International Travel for Ex Sex Offenders
In our own research, we have been frustrated by just how little information about this subject can be found online. Furthermore, no embassy or country agency which we have contacted will ever give a firm answer on whether a specific ex sex offender can enter their country. It seems to be kind of an unspoken subject which no one wants to talk about. So we ask for your input if you have traveled overseas with a sex offense in your history. Please email us here if you have some valuable information to share with other readers. We thank those readers who have already contacted us with their experiences.
We already know that felons are being denied entry into Canada.
Please limit your email to hard facts about passports, visas, entry,exit and border checks.
State your past conviction category. This will help us to make sense of how different level offenders are treated.
1. Did you apply for an entry visa, or just travel on a US passport?
2. Did they scan your passport at entry?
3. Were you detained or questioned as a result of your past offense?
4. What nations have you entered (or attempted to visit)?
5. Have you found any reliable documentation about any of these policies which you can share with us?
Please note that the following information from readers is anecdotal. While we greatly appreciate all readers who send us their experiences, you should always base your decisions on multiple sources of information. In all aspects of life, one should never take one person’s anecdotal report as gospel. Verify information from multiple sources and realize that experiences in international travel may vary from person to person, border to border, country to country. We gather this information simply as a rarely-found resource where ex sex offenders can read of the experiences of others.
Reader experiences (most recent at bottom of page):
“I travel internationally and regularly enter into the Philippines with no problems. I have been refused entry into Japan. They are hooked up with United States government database and everyone that enters the country has a fingerprint scan; within 5 seconds you are either allowed to enter or denied.
I have always traveled with just a passport no visa. I was turned away In Japan as a result of a long lay over between flights due to mechanical problems and the airline had arranged hotel rooms for us all in Tokyo so we had to go through Immigration on the way out of the airport. That’s when they stopped me. They made me hire two security guards to stand out side my hotel room door all night, escort me back to airport and wait till I boarded the flight out. But I can tell you Japan has a very strict policy of no felons aloud to enter their country.”
I would not apply for a visa, just use passport. Once here (Philippines) it is very simple to get visa, my son and his girlfriend arrived here two weeks ago and applied for visas. It took 30 minutes and cost about $120.00 for them both. But we were at a immigration office in a small town so no waiting; just walk in apply and walk out 30 minutes later with passport stamped. The Philippines as of now are not computerized so there is no check of criminal record to speak of upon entry. Even when you apply for visa there is no check unless you are becoming resident and my convictions so far have had no effect.”
“We traveled to Spain earlier this year for a few weeks. I’ve had a passport for years (long before my offense) and renewed it with no problem a couple years ago while I was still on probation. Spain doesn’t require a visa for short stays, so I didn’t have to go through that, although I wasn’t entirely sure until the last moment that they would actually let me enter the country, even though I had checked beforehand. The only hiccup was upon return the agent took an inordinate amount of time checking me through, and I just assumed it was because I showed up somehow on their database as a S.O. Here’s a website I used to contact embassies, etc., but they weren’t really that much help: http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html
We were stressed not knowing whether I would be allowed in the country. We made contingency plans for my wife and adult daughter, just in case, but nobody ever questioned me at all about my sex offender history or status. . ” - AG
“I’ve been to the Caribbean a couple of times. I applied for and received a passport at the end of 2008. I am a registered sex offender in the state of Ohio. My family and I went on a cruise in January of 2009. I was asked to report to customs after disembarking in Miami at the end of the cruise. I asked the agent if I was stopped because of my offense and said “yes”. I asked him if I would be stopped every time I left the country and he said most likely I would. It delayed us by about an hour and almost missed the last bus to the airport. We went again this year but traveled through Port Canaveral and wasn’t stopped at all. I been out of prison since October of 2004 and had no problems getting a passport. Maybe I got mine before they started cracking down. The first trip was to the Turks & Caicos and the second was to the Bahamas. Anyway, that’s my travel story. Hopefully it’s helpful.” - KB
“I worked in the Northern Mariana Islands, Sudan and Haiti. Whenever I came home, I was constantly hassled by US Customs. My bags were searched and my laptops were always confiscated. I later worked in Afghanistan. I have not returned to the US since. I travel regularly on leave throughout Europe, Africa and Asia and even when my passport is scanned, I have no problems. The only problem I have ever experienced is when I return to the US.
Travel for Americans is pretty much visa-free for most countries in the world. Several of them, like Thailand, Japan, and the Dominican Republic, all grant visas on arrival. I have never had to apply for a visa, except for Sudan.
The Schengen Countries have a pretty in-depth system when they scan your passport. Nothing has ever been said to me regarding my offense. Most of the Euro countries, especially Holland, don’t even scan US passports and just stamp them. Once stamped, you have visa free travel to all of the Schengen countries.
The only strange thing that ever happened to me was Japan in 2004. I got the little stamp in my passport but was pulled aside when I exited the country and taken to a room. They checked my plane tickets, etc., and in broken English, they explained to me that the Immigration woman had somehow not scanned my passport into the system and they were wondering how I got into the country.
