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I was convicted of a felony in the US, and my conviction will not be considered "spent" as of the period in which I intend to travel to the UK. I understand if I were to apply for a standard visa I would be summarily denied. However, if I were to simply go there, would I be denied entry on arrival if I were not to volunteer this fact?

Basically, the question is, could I sneak one by them? One being, namely, myself. I have to use up some frequent flyer miles, and I'd decided on going to the UK before this matter of actually being able to go there came to mind. I've no doubt I'll be able to stay out of trouble while in the country, were I given the opportunity.

It would be nice to know if someone in a similar situation had a result, whether it be positive or negative, in that regard. Lacking that, I would gladly hear any wisdom from knowledgeable but less involved parties.

Edit for clarification:
I was imprisoned for 3.5 years for a violent offense. There are no restrictions on my passport. I'm primarily concerned with whether or not there are communications between the relevant agencies in the US and the UK as there are between those in the US and Canada and, recently, the US and Mexico, regarding the movement of convicted criminals between these countries, as the answer would save me certain deportation if that were the case.

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    Understandable. – user31613 Jul 9 '15 at 10:52
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    No, no probation or parole. As far as the US government is concerned, I'm a free man. – user31613 Jul 9 '15 at 11:39
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    I was imprisoned for 3.5 years for a violent offense. There are no restrictions on my passport. I'm primarily concerned with whether or not there are communications between the relevant agencies in the US and the UK as there are between those in the US and Canada and, recently, the US and Mexico, regarding the movement of convicted criminals between these countries, as the answer would save me certain deportation if that were the case. Obviously, I'd still rather visit your country if possible, otherwise I'd lay it down and save myself the trouble of even worrying. – user31613 Jul 9 '15 at 12:05
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    About 15 years ago, I was under a court order to stay in the country due to a pending trial. I went on vacation to the UK and Spain, crossing the following borders: U.S./Britain, Britain/Spain, Spain/Gibraltar, Gibraltar/Spain, Spain/Britain, and finally, Britain/U.S. I had no problems with the law, which should have prevented me from going. If I was asked about pending litigation or whatever, I don't remember it, but I would have lied, no doubt. You could make a call to the British Embassy or their Visa board or what have you, and check with the,. – Wad Cheber Jul 10 '15 at 10:31
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    @user31613 - At any rate, I wish you the best. Good luck and happy travels. – Wad Cheber Jul 10 '15 at 10:36
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I'm primarily concerned with whether or not there are communications between the relevant agencies in the US and the UK

The controlling reference for this is a treaty between the US and UK which was drafted in 2013 and entered into force last year (2014) which says in part...

CONSIDERING that the effective administration and enforcement of the immigration and nationality laws of the United States of America and the United Kingdom are important to protect the health and safety of their populations, to maintain the security of their societies, and to promote international justice and security by denying access to their territories to persons who are criminals or security risks;

ACKNOWLEDGING that identification of individuals who are inadmissible under their respective immigration laws enhances their ability to facilitate the travel of bona fide visitors;

Source: Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America for the Sharing of Visa, Immigration, and Nationality Information

So the answer is yes, the two governments share information, not only by this treaty (and similar ones), but also by terms implicit in the Special Relationship.

But just because there's an infrastructure in place for sharing information does not necessary mean that you personally have been included in the database, they might think that you are a 'small fry' and not worth worrying about. Their priorities are to inform each other about capital crimes or an act of terrorism, and you may not meet the reporting threshold. 3 1/2 years custody is not that bad as far as felons go. On the other hand, if you are in the database, you will not be allowed to board in the US, so no problem.

Also, a felony in one country does not mean that the UK will treat it the same way. The classic example is buggery, which carries the death penalty in some places but the UK has decriminalised it and now doesn't care about it.

Basically, the question is, could I sneak one by them?

