Emigration to another country becomes much more complicated when you have a criminal record. However, emigration may still be possible, depending on a number of factors: the nature of your crime, the time that has passed since your crime, your own national origin, the country you are seeking to immigrate into, any special qualifications you may have, and the existence of criminal record waiver programs in the country where you wish to live.
Determine the precise nature of your crime and your sentence. Criminal law is a complex subset of immigration law, partly because there are so many different varieties of crimes, and also because the legal systems of different countries do not always match up. Your first task is to obtain all the legal records you can relating to your conviction and sentence, and to determine the exact nature and classification of your crime, including any time spent on parole or probation. Certain misdemeanour crimes may be part of your criminal record, but will not necessarily present much trouble for you during the emigration process, especially minor or procedural crimes such as unpaid parking tickets. However, regardless of how small the crime may be, you must declare your entire record in full to the immigration authorities of the country where you seek to move. Failure to do this may result in the immediate rejection of your application.
Determine how your crime relates to the immigration requirements of the country where you seek to move. Each country has different requirements for immigrants, along with different limitations. Some countries are also far more strict that others regarding criminal records. As you research the requirements of your desired country, you may find it easier to select a different country, if its requirements are more lenient. Certain types of crimes may legally bar you completely from certain countries, particularly crimes involving violence, firearms or drug trafficking. It is critical that you make sure that your crime does not create an absolute or near-absolute barrier before you spend money on an immigration application. Some countries may have more relaxed requirements if you are an investor, or if you have special employment skills that are currently in demand.
Research the immigration provisions of your desired country relating to "inadmissibility" and "waivers" of inadmissibility. "Inadmissibility" means that, under normal circumstances, a country cannot admit you for immigration or visiting purposes. In order to overcome this condition, you must seek a waiver. Different countries have different standards and provisions for handling inadmissibility waivers. Make sure to research the waiver requirements carefully, and keep in mind that you may need to go through a lengthy application process before such a waiver is granted.
Develop a legal strategy to comply with all the requirements of the country where you seek to move. If you are not completely barred from the immigration process, and you think you may qualify for a waiver, you now need to develop a detailed plan to comply with the immigration requirements of the country in question. It may be useful to consult an immigration lawyer if you find this process overwhelming or complex. Remember that mistakes, omissions, incomplete documents and missed deadlines during the application process can delay or even void your entire application. It is important to know exactly what you are getting into before you actually begin the formal application process, and to have sufficient money and time to manage the process. You may need to make personal visits to distant embassies, or to pay numerous processing fees along the way.
The immigration process can be long and costly under normal circumstances. Be prepared to spend even more money and time if you also have a criminal record. Be prepared to comply with detailed requests for records and background checks.
Be as complete and thorough as possible, and never exclude or hide any facts of your record. Dishonesty is an easy way to get your application thrown in the trash. Note that a pardon or sentence commutation in your home country does not necessarily matter to other countries. You may still need to seek a waiver.
Tips and warnings
- The immigration process can be long and costly under normal circumstances. Be prepared to spend even more money and time if you also have a criminal record.
- Be prepared to comply with detailed requests for records and background checks.
- Be as complete and thorough as possible, and never exclude or hide any facts of your record. Dishonesty is an easy way to get your application thrown in the trash. Note that a pardon or sentence commutation in your home country does not necessarily matter to other countries. You may still need to seek a waiver.
Things you need
- All available legal documents relating to your conviction and sentence
- List of immigration requirements of the country where you wish to move
- Document detailing that country's criteria for immigration "inadmissibility" and "waiver"
- Legal plan of action that addresses the requirements of the country where you wish to move
- Money for applications and appeals