Embracing Freedom: 10 Tips To Travel Confidently With a Criminal Record

Gabby Reeder

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One of my close family members has a criminal record and continues to travel the world. During his first trip after discharge, he encountered issues with carrying a prison ID inside TSA. Still, despite these extra security measures, he continued to globetrot. Others who serve prison sentences or have a criminal record wonder how they can travel the world without running into pushback.

1. Seal Your Record

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If you're a minor with a criminal record looking to travel, you can look into sealing your record. This involves the legal system hiding any illegal activity linked to your name from the public. It takes a while for all the processing and paperwork, but it is well worth the time.

2. Expunge Your Record

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You can expunge your record for a few more thousand dollars than it takes to seal it. Sealing hides the information from the public while expunging it wipes any criminal history from your name, and physically eradicates records. Eligibility for expunging a record differs for each person.

3. Meet With an Immigration Attorney

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A careful traveler adds, “To err on the side of caution, I always recommend people consult with an immigration attorney in their local jurisdiction about their specific criminal history and how it may affect travel to a specific country. Because these situations can have a lot of nuance.”

4. Be Honest

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For one person with a criminal record and a passion for traveling, the best way to continue moving around to different countries is to be open and upfront with each government agent, customs worker, and visa employee you speak to. When TSA questions my family member, he speaks the truth to avoid further complications. He hasn't had an issue entering a different country yet.

5. Don't Declare Your History

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“Made a stupid mistake when I was 19, arrested, and on probation. Visited 50+ countries, including Japan, several times. Never had a problem. You usually receive a declaration form when you land with a questionnaire where there will be a bunch of YES/NO questions—you fill in everything with NO, and that's it,” an individual with a criminal record advises.

6. Call the Embassy

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Contact the embassy and speak with a consultant about your situation to avoid showing up in a foreign country and being unable to enter the territory. Use the previous tips, like being honest and explaining your record, to see if your situation permits you to travel to a foreign country.

7. Request a Travel Waiver

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This document requires intense documentation but allows felons to travel freely. The waiver includes information like police documents, court records, fingerprints, rehabilitation information, and proof of citizenship so those with criminal records can move about the globe freely.

8. Apply for Rehabilitation

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Hoping to travel to Canada but have a criminal record haunting your itinerary? Suppose five years have passed since you finished your sentence. In that case, you can apply for rehabilitation to visit Canada for a prolonged period. If five years have yet to pass since your sentence's completion, you can request a special permission form. Police work on these forms on a case-by-case basis.

9. Keep Head Up in Security

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As I said, the family member I traveled with brought his prison ID to TSA, alerting the agents to send him to extra security screenings. However, this treatment did not phase him. He walked through each system, approached each pat down with a smile on his face, and greeted every agent.

10. Have Documents in Order

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Keep your VISA, passport, social security card, ID, etc., in a file you can access. Walking through TSA without proper documentation is a nightmare, and if you do need additional screening or experience hardship in the airport, accessing the documentation may save you a lot of headaches.

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