One of the simplest yet exciting experiences in life is travel. Whether a novice or seasoned traveler, there is much pleasure derived. Right from the moment you get on the plane to arrival at your destination.
Felons are often hindered from doing many things upon conviction. In most states, their ability to travel is highly restricted. At least until they have completed their sentence.
England is one of the most important travel hubs in the world. For those with criminal convictions the question remains – can a felon travel to England?
It is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. It also acts as a popular transit point for onward travel.
This means people can travel to England for a myriad of reasons. From tourism to study, business to relocation, the country sees millions of visitors each year.
It is therefore not surprising that for felons looking to travel abroad, this may be a considered destination.
Let’s delve a little deeper into why people enjoy traveling here.
Why Travel to England?
The UK has a rich and colorful history. From the busy and cosmopolitan London to countryside villages steeped in history and folklore. Tourism is big business here and it is reflected by millions of visitors each year.
England is also home to some of the world’s best sports teams and academic institutions. People travel from near and far to have a chance to watch sporting events. Many also gladly take up the chance to study and do research in their institutions.
It is also home to one of the wealthiest and powerful economies. Many foreigners travel to work for organizations here or to invest.
For felons, any of the reasons listed above are good enough to get on a plane to England. But a criminal history may be problematic.
The UK has had to contend with its fair share of foreign criminals. From terrorism to assaults, many travelers committed crimes. This has undoubtedly made them wary of felons.
Before we discuss how they deal with this, let’s look at the basics of visiting this country.
Requirements to Travel
We will focus on U.S. citizens traveling for tourism purposes. If so, then you may enter England without a visa. This is only if you are not intending to stay any longer than 6 months.
The only requirement for such travel is a valid passport. It should have at least 6 months’ validity by the time you arrive in England.
However, when traveling, also carry the supporting documents you would need to apply for a visa with you. You may be asked for them at points of entry long the UK border.
Getting past border authorities is tricky. Sometimes you may not even be subjected to any vetting. Other times you may find yourself selected for a thorough probe.
At the most basic level, you need to show that you intend to leave the country at the end of your stay. You should also have sufficient money to fund your stay or any onward travel.
Supporting documents can include financial documents verifying you have these sufficient funds for your stay. You may also need documents supporting employment status or evidence of business if self-employed.
If traveling for any other reason than tourism, you will also need supporting documents. For instance, those traveling to study will need a letter of enrollment from the school. Those hoping to seek medical treatment will need to prove they can afford private treatment.
These documents are what you would typically submit if required to apply for a visa.
Note that the UK government site does advise visitors with criminal records to apply for a visa. Even if they are short-stay tourists.
But how does this work? Does England perform background checks?
Does England Conduct Background Checks?
Generally, England does not conduct run criminal background checks on short-stay visitors. But such policies can easily change. So always research before setting out on this journey.
The UK landing card does not ask any questions on criminal past. This may make it easy for a felon to get through border control. Unless you divulge such information, it is unlikely they will catch on.
Do note that if you do happen to be pulled aside by a border control officer you need to be truthful. You do not need to reveal your past, but you should be honest if directly asked about it.
So there lies the crux of the matter. If you are not questioned, you can likely enter England without a hitch. If, however, you are asked, your trip may come to an abrupt end.
The UK typically considers convictions ‘spent’ if more than 10 years have elapsed since completion of a sentence. This applies to cases where the person was sentenced to no more than 30 months.
Offenses that attract a longer sentence are differently considered. There is a strong chance that you may be denied a visa if you apply under these circumstances.
Traveling to England on short stays visits is not often a problem for most felons. If they can get past border control without being pulled aside and directly asked about it.
However, if you apply for a visa, the more severe and recent the crime, the lower chances you have. If the crime was not severe and your sentence is ‘spent’, your chances are better.
Border control issues are not always easy. You have to convince the official that you are not a threat to public safety. And this is not always possible.
It can be a risk for a felon to travel without prior authorization of a visa. You risk wasting money on a ticket and bookings only to be turned away.
Whether to apply for a visa or not is really up to you. There is some risk either way.
However, you should not give up on travel. For felons, this can be an especially liberating experience that opens up a whole new world of opportunities.