It is normal for felons to want to go back to normal life after imprisonment. But many find that life changes drastically when they attempt to rejoin society.
Even amongst people you consider family and friends, attitudes will have changed. And in the work environment, people are more wary and unwilling to grant second chances.
For felons that experience these discomforts, the lure of starting over far away is tempting. Hence the questions: Can a felon move out of the country?
Granted, one can start over anonymously in many other parts of the country. The US is huge. And even just crossing state lines can feel like having arrived in an entirely different culture.
However, with background checks that allow criminal records to be discoverable nationwide, moving abroad is more desirable. Going where no one knows who you are and what you have done can be a big relief. But is it something achievable?
Before we get into the details of how to relocate, let’s first discuss why felons have these desires. And, what benefits they may derive from making such a move.
Challenges Felons Face After Prison
As said, life after prison is never quite the same. Felons face many new challenges that make efforts to reintegrate into society hard. These challenges are part of the reason for the high recidivism rate felons suffer.
1. Loss of Rights
It is not just freedom that felons lose when convicted of their crimes. Several civil rights are taken away, or restricted, some of which can be vital to how they live. These include:
Felony convictions can also exclude people from joining certain professions. This is often due to ethical standards that cannot be met due to their criminal past.
When it comes to travel, felons that have completed their sentences can easily get a valid passport. The restrictions mainly come from the countries being traveled to.
Some do not permit felons to acquire visas. Where visas are not required, felons may still not be able to clear customs and immigration.
Short stay visits to visa-free countries are not much of a problem. If, however, relocating for work or to study, you will need to go through a vetting process. This often includes questions on criminal history and background checks.
2. Finding Jobs and Housing
Because background checks have become mandatory in the hiring process, it does impact felons negatively. Many employers will automatically opt for a job candidate that does not have a criminal history.
Felons are often considered more high risk. Particularly if their offenses may in some way tally with the job. For instance, someone convicted of embezzlement would not be considered a good fit for a finance position.
The same often applies to landlords considering tenants. Not only will they be concerned about your ability to cover the rent. They will also gauge your character as a good tenant on whether you have committed crimes.
Some crimes may even be considered a risk to other residents. This is especially common with sex offenders.
3. Personal Relationships
When a person is incarcerated for a long while, it will badly affect their relationships. Both family and friends will have limited communication. Not to mention the disappointment they experience when someone they love becomes a convicted criminal.
Being stripped of parental rights as a felon can also have devastating effects on kids. Many grow to resent the absence of the parent. There is also often embarrassment felt when people learn about their felon association.
The reputation of felony convictions can even make it hard for loved ones to vouch for you. They may not be willing to offer support in getting you a job or decent housing. People you loved may not even want to have you visit them at home or work.
Being treated like an outsider by someone you were close to can be painful. This strain on personal relationships often causes felons to break ties.
These key challenges all make up good justifications to want to relocate. Moving to a new country can allow a person to leave behind their sad pasts. They can rebuild their standing in a new society, without anyone around them being the wiser.
So what does it take to make such a move?
How to Move to Another Country
Being a felon does not necessarily hinder you from travel. You can travel abroad and even go on cruises. But this is mainly contingent on you securing a passport.
To acquire a passport, you will however need to have completed your sentence. You cannot still be under the supervision of the prison authority. That means you should have completed any parole or probation.
Many parole terms prohibit crossing even state lines. This ensures you remain under the monitoring of your parole officer. If released on parole, you will have to wait until your term is fully served.
The next step should be to do some research on which countries you would want to move to. Consider such factors as job prospects, culture, and immigration laws.
Job prospects are important as you will need to make a living. Even if you intend to start a business, you will likely have to ensure you have enough capital. Not to mention a good understanding of the local economy to make wise investments.
If you intend to live off existing investments and savings, ensure you can afford the cost of living.
Visiting the country as a tourist first is also a good idea. This will allow you to get a feel for the communities. Familiarity will help make transitioning to a resident easier.
Not all countries welcome felons. to emigrate background checks will be done. consult with the country’s embassy to learn if you qualify.
Some countries like the UK and Canada have exclusion periods. This means a waiting period before a felon can enter the country, from the time of sentence completion. During this period, they should not re-offend.
Consult with an immigration lawyer or contact the embassy to find out what, if any, restrictions apply.
As much as 8% of the adult population in the US have some level of felony history. Despite this widespread problem, much of society is still unwilling to give second chances.
The challenges felons face can sometimes be overwhelming. To overcome, many feel the need for a fresh start. Relocation to a new country can often give felons the new chance they need.
Many other countries and cultures are open to having Americans join their communities. Without knowledge of past crimes, they often take visitors and emigrants at face value.
However, there is a culture shock to contend with and knowing you may never truly fit in as a foreigner. You will also need to learn about the local laws to avoid history repeating itself.
With the right attitude and preparation, you can, however, make a success of this venture. Do your research to find the right location and opportunities. Be open to new experiences and commit to leading an honest and productive life.