I traveled on my US passport (except for Sudan and Haiti). I have always sailed right through. It has never taken more than a minute at any of the border checks. When I went to Japan, there were no fingerprint checks, and I’m almost willing to bet that they are for a Japanese database only. They have no access to the US database. Their visa form asks if you were ever convicted of a crime. That was the only country that ever asked.
I even travel to the UK quite regularly, who are supposed to be sharing the US database. I am asked the purpose of my visit, the database is checked, and I am allowed through and on my way. I am sure there must be something in the UK’s database, but again, after 13 years, I guess they figure that there are no issues.” - A
” I applied for and received a Passport in 2001 to visit my pen pal (now my wife) in Bangkok, Thailand. I have been to Thailand many times, as we own a Condo in Bangkok and have many family and friends there. Each time we go, I have no problems with Immigration or Customs in Thailand. I only use my Passport, which is good for 30 days. At Thailand, they only look at my passport, look at me, and stamp it.
My only problems are on my return to the good ‘ole USA. I am stopped every time by Customs who thoroughly search my luggage and ask me about my trip. I know it is because my name is “Red Flagged” in their database and have even mentioned that to them. I had one Customs Agent tell me that he was not allowed to discuss that, but was nodding emphatically as he said it. This is the only country I have entered outside of the USA, but I am interested in other travel, as we have friends in Europe and the UK, also. Any information would be greatly appreciated.” -LS
“I’ve visited over 30 countries and have had zero problems. Some of them were so lax that when getting off the airplane, they didn’t even ask to see or stamp or scan my passport which was weird. I entered Norway off the airplane and they just waved me right through. This is common on a train where they never check when crossing borders but the airport usually has more security so I was surprised. I have never ever been detained or further questioned at any airport outside of the US even when they scanned my passport.
Returning to the United States is where I always have trouble and have never gotten through security in less than an hour and sometimes up to 2 hours.
I avoid Canada, as they do not allow felons of any type, and I also avoid countries who require a visa as they more thoroughly scrutinize you with background checks. Most of the EU countries are easy-breezy. Germany is rough when you go through Frankfurt but that is for everyone regardless. I have also heard that Israel checks your background also and can deny you if they feel you would be a threat to the safety of the citizens.
I travel out of the US once a year and every country I have gone to, doesn’t even check your passport most of the time. Having said that, every time I return to the United States ( My own home country) I am detained for sometimes up to an hour. They strip search me, check for warrants, damage my luggage as they tear it apart and throw everything back in and dare me to say anything. It is embarrassing if I am traveling with someone and they will not allow that person to stay with me. I have to make sure my connecting flights are at least 2 hours apart because if they make you miss your flight, they say they are not responsible.” - SNG
“A year and a half ago my wife and I flew to Medellin, Colombia, on a passport, to visit a woman and her three children for Christmas. We stayed 2 weeks and returned to the states entering Miami national were I was detained for 1 and a half hours.
In the waiting area where first taken, the woman who was checking the computer printout said she didn’t care about any of the 5 sheets of info one of the other officers had except that I was registered (sex offender). I was questioned quite intensely about why I went to Colombia and who I saw there and who they were to me, such as family and what nationality they were. We are planning another trip there this December 2010 so we will see what happens next.” - M
I’m a life time registrant in Maine. I applied for and received, without difficulty, a passport shortly after my release from prison in 2003. Last year I traveled by plane to Guatemala with a friend who was offering agricultural assistance to people there. I had no problem entering Guatemala. As I re-entered the US about ten days later, I was detained for a couple of hours. After the person at the first check point brought up my information on his screen he asked me about my arrest and conviction record. I was taken by another officer to a fairly large detention room with a lot of people in it – mostly Hispanics. It appeared to me that they were going to arrest me, which was, of course, a bit disturbing. No reason was given for this. While I was detained, one of my bags was picked up by my friend in the baggage area which complicated the issue. I offered to take an officer with me to find my friend so the bag could be examined, if that was what they wanted. Neither my friend nor I had any contraband. I violated no other law and was certainly not involved in “sex tourism.” Nor was I accused of anything by anybody. Then I was taken to a glassed-in locked room that I assumed was a place where they kept people waiting to be taken to a detention center or jail. In this room I was by myself. I was probably there for about a half hour or so. Nobody really told me anything — including the reason I was being detained. Then another officer came and got me and took be to a place where I was questioned some more. Then they let me go. I don’t have any way of knowing for sure, but my assumption was that all this was just for the sake of intimidation. -JH
RSO in Florida for 1992 offense, got a passport in 2005:
I took a western Caribbean cruise with family (parents, wife, brothers family and sisters family) out of Port Canaveral (Fort Lauderdale) after Christmas 2010. I did not need visa, just passport.
We anticipated a problem boarding but the cruise line scanned my passport at entry and had no problem.
The cruise made one day stops in various countries (Honduras, Belize, etc). No passport was needed to exit the ship, just a picture ID and room card was needed to get back on the ship. They scan the room cards as you enter or leave the ship so they know who is on/missing.
