This is a question we get asked a lot as lawyers, and the answer depends on the type of conviction and the country you are planning to travel to. Some countries have strict protocols when assessing travel applications involving criminal records, while others are more lenient.

Before you jet off to a new country, you must first ensure you have a valid Australian passport. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is not concerned with past convictions unless:

  • There is an outstanding warrant for your arrest;
  • You are on parole;
  • A Commonwealth, State or Territory court has given you orders to refrain from applying for a passport; or
  • There are any relevant bail conditions

Each country has different laws regarding travellers with criminal convictions. It is important that you seek advice before you plan or book a holiday.

United States of America

When applying for a visa, you will need to supply details of the conviction and punishment and you will be required to appear for an interview to assess your eligibility. The interview is an opportunity for you to show that you are an ‘upstanding member of society who would not engage in further criminal activity within the US’. (Unlock)

Your eligibility to travel overseas will be based upon the seriousness of the crime, the severity of the penalty and other criminal activity that has occurred between the time the conviction occurred and the visa application.


Since March 2016, all Australians travelling to Canada by air are required to obtain an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) prior to arrival in Canada. You can apply only through the official website for an eTA online.

Australians who have a criminal record, including a drink-driving conviction, may be refused entry to Canada under the eTA program. You should contact the nearest Canadian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate well in advance of any planned travel to Canada. (Smart Traveller)

United Kingdom

Generally, Australians travelling to the UK for up to six months you don’t need to apply for a visa, unless they are planning to do paid or unpaid work over there. If you don’t require a visa for your travels, you generally shouldn’t encounter any problems in relation to your past criminal convictions.

If you do need to apply for a visa, and have a criminal record, you must give details of your convictions and any sentences you received. Those applying for visas who have previously been convicted of a crime punishable by at least 12 months imprisonment will normally be refused. Application fees are generally non-refundable if your visa is denied.


Bali is a very popular tourist destination for Australians. The Indonesian Government permits visa-free short visits of up to 30 days for Australians. If you are travelling to Indonesia for work, or intend to stay longer than 30 days, you will be required to apply for a visa from an Embassy or Consulate of Indonesia, or on arrival.

If you have a criminal record Indonesian immigration staff may refuse you entry. They have wide discretion and may refuse entry even if the offence took place a long time ago. If you are concerned about being denied entry, you should contact an Embassy or Consulate of Indonesia before departing. (Smart Traveller)

New Zealand

Australians travelling on an Australian passport, or Australian residents who hold a current Australian resident return visas, do not need a visa to travel to New Zealand. However, Australians with criminal convictions may be required to apply for a visa. You should contact the nearest High Commission or Consulate of New Zealand well in advance of any planned travel. (Smart Traveller)

Please note this does not constitute legal advice and is information of a general nature only.

Image: iStock

James Janke

James Janke

Criminal Lawyer