My boyfriend and I are getting serious about our relationship, and we want to take some trips together. I have always wanted to travel through Europe, including Paris France. Now, I find out that my boyfriend has a non-violent felony on his criminal record. I wonder if we can still travel to Paris together.
I had a similar problem with a family member, but lucky for us, it turned out to be no problem.
Entering the European Union
The rules for the EU, specifically the Schengen Area, regarding character concerns are relatively lax (except for the UK). Questions about criminal convictions are not asked when applying for a Schengen visitor/business visa and border agents (there are no landing cards for data entry) usually don't ask any questions about this either.
If any officials or forms ask you if you have a criminal history you still have to answer truthfully but, in general, if it's not more than 3 years of imprisonment, or crimes involving alien smuggling or drug offences that resulted in more than 2 years of imprisonment, then they will not refuse you entry or a visa on those grounds.. Do not lie in any visa application.
Requirements to Enter France
France is a member of what is called the Schengen Agreement established in 1985. The area of Europe that is part of the Schengen territory consists of 26 nations, which combine to operate with one external border as part of the agreement.
All U.S. citizens may enter France for a period of up to 90 days for personal or business reasons without a visa and travel into any of the 26 countries that participate in the Schengen Agreement.
Any stay by a U.S. citizen of more than 90 days will require a visa, which must be obtained prior to departing form the U.S. The law in France states that they must have at least six valid months remaining on their passport when entering the country.
All U.S. tourists, including felons, may travel freely from one Schengen area country to another without having to show their passport. They do not have to present their passport to be stamped again until they leave the Schengen area.
Passport Validity: Must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area
Blank Passport Pages: Must have at least one blank page for stamps
Tourist Visa Required: Not required for stays under 90 days
Currency Restrictions For Entry: 10,000 Euros Max
Currency Restrictions For Exit: 10,000 Euros Max
Going to Paris with a Criminal Record
The only restriction for flying to Paris would be if they have a felony warrant outstanding against them. The other possible issue would be if their name is on what is called the no-fly list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for those suspected of being terrorists.
Going on a cruise is also a popular means of travel to France. There are two types of cruises, closed loop and open loop. A closed loop cruise is one that starts and ends in the same U.S. port while an open loop cruise has different starting and final port city locations. Felons may sail on either type of cruise, although the requirements for a closed loop cruise are less restrictive than for open loop cruises.
U.S. citizens going on a closed loop cruise can depart and enter the U.S. with only proof of citizenship. This proof consists of an original or copy of a birth certificate and a government issued photo ID. Open loop cruises require a passport, regardless of the starting or destination port. A passport is recommended for felons in case their ship docks in a foreign port during the cruise.
Typically, a criminal record is not an issue. There is no question asking to disclose it on the Schengen visa application form and no systematic exchange of criminal records between Schengen countries. More generally, there is no global database of passports, criminal records or immigration history. Specific countries do have limited form of information exchange, often for intelligence purposes and not so much for regular immigration purposes. There are also databases of stolen documents and wanted persons, both at the EU level and through Interpol, but that does not seem relevant here.
The main concern is that if you were to be asked to disclose this your criminal record, lying about it exposes you to many unpleasant consequences. Even without a database, there are many ways to be found out (stamps in a passport, contradicting yourself in an interview, being tipped off by someone you know). In any case, it would be best to tell the truth. A ban would prevent you from entering the Schengen area. You can be banned for an immigration violation without being found guilty of a crime.
Thanks for explaining this so well, dessiefrancois! Me and my girlfriend want to visit Paris and she has a record and I was wondering if she could come with me or not. I feel a little better now knowing that she probably can come with me. Still need to do a little more digging but this is a great start.