Back in June 2007 I was sentenced to 9 months jail time and 3 years probation for a felony (soliciting to promote prison contraband) and a misdemeanor(possession of marijuana). I want to visit London specifically in 2020, but am worried that with my record I could be turned away. Even though I'm from the US, should I get a visa? Don't really want that extra cost, but I don't want to be turned away either.

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    Related, especially the accepted answer: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/85316/… – user79658 Sep 5 '18 at 3:14
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    Can you even get a US passport? A friend of mine had a similar conviction and couldn't even travel to Canada. – Burgi Sep 5 '18 at 11:22
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    Burgi from what I've seen I should be able to, and Canada is just really strict on who they allow in, luckily I never had a desire to travel there – Michelle S Sep 5 '18 at 13:54
  • @Burgi your friend was probably denied entry by Canadian authorities, not denied a passport by US authorities. – phoog Sep 5 '18 at 15:10

Please take it with a grain of salt - as this is always the case with visas or entry, we can only speculate here. So you have two options:

  1. Going without a visa. The UK Landing Card does not ask about prior convictions, and in my countless visits to UK I have never been asked any criminal history questions. Assuming you come as a genuine tourist, with a reasonable length of stay, this question might never pop up at all. There is however a risk to be refused entry, although - in my personal and totally ungrounded opinion - it is very unlikely. And see the bottom.

  2. Obtaining a visa. This is more reliable, as obtaining the visa pretty much assures that you can enter UK. However there is also a risk to be refused the visa. Considering that your conviction happened then longer than ten years ago, included less than one year of prison stay and that you been straight since that, it is unlikely to have any severe impact.

There is also another option - you can fly to Dublin, Ireland (and depending on where are you in USA, it might be even cheaper than flying to London). From there you can fly to London, which would not be subject to passport control.

In any case, do not lie about your criminal record, but also do not volunteer this information unless asked.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Sep 5 '18 at 16:23
  • Can you explain why flying to Dublin would be a better option than London? – Azor Ahai Sep 5 '18 at 16:42
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    @Hoki Ireland is not in Shengen area, instead it's part of Common Travel Area with the UK – Iarek Sep 5 '18 at 16:57
  • @IarekKovtunenko Yep my bad, I just checked and indeed Ireland is not in Shengen. I'll delete my previous comment. Nevertheless, only Irish citizen can enter UK without a passport, and they still need an official photo ID of some sort. Any other nationality would have to at least show a passport when entering the UK. There is no path to enter the UK by air where you wouldn't pass immigration. From the UK home office: "Citizens of countries other than Ireland and Britain must produce a valid passport and visa where applicable for travel between Ireland and Britain." – Hoki Sep 5 '18 at 17:36
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    @Hoki when flying from Dublin to London you do NOT pass immigration. You only show your passport to the airline, and you land in a domestic terminal. There is no place to even show your passport "when entering UK". – George Y. Sep 5 '18 at 21:59

Highly unlikely you'd be turned away over it; however, with the UK and the US sharing criminal records, do not lie if asked about it.

Do bring proof of your ties to the US, just in case they decide to dig deeper into you.

  • I would be traveling during the summer, and have a young child who will be spending his summer vacation with his dad, what kind of documentation should I bring? My ex and I are not on the best of terms so hopefully nothing from him. I also have an adult child and a job. – Michelle S Sep 5 '18 at 3:48
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    @MichelleS Anything and everything that helps in answering the question "why would she return home and not just stay illegally". Again, though, this is all just as a backup; chances are you'll sail through. – Crazydre Sep 5 '18 at 4:11

Worth noting that if you apply for a visa and are refused (unlikely, but possible as a previous commentator has mentioned), you will no longer be eligible to enter the UK via the visa waiver program. That is, you would need to be explicitly granted a visa for every subsequent visit.

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    That's not true – greatone Sep 5 '18 at 17:25

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