Traveling to India with a Criminal Record

travel india criminal record

Just like many other countries around the world, India has implemented a new electronic system (the Indian eVisa) to assess tourist visa applications and grant travel permits to foreigners. This makes things easier for both tourists and the Indian government, who now has a streamlined process in place and can count on speedier screening at the border.

Just like traditional paper visas, the eVisa online application form includes a series of questions that range from passport-related questions to contact information, health, and criminal record. The questionnaire must be filled out in its entirety and as accurately as possible.

Travelers may be worried about their criminal record. Is it possible to obtain a visa if you’ve been convicted of a crime? Since visa fees are usually non-refundable, it’s a question worth asking before submitting an application.

Do Countries Share Criminal Records?

It’s common practice for countries around the world to ask the applicant to provide details of their criminal history. This may be in the form of a questionnaire (like with the Indian eVisa application) or by asking to submit evidence of their criminal record like police certificates.

Countries don’t usually ask other nations access to criminal information for tourist visa applications. They rely on the applicant to provide official documents from their home country if necessary.

There are of course specific international collaborations such as Interpol and Five Eyes. But information exchange is strongly limited to selected cases, people, and partial information.

Can Felons Go to India?

Until recently, foreigners were not asked to disclose their criminal history in order to apply for a tourist Indian visa. However, things have changed in 2018 when Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi announced that applicants would be required to share details of their criminal record.

This step was taken with the precise intent to prevent traveling child sex offenders (TCSO) from entering India. Children from lower-income backgrounds and orphanages are in a particularly vulnerable position and often fall prey to this type of sexual tourism.

The Minister commented: “I am very pleased to inform you that our request to revise the Visa Application process for foreign nationals traveling to India to declare any criminal record, in view of prevention of sexual abuse of children, has been accepted. It has now been decided that an appropriate questionnaire & a declaration will be incorporated in the visa application form which will have to be filled up by visa applicants / foreign nationals.”

Although the new policy was implemented to stop child sexual abuse, other types of criminal offenses will be taken into consideration when assessing each individual case. This doesn’t mean that people with a criminal history will be denied entry but only that information regarding previous convictions is now being taken into account.

Can I Travel to India with a DUI?

Again, each case will be processed individually. In general, the visa will be denied only if the applicant is deemed to pose a threat to the Indian public. A DUI and other crimes and infractions committed in your home country do not constitute reason for automatic visa rejection. This means that it’s possible to travel to India with a criminal record, depending on the applicant’s specific circumstances.

It’s paramount that foreigners provide accurate and detailed information during their application. Lacking information may result in the visa being delayed and even denied. Moreover, if an international traveler is found lying about not having a criminal record at the moment of applying for a visa for India, immediate penalties may apply.

Questions the Indian Government Asks about Criminal History

Foreigners wishing to travel to India will be asked a series of questions concerning their criminal history. These may include:

  • Have you ever been convicted by a court of law in any country?
  • Have you ever been denied entry or deported by any country, including India?
  • Have you ever been engaged in human trafficking, drug trafficking, child abuse, crimes against women and financial frauds?
  • Have you ever been engaged in cybercrime, terrorism, sabotage, espionage, genocide, political killing or other violent crimes?
  • Have you ever by any means expressed opinions that justify or encourage terrorist violence or that may prompt others to commit terrorist acts or other serious criminal acts?

Does a Criminal Record Expire?

This depends widely on your specific circumstances, including:

  • The type of infraction you have committed
  • In which country you’ve broken the law and where you’ve been convicted

In some cases, the regulations regarding the expungement of a defendant’s criminal record (in other words, the complete deletion of all information regarding a person’s crimes and convictions from all databases) vary within the same country. This is the case of the U.S., for example, where expungement is regulated by state law and not federal law.

Even if you can’t get your record expunged, you can still have it sealed from the public. A lawyer will be able to assist you with this.