I had no problems throughout the trip until I arrived back in my “mother” land. As I exited the ship and scanned my card a red mark appeared on the computer screen and a siren went off. An agent was already waiting for it and told me I had to go to customs for a “random check”. She repeated over and over that this was just random. Parents and wife went with me and we got our luggage and went to customs. Only I was being questioned, they told my relatives they could leave, but they sat down in chairs. They did not make them leave. They searched through only my luggage (not wife’s) and my backpack. We had purchased about 200 bucks worth of duty free booze and that was all I had. I did have a Netbook in my backpack which the agent looked at and said to another agent, “I may want to do something with this”. They then preceded to ask:
Have you ever been fingerprinted? What were you arrested for? How long were you in prison?
What was the age of your victim?
Finally they could see my mom (who’s in her 70’s) was getting impatient. So they packed everything up and let me leave.
As we left I guess they realized the duty claim form had my wife’s passport on it so an agent ran outside to ask me for my passport number.
-H.O. ( Florida)
Sadly, I am well-qualified to answer this question as I do have to register (child victim) and I travel very frequently overseas. In fact, I travel internationally on average of five times of year, mostly to Europe and Asia but occasionally to South America and several times to Africa. My trips are almost entirely for business and I am a partner in a manufacturing company with a factory in Asia and customers all over the world.
However, because I love to travel for its own sake and to experience different cultures, I often combine primary business travel with side trips. In this way I have been able to travel to virtually every country
in Europe and Asia and many others elsewhere.
To date, I have not been refused entry to any other country but my experiences RETURNING to the U.S. are a far different matter.
First, I should explain that I have not traveled to any of the other English speaking countries (U.K. Canada or Australia) in nearly ten years. The reason for this is because of my assumption that I would almost certainly be refused entry to the U.K. and possibly to the other two due to close information sharing with the U.S.. For this reason, I have just avoided them. Eventually, I will have need to go to them but
am not expecting to be welcome. I have considered taking a short experimental trip to London on the Chunnel Eurostar train from Paris several times, but have not, as yet.
An important distinction probably should be made between those countries requiring visas for entry and those that do not. Amongst those requiring a visa (Vietnam, China, Indonesia, India, Burma, Laos, to name a few I have visited in recent years), I have not been refused a visa nor entry.
Re-entry into the U.S. has become nearly intolerable for me. And I have long since given up taking a camera or even a laptop computer with me on trips. This is a very big hardship.
The reason for this is simple: if I have a camera or a computer or any kind of memory device (SD memory card, data CD/DVD, etc.) then they (I.C.E.) will make a big deal of it and keep me there until some
technician in some back room can go through each and every photo or file. It’s not that I am so stupid as to bring something illegal through U.S. Customs and am afraid of being caught, I am bothered to remain
standing for up to two hours in Customs until they get around to clearing my computer. This is especially true when I have already been in airports and airplanes for the last 15 or more hours. Also, I am
paranoid enough to consider the possibility of their planting evidence on my computer. Because of these two concerns, I simply no longer take a computer or camera with me.
Even with that, I am usually there for close to an hour so that they can question me probing questions and read every business card and scrap of paper in my luggage.
They are insulting, insinuating or occasionally even threatening upon my return from each and every trip. I am subjected to vigorous questioning about where I went, whom I met, and to prove that I was there on business. Once, they told me that they were getting a warrant to search my house! Of course, they were bluffing, trying to get me to confess to possessing child porn so that the courts would “go easier” on me in court for having confessed!
I have gotten off of a 747 from the Middle East (arguably a flight more likely to receive scrutiny) and, even so, as always, I was the very last passenger from that flight to get out of Customs.
I put up with it because I refuse to relinquish my right to travel. Plus, my business demands it.
A few of our Canadian members, who are ex-sex offenders, have traveled to Cuba recently and have returned home without incident. Another member traveled to the Philippines and did not have any difficulty until he was stopped at Canadian customs and asked if he was in possession of any pornography (while his offense was against a child he never faced any pornography charges). His laptop and camera were searched and, after an hour, were returned to him.
We recommend that ex-offenders not travel to Canada. Also, we will recommend to our members that they not carry laptops with them, nor travel to any country requiring a visa.
Our concern at this point is that our government has proposed legislation that will allow Canadian police forces to contact authorities in any country in order to notify them that an ex-offender will be traveling to their location. We believe this to be discriminatory for two reasons: 1. the majority of sex offenders will never re-offend (to automatically PRESUME that an ex-offender’s motive when traveling abroad is to commit a crime is in contradiction of established research and fundamental justice) and 2. this legislation contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which guarantees that “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” I believe that the United States government has also recently passed similar legislation. Legislation in both Canada and the United States would be in contravention of Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, which states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
We would like to know if any of your American readers have faced this particular discrimination?
US Legislators also are trying to pass the International Megan’s Law, which would create an international database and warn countries when a RSO travels there. Helping to defeat the US legislation may help in defeating the Canadian legislation. -CF
If you are not aware, there is a bill pending in the US Congress which would expand the US Sex Offender Registry (SORNA) Worldwide. This bill must be killed: International Megan’s Law Must be Killed in Congress
Contact your Representatives and Senators !