Traveling Abroad with a Criminal Record

 Jake Pillsbury
 March 3, 2023

After Arrest

Criminal cases come with significant restrictions on a person’s freedoms both before resolution and after sentencing.  Typically, a person facing charges must pay a bond and comply with travel restrictions imposed by the Court to ensure their future appearance in Court.  Courts often order the person to obtain specific permission if they want to leave a specified area, and in most cases will not allow any travel abroad prior to the resolution of the case.  

In more serious cases, a person’s passport will be seized by the Court.  However, in certain scenarios a Court may allow travel for a specific reason with express limitations.  Obtaining this type of permission requires a carefully crafted argument and a specific travel plan.  In cases where a person has family or business obligations abroad, we provide the Court with as much information as possible, and limit the length of the trip as much as possible.  These motions usually denied when the reason for travel is vacation. 

On Probation

Once a criminal case is resolved, a person sentenced to supervised release (probation or community control), usually needs permission from their probation officer before they travel domestically or abroad. This process is less complicated than pretrial travel motions, but often rely on the goodwill of a single law enforcement officer.  When travel gets denied, we can file a post-trial motion with the Court requesting permission to travel. In our experience, Courts often deny this type of post-conviction motion, and can be unhappy to see a closed case on their docket.  In order to avoid these situations, we prefer to advise the Court of a client’s need to travel prior to sentencing and request that advance permission to be included in the probation order.

With a Prior Record

Even after a person is completely free and clear of their criminal case, certain issues with travel can arise.  Most people with criminal records can obtain passports, as they are merely travel documents used for identification.  However, 22 U.S. Code  § 2714 (complete statute text is at prohibits the issuance of passports to a person who is imprisoned or on supervision release following imprisonment for convictions of certain offenses including:

  • Federal or state felony drug charges where the person used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the offense.
  • Federal or state misdemeanor drug charges where the US Secretary of State determines that the individual should be limited for specific case he/she was convicted on.

Passports are also often denied to persons with pending warrants or subpoenas on felony cases.

Once a passport is obtained, a person with a criminal record’s international travel will be limited based on the laws and policies of the individual countries he/she would like to visit.  For example, entering Canada becomes cumbersome and sometimes impossible for people with convictions for driving under the influence or drug-related charges.  With even a single criminal conviction for DUI, Canada requires non-citizens to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit entry waiver or criminal rehabilitation through a Canadian Government Office before entering their Country. This may require the assistance of an Immigration Attorney, and can prove difficult to obtain in cases where a person has more than one conviction.  We advise all clients to research their destinations and how criminal records are treated before making any travel plans. 

If you have a pending criminal case and are concerned about how it could impact your ability to travel, call us to schedule a free consultation today.