Can British citizens get an ETIAS EU visa waiver with a criminal record?

Travel to Europe with a criminal record

During an ETIAS application, British citizens will be asked about their criminal record history. This obviously leads to many questions about whether people with existing records for minor offences will be able to travel to the EU or not.

Applying for an ETIAS visa waiver will soon be a requirement for British citizens and it is, therefore, essential to know what to do when faced with this situation. It is also vital that an application for an EU visa waiver is submitted truthfully and accurately.

In this article, travellers can learn what to do if they have to disclose a criminal history during the ETIAS application process. It also explains whether British citizens can travel to the EU with a criminal record and under what circumstances.

What happens if I have a criminal record and want to travel to the EU?

The EU doesn’t have a blanket exclusion policy against British visitors with criminal histories. Currently, most travellers with minor records are allowed to enter countries as normal without disclosing their past offences.

However, when ETIAS launches it will be necessary to disclose this information before travelling.

This does not mean that all criminal record-holders will be excluded from entering the Schengen area. The type of crime committed and the amount of time that has passed since the original offence will be taken into consideration.

The EU has indicated that only those with serious criminal or terrorist offences on record will be barred from entry. This is to meet the primary goal of ETIAS, which is to enhance the security and integrity of the Schengen zone.

Nevertheless, it is critical that applicants provide the correct information when registering for an ETIAS visa waiver. Providing false or incorrect data during an application can result in being barred from entering the EU and being refused from receiving travel authorization to visit in the future.

What kind of criminal record must be disclosed during the application?

There are a number of security questions that travellers are asked to answer during the ETIAS application process. These are then checked by eu-LISA the EU’s criminal data management service to ensure that the form has been completed correctly.

The types of criminal activity that must be disclosed on an ETIAS application include:

  • Criminal damage
  • Terrorism
  • Violent crimes
  • Drug trafficking
  • People trafficking
  • Sexual assault

Any of these offences committed within the last 10 years must be disclosed. The only exception to this is terrorism where any crimes committed within the last 20 years must be detailed.

In most cases, providing information about a criminal record won’t contravene the requirements of an ETIAS visa waiver. However, some serious offences could lead to a refusal.

Those with sufficiently serious previous convictions will not be able to enter the EU with an ETIAS visa waiver. Instead, they will need to apply for the most appropriate Schengen visa from the embassy of their country of destination instead.

How do EU countries check travellers criminal records?

Most individual EU countries don’t carry out criminal record checks on specific travellers arriving within their borders.

Nevertheless, to maintain the security of the Schengen Area comprising 26 countries, ETIAS has been introduced to pre-screen foreign visitors before they arrive. This will ensure the maximum safety of those visiting Europe and those residing in Schengen countries.

What European countries can British travellers visit with a criminal record?

British applicants for an ETIAS waiver with criminal records that indicate they don’t pose a threat to the security of EU residents can visit any country in the Schengen Area. This free travel area comprises 26 countries in total, including:

What databases are used to check a British traveller’s criminal record information?

A number of databases are used to ensure that travellers don’t represent a threat to the Schengen Area.

The systems that are used to check the travel information for British passengers include:

  • eu-LISA
  • EURODAC
  • EUROPOL
  • SIS
  • VIS
  • ECRIS

The data provided by travellers will also be referenced against the lost and stolen travel documents database used by Interpol. This will help to avoid visitors fraudulently entering the EU with stolen or forged passports or ID cards.

Overall, having a criminal record is usually not an obstacle to entry to the EU for British travellers. However, to comply with ETIAS it is important to report any information about any formal criminal charges when applying for a visa waiver.

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