September 16, 2014 By Stephen Klarich

Having to register as sex offender carries a stigma unlike any other punishment for a crime in this country. The same stigma applies regardless of the crime that the person committed. For example, a rapist shares the same fate as a man who as a teenager exposed himself as a high school prank. 1

This stigma can make ordinary activities such as traveling abroad more difficult for registered sex offenders. If you have had to register, and are thinking of traveling, we offer the following tips to help make that process a little easier.

1. Can an RSO Travel Internationally?

Traveling for registered sex offenders is legal for now.
Traveling for registered sex offenders is currently legal, but may not be for long.

For the time being, persons who have been convicted of a crime that requires them to register as a sex offender can still travel outside of the United States. There is nothing that prevents a registered sex offender from traveling, but Congress is working on a new law that may soon change the rules.

In 2013, the House passed H.R. 2848, which would place restrictions on sex offenders who wish to travel internationally and would revoke the passport of those convicted in foreign nations of similar crimes. 2 In May of 2014, the House passed a second bill that applies to sex offenders convicted of crimes against children. 3

Both bills would change the passport issuing process so that sex offenders would be required to renew their passports every year instead of on the normal 10-year renewal schedule, which could lead to increased scrutiny on sex offenders who wish to travel. If either bill passes the Senate, they could be passed by Congress and then sent to the President for his signature sometime within the next year.

2. On Probation or Parole? Get Permission First

Probation and parole are conditional releases, meaning that the judge or the parole board can set restrictions on your traveling, such as requiring that you stay in California. If you need to travel (either inside or outside of the United States), you should check in with your probation officer or the court. It is best to get permission to travel in writing.

Be prepared to provide a reason for your travel and to ask for permission well in advance of your intended departure date. Some acceptable reasons for travel include for business, family-related events or emergencies, and vacations. Keep in mind that whether you can gain approval for your travel will be dependent upon the circumstances of your case. Alternatively, you might be able to seek a modification of your probation to a less restrictive program that would allow you to travel more freely.

3. Inform Your Residence Jurisdiction

Even if you are not on probation or parole, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is a federal law requires that registered sex offenders to “inform his or her residence jurisdiction of any intended travel outside of the United States at least 21 days prior to that travel.” 4
You must provide information related to your travel itinerary, your contact information in the country to which you will be traveling, and the crime for which you are registered. 5

4. Learn About Your Destination

Learn the laws of your destination country.
It is a good idea to learn the laws of the country you will be traveling to.

Many countries will not accept visitors who have any sort of criminal record regardless of the crime. For example, Canada will refuse to grant entry to anyone with a felony conviction. 6
Other countries will allow persons with certain criminal backgrounds, but not those related to sex crimes. Before choosing your destination, do some research on the country’s visitation policies. Remember that one traveler’s experience may be different from another’s, so be sure to look at multiple accounts before you make your decision.

Once you have chosen a country that will allow you to visit, it is helpful to learn about that country’s local laws. Activities that would be illegal in that country may be legal in the United States, and vice versa. The U.S. State Department has a website that is helpful in learning about potential problems you may encounter once you enter a country.

5. Be Prepared to Return to the U.S.

Some sex offenders experience no issues while traveling internationally until they return to the United States. Often, travelers report that they have been delayed for hours and forced into secondary screening while waiting to get back into the country because of their status. 7

If you feel you have been treated unfairly, and you are a person who travels frequently, consider filing a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to have the government review its information and make sure that you are not erroneously placed on a watch list. It’s also a good idea to carry your attorney’s contact information with you when you travel.

6. Apply to Be Removed from the Registry

It is possible that you may be eligible to have your name removed from the sex offender registry by:

  1. Filing a “Petition for a Writ of Mandate”;
  2. Applying for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s Pardon”;
  3. Applying for a “‘Traditional’ California Governor’s Pardon”; or
  4. Applying for a “Presidential Pardon” if your sex crime was a federal crime.

The qualifications for these methods of removing your name from the list can be confusing, but working with an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process.

Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More

If you or a loved one must register as a sex offender, and you have questions about travel restrictions, contact one of our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have worked for over 30 years with people accused of sex crimes, and we are committed to helping guide you through the process. Our attorneys are available to answer any of your questions.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in sex offender registration laws near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

50 comments

  1. I have heard that it’s not possible to be removed from the list I don’t know what to believe now what are specific qualifications for this

    1. It is possible to get a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Governor’s Pardon, which could end your requirement to register as a sex offender. Whether you are eligible will depend on a number of factors. Call our offices today at (877) 466-5245 and we can help you find out if you are eligible.

    1. Follow the instructions outlined in this post. The answer is different for everyone. The best thing that you can do is call the embassy for Hong Kong in the US and explain your situation. They will be able to tell you if there are laws that prevent you from entering Hong Kong.

    2. If you call the embassy, please come back and comment about your experience. We would like other people in your situation to feel they can come here for answers from others as well.

  2. I am a registered sex offender in Illinois and I am planning on visiting Viet Nam as a tourist. Do you think I will have a problem obtaining a visa?

    1. Follow the instructions outlined in this post. Call the Vietnam embassy to find out if you’ll be able to enter. It is always on a case-by-case basis.

    2. I traveled to Vietnam in march of 2015, I had no problems going but was stopped on the way back in san Francisco customs and had to show permission from my probation officer. had an excellent time nha trang was the most modern but we traveld from the Mekong delta to ho chi minh city, great time over all. good luck.

  3. I am a low level sex offender in the city of Boston (Level 1) which means I only have to send a piece of mail once a year, my name does not appear on any public list, jobs do not see it. So I was wondering if, even though I am on such a low level, would I have problems traveling to my families home country of Italy? I understand that being a sex offender is different state to state but here in Massachusetts being a level 1 is for people who unfortunately made a stupid mistake like accidentally talking to an underage girl (no sex included) or accidentally talking to an underage girl on facebook or something and the judge knows it was a 1 time mistake and more than likely we can get it expunged after a couple years (my lawer said 5). But does being on a low level mean they will be as lax with giving me a passport to travel?

    1. You will have to call the embassy of where you wish to travel to see if they allow sex offenders to travel into their country. Follow the steps outlined in the post above.

  4. I’m a registered sex offender in Illinois and done with probation, I was charged for possession of child porn. I was wondering if I can travel to my homeland Philippines, I’ve heard they ban sex offenders from entering the country if you are a foreign national. I became naturalized US citizen before I got convicted, does it apply to me also being a Filipino by origin?

    1. The Philippines seems to be strict with registered sex offenders. The best thing you can do is contact the embassy and see if you can get written permission to enter the country.

  5. I would STRONGLY recommend that any RSO to look at the visa waiver list and try one of them countries as a tourist. Because the longer you stay the more you’ll have pictures and the US has to go through every picture and scan it with VERY CLOSE eye to make sure that there’s nothing that is inappropriate which changes pending on your crime. So I would try to go to visa-waiver countries.

  6. Intrest article. My thoughts are this even though it’s possible to get registration removed, why does that matter when there’s a federal requirement to register? I’m from a state that has a 10 year reporting requirement and currently it has expired for me. I Would assume I still have to register under federal law? I want to visit a state that says I must register if there for 10 days. I will be there only 9 days. So under state law I don’t have to register. But under federal law do I? And when do they start counting the days I’ve been there? When I’m actually there or do they include flight time as well? Some intresting questions I’ve put up. Can anyone answer them? Thank You!

    1. “Section 2250 of Title 18, United States Code, makes it a federal offense for sex offenders required to register pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), to knowing fail to register or update a registration as required. State convicted sex offenders may also be prosecuted under this statute if the sex offender knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required, and engages in interstate travel, foreign travel, or enters, leaves, or resides on an Indian reservation.

      A sex offender who fails to properly register may face fines and up to 10 years in prison. Furthermore, if a sex offender knowingly fails to update or register as required and commits a violent federal crime, he or she may face up to 30 years in prison under this statute.”

