International prisoner transfer refers to a situation in which an individual is convicted of a crime in one country but is transferred to his country of citizenship to serve the sentence imposed by the court.

The International Prisoner Transfer Program

The United States International Prisoner Transfer Program began in 1977 when the U. S. government negotiated the first in a series of treaties to permit the transfer of prisoners from countries in which they had been convicted of crimes to their home countries. The program is designed to relieve some of the special hardships that fall upon offenders incarcerated far from home, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of these offenders. Prisoners may be transferred to and from those countries with which the United States has a treaty.

Who is Eligible for the International Prisoner Transfer Program?

A prisoner may apply for transfer to a country of which he is a citizen or national in accordance with the provisions of the governing treaty. However, a prisoner is not eligible for transfer until the judgment and sentence in his case is final, meaning no appeals or collateral attacks are pending.

Some prisoner transfer treaties require that fines imposed as part of the criminal sentence be paid prior to transfer. Depending on the provisions of the governing treaty, prisoners who are convicted of certain types of crimes (such as military offenses and political offenses) or who have less than a specified amount of time remaining on their sentences (normally six months or a year, depending on the treaty involved), are not eligible for transfer.

What Does the Prison Transfer Program Entail?

  • First, the prisoner notifies the US Embassy that he or she wants to be transferred under treaty
  • The US Department of Justice (DOJ) determines whether the prisoner can transfer to the US
  • If DOJ agrees, the Embassy will contact the foreign ministry
  • If the prisoner’s request for transfer is approved by both governments, a consent verification hearing is held
  • Finally, arrangements are made between the 2 governments for the prisoner’s transfer at a mutually agreeable time

What Can You Do if You Want to Apply for the International Prisoner Transfer Program for Yourself or a Loved One?

Contacting a criminal defense attorney might be advantageous for yourself or your loved one. A skilled attorney can speed up the process and help you apply for the transfer.