HOW A CONVICTION COULD AFFECT YOU TRAVELLING ABROAD

Written 9th May 2014 by Olliers Solicitors

Most people are aware that a conviction for drink driving brings a minimum disqualification period of 12 months however not everybody understands the additional potential consequences.

Unlike penalty points, a drink driving conviction is a criminal one and it could jeopardise a person’s chances of working, studying, or even travelling abroad in certain countries.

Each country has their own policies in place in respect of admitting entry for people with convictions and below is a run down of some of the stricter territories.

United States of America

Historically, fliers to the USA could fill in a VISA application during the flight to obtain a temporary travel to enter for a holiday. Reforms over the years, however, have ultimately resulted in almost everybody having to apply for a VISA in advance of their trip.

If you have ever been arrested (regardless of whether this led to formal charges and a conviction) you must declare the details in your application.

If you have ever been arrested and/or have a criminal conviction you will be required to provide documentation relating to your circumstances in support of the application.

If arrest resulted in a conviction you may be unable to receive a VISA and be permanently ineligible. The only way around this is to apply for the permanent ineligibility to be waivered. Applicants must obtain an “Association of Chief Police Officers Police Certificate” issued within six months of the date of the visa interview in order to be considered.

Information on how to obtain the police certificate can be found on the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Criminal Records Office website. Once you have obtained this certificate you are required to undergo a face-to-face interview with the U.S Embassy in London to try and obtain a VISA.

The process can then take between 90 days and 6 months for a VISA to be approved and this time scale must be considered when making travel arrangements.

Australia

Australia is notoriously difficult (by comparison to other countries) to gain entry and if you intend to visit Australia you need to have a pre-arranged Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). This is required whether you are travelling as a tourist or on a business trip.

A conviction for drink driving can mean that the process of obtaining an ETA is significantly delayed and in some instances your application may be referred to the Australian High Commission which is the Australian Embassy based in London. Every applicant has to satisfy a ‘character test’ and more information about the test can be found at The Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. One of the first statements within these guidelines is that a person will not pass the character test if they have a significant criminal record. If you have a criminal record, you may also have to apply for a police certificate which can take up to 49 days.

However, while it may delay your application, it is very unlikely that a conviction for a drink driving offence will prevent you from obtaining a VISA to enter Australia as it is not considered significant.

Canada

Canada must be satisfied that an offender has been suitably rehabilitated before they allow entry into the country.

Temporary VISAs can be applied for at the Canadian Embassy based in London and an immigration officer would then assess any application to decide whether a conviction would render the applicant inadmissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

You may still be allowed to travel to Canada if:

  1. You are able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated;
  2. You have applied for rehabilitation and were approved;
  3. You have a temporary resident permit.

China

There is an online application form which asks for disclosure of any criminal records but there is no official guidance on weight that is attached to previous convictions. That said, the Chinese VISA Service states that a period of 6 months in prison for drink driving would not restrict entry as “drink driving isn’t that serious”. (Surprisingly!)

General Advice

Each country’s polices on allowing entry to travellers is different and when planning a trip abroad it is essential that you check entry requirements well in advance. Visa applications can sometimes take months and you do not want your plans to be jeopardised by a delayed visa application.

We are often asked whether convictions should be declared or whether it is better not to disclose the information. We would always advise that you are upfront and honest about convictions. The authorities at border control do have the ability to check randomly and there is a much higher chance entry will be refused if you have failed to disclose details of convictions when specifically asked to.

Neil Sargeant

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