  7. As a RSO is my name/passport flagged on foreign countries computers or are they notified after I make my airplane reservations??? I ask because I live in FL and was hoping to go to Bimini with three boats (2 1/2 hour away) for fishing and to stay one night. Would I already be on their computers and get turned away or as mentioned does the U.S. notify based on plane reservations ?

    1. Hi Michael,

      Based on our research, many countries do not allow entry of sex offenders once they are aware of the person’s record. Many sex offenders travel with no issue until they return to the U.S., where they are harassed or held for hours. The best thing you can do is contact the country’s embassy to find out if sex offenders can enter.

      Best of luck.

  8. I’m a sex offender level one for a juvenile crime. I’m planning on travelling to China very soon and was wondering if China scans passports on arrival via RFID. I’ve read that passports that are scanned can show that you’re a sex offender to the customs of the place you are visiting. I also learned that the us contacts the destination country before your arrival and lets them know that you are a sex offender before arrival. So I’m just wondering if any or all this is true. Thank You

    1. Hi Brendan,

      Many sex offenders have different results when attempting to travel, which is why we hope that everyone will share their stories here. If you wish to travel to China, it is best to contact the embassy and find out if sex offenders are allowed to travel into the country.

      Best of luck!

  9. Out of curiosity. I’m not registered as a Rso, but I’m thinking of teaching overseas in Taiwan or China. I wanted to know if it is still possible to do so? My incident just happens and has not been filed yet and I also just got my lawyer to take on the case. I’ve made a terrible mistake but I don’t want that to stop me from going after the things I want to do.

    1. Hi Greg,

      If your case is pending, it is best not to try to move to another country. You could be extradited and sent back to the US.

      However, if you are convicted and required to become a registered sex offender, you will have to talk to the embassy of each country where you want to travel to.

      Best of luck to you.

  10. International Megan’s Law passed in February 2016, this takes SORNA to an extreme level. The law states that an RSO will have a special ‘stamp’ on their passport, as well as more details when it comes to notifying the country you are traveling too that you are arriving. I am not sure of this, but this law may not only include anyone who is ‘registered’ but may go as far as saying anyone convicted of a sex crime. This law is being fought at many levels due to its unconstitutionality, but so far, no victories. The Schegen (sp) accord countries in Europe has not adopted nor is complying with this law that the US is trying to impose on the world. England may be difficult depending on the conviction, but i was just there last summer and there were no issues. Once you are in Europe, traveling by train, etc is pretty easy to do with no problems.
    Mexico and Canada are the worst if flying, cruise ships (Carnival does back ground checks and won’t let you on) is not as hard. Japan, So Korea, Taiwan, Brazil not even worth trying. There are many countries you can travel too, like the article says, check with the Embassy FIRST – and get it writing (via email) if you can.
    Coming back to the US is the worst, I was stopped ALL my luggage was searched, including my phone (illegally) but saying no is not wise – they are FEDERAL officers. Be prepared for the delay, but be nice and cooperate.
    Last, and very important, there is travel insurance that will cover you if you are denied entry into a country. I double checked this, it does not give reason why you are denied, just denied and they will reimburse you for most of your expenses.
    It sucks, no doubt, but if you are smart, you have options – US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, don’t need a passport for them, heck, even Cuba would be good as they are not up on things like this, yet. Screw Mexico, nice beaches, but there are many other great places, you just have to have an open mind and do a little extra work.

    1. Hi Tod,

      Thank you for sharing about your experience. We have wrote about the special mark that will appear on the passports of sex offenders and hope this law will be overturned.

      We hope that others will read your post and learn from your experiences. You listed some great travel options!

      Thank you!

  11. I was denied entry into Thailand at BKK because the US Homeland Security notified Thailand that I was entering the country. I was met by Thai immigration officers, photographed, denied entry, and had to get my own ticket out of Thailand. I’m a level 1 RSO, finished my probation, thought the worse was behind me. They showed me the letter sent by Homeland Security and it stated what crime I committed and when I was convicted. No mention of my end of probation and rehabilitation. Very unfair. Now I am scared of traveling because I don’t know if the country I travel to will get a notice and deny my entry. I am supposed to go to Japan later on. This is so draconian.

