Traveling Outside the U.S. with a Criminal Background

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Can a Non-Citizen with a Criminal Background Travel Outside the U.S.?

If you are a U.S. citizen and you wish to travel outside the U.S., you can usually travel outside the U.S. even with a criminal background. However, you shouldn’t have any outstanding warrants for serious crimes such as felonies.

On the other hand, if you are NOT a U.S. citizen and you seek to travel outside the country, you should take precautions if you have a criminal background. In general, leaving the U.S. does not pose a problem, but you may encounter difficulties upon attempting to re-enter. 

Visa holders and resident aliens must have their ID’s scanned before re-entering the U.S. If records reflect that you have committed a crime, it is possible that you might be directly escorted to jail and subject to an immigration hearing. From there, an immigration judge will conclude whether you will be allowed to remain in the U.S. or be subject to removal/deportation to your country of origin. 

How Can I Avoid Difficulties When Traveling?

Before you even schedule your trip outside the U.S., you should contact an immigration lawyer to help you go over your criminal records. Your attorney should send a request to law enforcement and immigration authorities to ensure that they have current copies of your records. You may be asked to submit additional documents and have your fingerprints taken.

If nothing noteworthy appears in your criminal records, it should be possible for you to travel outside of the U.S. However, these steps are not a guarantee that you will be able to re-enter the country without being subject to an investigation. Recently, U.S. immigration authorities have begun working together with local police departments and the FBI in order to obtain criminal records of non-citizens. 

Again, be sure to consult thoroughly with an attorney before attempting to travel, especially if you have felony charges on your record.

What Else Should I Know About Traveling with a Criminal Background?

You should be aware that for resident aliens/visa holders who request records from law enforcement or immigration authorities, there is a risk that you might be opening yourself to a criminal investigation. This includes investigations regarding yourself, or even other persons who may be affiliated with you. 

Recent changes in immigration policies have created a stricter atmosphere when it comes to the presence of convicted non-citizen felons in the U.S. Non-citizens have also been removed even for non-violent immigration crimes, depending on the situation.

So if you have a criminal background, you should not attempt to leave the U.S. without first consulting with an immigration attorney. 

How Can an Immigration Lawyer Help?

Traveling outside the U.S. could pose some risks for non-citizens with a criminal background. You may wish to find a qualified immigration attorney to help you if you have travel plans. Or, if you have been convicted of a crime during your stay in the U.S., an immigration attorney can represent you during immigration hearings. Immigration laws change very frequently, but an immigration lawyer can help you stay informed of recent changes.

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Last Modified: 02-19-2014 11:22 AM PST

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