Yes, it is possible. I am tracking a case now where a felon from the US entered the UK and overstayed for two years and is now due for an enforcement action. Although that person's criminal history had been spent when he entered the UK, he will be detained and removed as an illegal entrant/overstayer (unless they decide his human rights would be violated) as part of an inland sweep. As far as computers and databases at the port go, the odds are more in your favour than not.

All of this does not necessarily mean you are good to go and it would be a mistake to leave you with that impression. A mind-boggling 73% of enforcement actions are initiated by intelligence received from anonymous sources. The bulk of these are inland operations, but astonishingly includes tip offs coming in from overseas before the person even arrives.

Also, when you arrive at the airport you will join a queue waiting for your landing interview. While in the queue, you will be observed for various triggers like flushed face, fidgeting, palpitations, stressed behaviour, and other signs that you may be trying to pull a fast one. So by the time you reach the front of the queue you may already be pegged as suspicious before you even talk to the IO. And finally, if the IO's stop indicator is checked, you can expect a very brief intermezzo in merry olde England.

Having said all of that, it is a crime to enter the UK without disclosure of material facts, even if they do not ask (deception by silence is an immigration offense). And if you have an unspent criminal history, it's a further criminal act not to disclose it. They may want to get you on that before tipping their hand just for icing on the cake.

as the answer would save me certain deportation if that were the case.

No. The UK would not deport you, there have only been about three deportations all year so far. Instead, they would remove you as an illegal entrant. There are thousands of these all the time.


I saw that your question is prompted by using up your air miles. If they decide to remove you, the airline has the option of depleting your air miles to help defray the cost of your return flight (even if you have a ticket). I have seen it happen and people tend to get very indignant about it (ironically, more so than the removal). But since you won't be flying with them again anyway, it's probably irrelevant.

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    Thanks very much for your well-prepared answer. Helpful indeed. – user31613 Jul 9 '15 at 14:34
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    Please don't tell me that the UK is really wasting money on these scientifically discredited 'behavioural observation' programmes – Calchas Jul 9 '15 at 15:29
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    What's the difference between deportation and removal? – cpast Jul 9 '15 at 18:10
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    @cpast Very loosely, in UK law, "deportation" means that you were legally in the UK but you have committed a serious crime and you're being sent home to serve your prison sentence. "removal" means that you don't have the right to be in the UK to start with (e.g. you've overstayed a visa). See migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/… for a more precise statement. – Ewan Mellor Jul 9 '15 at 19:31
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    The Special Relationship is a not a specific agreement or anything that has any material effect on immigration, extradition, information sharing, etc. It is simply a meaningless phrase used for symbolic reasons. – user13882 Jul 9 '15 at 21:43
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The UK has specifics in its immigration rules regarding when people with criminal convictions must be refused entry:

V 3.4 An application (except for an application for an extension of stay as a visitor) will be refused if the applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence for which they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of:

(a) at least 4 years; or
(b) between 12 months and 4 years, unless at least 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence; or
(c) less than 12 months, unless at least 5 years has passed since the endof the sentence.

Where this paragraph applies, it will only be in exceptional circumstances that the public interest in maintaining refusal will be outweighed by compelling factors.

V 3.5 An application will normally be refused if:

(a) within the period of 12 months before the application is decided, the applicant has been convicted of or admitted an offence for which they received a non-custodial sentence or out of court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record (except for an application for an extension of stay as a visitor); or
(b) in the view of the Secretary of State the applicant’s offending has caused serious harm; or
(c) in the view of the Secretary of State the applicant is a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law.

In short, for a 3 year prison sentence, you must wait 10 years from the end of your sentence (including any probation/parole) before you can no longer be refused under this section. (This doesn't necessarily mean you won't be refused for other reasons, though.)

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    I don't think this answers the question. OP acknowledges that he technically would be illegally entering, and is asking how likely he is to get caught. – Joe Jul 9 '15 at 19:51

protected by phoog Jul 5 '17 at 1:44

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