    1. It is very difficult for a registered sex offender to travel, and that is why the best advice we can give you or any registered sex offender is to contact the embassy of where you want to travel to find out more about their laws. You may be able to get written permission to the country, or at least find out that you are not allowed.

    2. Don’t even try Japan, they are the most strict country. Almost any offense is grounds for denial in Japan, It is a country that I very much wanted to visit, and did extensive research. I would cancel any reservations you have if you still can….

  12. I am wanting to travel to Bora Bora for my honeymoon at the end of May 2017. Wondering if anyone has had experience with the French Polynisian? In December of 2014 I was denied entry into Mexico and was sent home on the next flight. Very embarrassing seeing that I was with my family and ruined their trip as well. The last thing I want is that to happen on our honeymoon.
    I contacted their embassy and all they said is they have a bad database and I SHOULD be fine. That’s tough to spend so many thousands for a should be answer. Any help and I would be very greatful.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Brandon,

      Thanks for visiting our site. Mexico is very strict when it comes to registered sex offenders, and they will deny entry in most cases. We have not heard any reports from registered sex offenders traveling to Bora Bora, but hopefully you won’t have a problem. Maybe someone who has traveled to Bora Bora will be able to share about his or her experience.

      Best of luck!

  13. I just wanted to report my most recent attempt to travel to Brazil.

    I was convicted of a non violent sexual offense in Jul 2006 (Sexual Battery of a Minor, Age 16/17). I was released from probation about 5 years early through judicial order in early 2015. My conviction was in Idaho but I am on the SO registry in my home state of VA where I served out my probation on an interstate compact. Since that time I have travelled to Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey without incident. I attempted to travel to Brazil for the Olympics in August 2016. I registered my trip through the Dept of Justice’s Smart System. I did not apply for a visa because Brazil suspended visa requirements specifically for the Olympics. When I arrived in Rio Airport, I was pulled from the line waiting for passport scan, taken to an Interpol office, where I was informed I was being denied access to the country. The only information I was given was that I had sexual problems with children and therefore was denied entry (despite the fact my victim was 17, my conviction was for a minor, age 16/17, and the age of consent in Brazil is 14!). I was detained in a locked room for 12 hours with a guard until the next return flight to the US. Upon return, the CBP officer in Atlanta was very sympathetic and recommended that next time – regardless of the country and regardless of whether a visa is required or not, that I should go and apply for a visa (I Live in DC so accessing country embassies is easy). He said that it would either be an early warning sign that I could have problems, or he felt that if I had a visa approved then there would be less likelihood that a local agent could deny me access.

  14. I am a wife to a RSO. I would like to thank others for information on their experiences trying to travel abroad. Also thank you to the lawyers who have helped answer legal questions. We were wanting to travel abroad. But now I will opt to stay in the states and not let my husband go through such an experience. God bless you all men who has this tagged on them and who can’t live with more freedom as most deserve.

  15. I am in school right now and was hoping to eventually work as a Cultural Consultant. I would probably need to travel for this, and the country I was hoping to train for is Japan. I wouldn’t be done with school for another ten years, though I was hoping to visit before then to get some “boots on the ground” experience. From what I’ve read, Japan is incredibly strict and I’m stressing out now. Could you give me an idea of how much hot water I’m in? I was wondering what the current state of RSO travel to Japan is, if they make exceptions, and what direction these affairs are going in. Can you help me by giving me as many resources to try and find these answers as possible? Thank you.

    1. Hi Murray,

      The best thing you can do is contact the Japan embassy to inquire about laws for sex offenders traveling to the country. Follow the steps outlined in this blog post.

      We also have many people comment on this site with their experiences about traveling to foreign countries, so you can continue checking back to see if any other registered sex offender has experience traveling to Japan.

      Best of luck!

  16. I applies for a passport, i am a RSO, i received my passport with no problems. I booked a hotel for 2 weeks to the phillipines to see my “partner” and meet for the first time, They would not let me in the country, I was so upset, I dont understand why the would give me a passport not knowing i would have restrictions. I want to visit my partner again, but i dont want to take another chance , i was wondering if there is something i can do to enter back in the country on a two week tourist visa

    1. Hi Vinny,

      Sorry about your experience. Getting a passport has nothing to do with whether you will be allowed to visit a certain country. We have heard the Philippines is very strict when it comes to sex offenders, so you will not likely be able to travel there, regardless if you have a passport.

