for entry that may be requested by an Immigration Officer are:
Your passport must be valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of an intended visit.
Your passport must have a blank Visa page.
A vaccination certificate (if required)
Proof of sufficient funds to cover living expenses whilst in South Africa
Applicants travelling by air must be in possession of a return or onward ticket
Statement and/or documentation confirming purpose and duration of visit
Proof of fixed employment or other commitments
The three month period may be extended by a District or Regional Office of the Department of Home Affairs for an additional three months providing an application for an extension is made 30 days prior to expiry of the original permit. The approval of such an application is at the discretion of the Regional/District Representative.
Travelling to other countries
Based on the feedback we’ve received, the countries listed below either don’t require a visa or don’t ask any questions relating to criminal records on their landing/entry cards. However, this information is based on leisure/tourism travel, and it may be different for business/longer stays.
Please note: If you are on the Sex Offenders Register and have notified the police of your intention to travel a ‘Green Notice’ may be issued and ‘flagged’ via your passport. This ‘flag’ will alert overseas immigration “about a person’s criminal activities, where the person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety”. Overseas immigration officers will then decide whether to allow you entry or send you home.
Also, it’s worth remember that while this potentially means that the country that you’re travelling to might not have any specific requirements, there may be travel requirements on you because of your criminal record.
“I would like to update you with information about my experience when applying for Visas.
Namibia were great. Although UK visitors don’t need a visa, I checked about any problems I may have because of past convictions. They called me back and said I have served my time and they have no problem (as long as I don’t reoffend in their country!)
Botswana said I can enter without a visa.
Zimbabwe do require a visa which you can get on the border, or apply in advance.
Zambia also do require a visa which I will have to apply for and await the outcome.
So I recommend always contact the embassy or High Commission and be open about your conviction because the last thing you need is to be refused entry at the border having spent a lot of money on the trip”
This page was last fully reviewed and updated in April 2020. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to email@example.com.
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