What happens if I have a criminal conviction and want to travel to other countries?
You’ll need to check with the embassy or high commission of the country you want to travel to. A list of embassies is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
For information on travelling to Australia and the USA, see the information provided below. If you are travelling to another destination, these cases may give you an idea of what to expect when travelling overseas with a criminal record.
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Can I travel to Australia if I have a criminal record?
Most New Zealanders automatically receive a Special Category Visa
(SCV) when they arrive in Australia, under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. This visa allows you to enter, live, study and work in Australia.
However, if you have criminal convictions, you may not be entitled to a SCV and must obtain the permission of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in Melbourne before you enter Australia.
To find out whether you are entitled to an SCV, download and complete a Consent to Disclosure
form, which allows the New Zealand Police to send your details to the Australian Consulate-General. Email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org
or mail it to:
Pricewaterhouse Coopers Tower
186-194 Quay Street
The Consulate should be able to advise whether you need to apply for a visa to enter Australia. It will take around three weeks from the time they receive your completed form.
If the Consulate advises that you will need to apply for a visa you can use the Visa Finder facility on the DIBP website to help you work out which visa to apply for. You can also download the application forms or apply online from this website.
Allow several months for your visa application to be processed.
More information about travelling to Australia when you have a criminal conviction is on the Australian High Commission website. If you need help with your application, visit your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.
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I want to travel to the USA but I have a previous criminal conviction. Will that prevent me from going there?
Most New Zealand Citizens can travel to the US without a visa using ‘e-passports’ (passports with an identification chip in them) under the Visa Waiver Programme, but this doesn’t apply to people with a criminal record (outside of minor traffic fines).
If you have a criminal record, the only way to know for sure if you can travel to the US is to apply for a non-immigrant visa. It’s a good idea to wait until you have got a visa before making any financial commitments to travel.
You can find detailed instructions for applying for a visa on the United States Department of State's Traveldocs website.
Even if your conviction makes you technically unable to travel to the US, you may be able to get a temporary waiver. You can speak about this with the Consular Officer at the time of the interview. Waiver processing can take more than six to eight months, so if you think you may require a waiver, apply as early as you can.
For further information, you can call the US Visa Information Service on 09 887 5999 or visit the United States Embassy & Consulate website. If you need help with filling in the application form, your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help you.
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Could I be stopped from leaving New Zealand if I owe money to the courts?
If you have unpaid court fines or owe reparations payments, you may be stopped from leaving the country at the airport, or stopped at the airport on your return. Remember that infringements such as parking tickets can become court fines if you don't pay them on time.
To avoid being stopped at the airport due to unpaid court fines, you can either pay your fines online or call 0800 PAYORSTAY (0800 729 677) and pay with your credit card.
You can read more about this on our Fines and infringement fees page.
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What other factors could prevent me from leaving New Zealand?
Apart from unpaid fines, you can also be prevented from leaving NZ if:
- you owe Child Support (unless you already have a payment plan arranged with Inland Revenue);
- you are significantly behind on your student loan repayments and have not talked to Inland Revenue about it;
- you have been charged with an offence (if your bail conditions include surrendering your passport);
- you are bankrupt, unless you get permission from the Official Assignee; or
- you are a child, and there is an Order Preventing Removal in place.