      Best of luck.

  17. I’m traveling to Poland, who I’m pretty sure allow RSOs in. I’m not required to register in the state I live in because my conviction isn’t considered a sex crime here…because it isn’t. However I was convicted in NY, and I am still on their registry as a level 1 (low) because NY registration follows you even after you leave the state. Since I don’t register at all with my local “residence jurisdiction” but I’m required to keep NY up to date on my movements, do I inform nobody, or should I inform NY, even though I don’t live there anymore?

  18. Don’t try going anywhere in Mexico. I made the mistake of trying. I didn’t know about the new laws. Worst experience ever. They locked me up for a few days. I watched them take all my. Money laptop tablet and cell phone. When I tried to get it all back they claimed I never had any of it. When someone tried to call my phone while they were taking it they laughed and said it was no longer mine. The morning I was able to leave and flew out I was kicked awake badly. Had no issues getting back into the usa but learned a good lesson. Mexico has no tolerance at all. Even though they has no sex offender registry.

    1. Hi Dan,

      We are so sorry to hear about your experience, but we greatly appreciate that you shared this. We have heard many people say that Mexico will not allow sex offenders into the country at all.

      Best of luck!

  19. I am a RSO from a non-minor offense which happened in 2001. I arrived in Costa Rica on September 21st with a one way ticket never planning to return to back the U.S. When I called the Sheriff’s office to inform them I “enjoyed Costa Rica so much that I decided to stay indefinitely” they told me that I would have to visit the local police station and have them fax a document verifying my address, First, I don’t speak any Spanish. Secondly, the last thing I want to do is raise a red flag with law enforcement and have the possibility of getting deported. I emailed the U.S. Embassy in San Jose and awaiting my response. Two concerns… I have to leave Costa Rica on December 5th per the 90 day travel restriction. Will I be able to re-enter? And, will I be able to renew my passport at the U.S. Embassy when it expires in 2019? I appreciate any advice that I can get. Thanks for reading…

    1. Hi Tony,

      If you plan on moving anywhere, you need to inform the local agency where you register before you move. If you were able to enter Costa Rica, you shouldn’t have a problem entering again, but it depends on many factors. The best thing you can do is contact the Costa Rica embassy and ask what their laws are on sex offender travel.

      Best of luck!

  20. Hello, I am a friend of a US man which was formerly an RSO but now was already removed from the registry. Just this last week he flew in Philippines but denied for entry and heard he is an RSO and need to get back for his flight back to where he came from.. Just wonder why they should ban him if he is already removed ans an rso? Please comment what you think of this scenario

    1. Hi Angel,

      Thanks for sharing your story. The only way to answer your question for sure is to ask the people in the Philippines who denied your friend entry. Although he is no longer a registered sex offender, perhaps they saw that he had a conviction for a sex offense on his record and decided to deny him entry. However, the person who denied your friend’s entry is the only one who can accurately answer your question. We do know that the Philippines is very strict when it comes to allowing sex offenders to visit.

      Best of luck to you and your friend.

  21. i am on twitter and a 32 yr old guy is talking sexual and way inappropriate to me and i am 17 yrs old i dont know what to do

    1. Hi Casey,

      You should block that person on Twitter and use Twitter’s reporting tools to report this person. If this person continues, you should contact the police.

      Best of luck

  22. Just wanted to share three experiences and info. All sex offenders are barred from travelling to Brazil based on a Brazilian Minister of Justice Order (Portaria Interministerial No 876 of 22 May 2014) which bars ALL sex offenders. I did not know of this rule and attempted to travel in 2016 during the Olympics when the visa requirements were waived, registered my trip with DOJ SMART and was stopped at Passport control. Placed under house arrest, was placed in a locked room for 12 hours in the airport, then escorted onto the next Delta flight back to the US. It was a horrendous and humiliating experience.

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