A week ago I received a penalty fare to pay for the amount of GBP20 because I could not show a valid ticket at the station gate. I thought I could pay for the journey using my Oyster card, but apparently the area was considered as outside London borough so I was supposed to purchase a railway ticket beforehand. I wasn't aware of it because I have never been to that area, and was only there for a job interview. I'm still not familiar with the outskirt and outside London. The officer handed me the Penalty Fare Receipt/Notice and after I paid for the fee in cash, he suggested that I could write an appeal.

I'm now back in my home country and planning to apply for a Standard Visitor/Tourist Visa to attend my graduation. My question is, would it be the right thing for me to answer YES to the question of "Criminal convictions and other penalty"? Within this section, they also gave several detailed options, to which I believe that the Fare Penalty is related to the "Warning, caution, reprimand, or other penalty" option so I chose this. At the end of the new application where they allow you to add more information, I clearly stated about what happened on that day. I'm also planning on attaching a copy of the Penalty Fare, my Oyster journey on that day which shows that I have never touched out after the last underground station and at my destination point (where I thought I could still use the card thus resulting into a penalty fare), and my appeal letter together with the other supporting documents.

My question is, is this the right thing to do? Do you think this could influence the decision of my application?

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    Don't think a fare violation on local transport is considered a "criminal" violation. – user13044 Jan 26 '17 at 8:24
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    Yeah. Matter of fact you have not even been charged. IIRC you paid a fine and thus avoided legal prosecution to start with. If you refuse paying etc. - the have to call the police. Which never happened here. – TomTom Jan 26 '17 at 12:22
  • Which question exactly are you referring to? There seem to be no such question on the standard visitor visa application form: gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/… – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 26 '17 at 15:00
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    I would be very careful with answers that promote non-disclosure. These answers (and comments) are fundamentally wrong and place you in jeopardy that can follow you for a long time. Note also that answers that attempt to interpret the rules in a way that favours non-disclosure are wrong, regardless of community votes. BEWARE! – Gayot Fow Jan 27 '17 at 7:20
  • Did the officer take your personal details? If you just paid the fee on the spot and your name is not in a database it's a completely different matter – Lassi Uosukainen Jan 27 '17 at 10:18

Firstly, and most importantly, non-disclosure of material facts can have tragic consequences that follow a person for a long time. This community recommends always disclosing all material facts. The important thing for this question is deciding whether or not a railway penalty fare is material.

From reading this gov.uk guidance on "Good character requirement" for Naturalisation as a British citizen, Sections 2 and 3 are about "Criminal convictions".

3.2 Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Charge Notices & Penalty Notices for Disorder

Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Charge Notices and Penalty Notices for Disorder are imposed by the Police or other authorised enforcement officers for traffic rule violations, environmental and civil violations.

  • Railway employees are not listed as among those who are allowed to issue Fixed Penalty Notices.

  • Penalty Charge Notices are only issued for parking offences.

  • The only Penalty Notices for Disorder (see section 7 of this Ministry of Justice document on them) which are related to railways are for trespassing on the railway or throwing stones at trains. Getting on a train without a ticket is not trespassing on railway. Trespassing on a railway is walking along the tracks.

The crux here is therefore whether a railway penalty fare is a criminal conviction.

  • Fare evasion is contrary to the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 (2.1)
  • Penalty fares are legally regulated by section 130 of the Railways Act 1993, which in subsection (2)(l) states that the penalty fare is a civil debt.
  • A "penalty fare" is therefore no different from your water utility charging you extra for their handling cost of you paying too late. Nothing happens legally unless you refuse to pay and eventually it gets taken to court to get an injunction on your income (and even then it'd be a civil, not criminal, case).

The conclusion is therefore that, having paid this penalty fare, there is no criminal conviction. It does not need to be declared on your visa application.

Seeing as you've identified your penalty fare as possibly being relevant for disclosure, then as far as I can see there would be no harm in declaring it. I believe including it is less risky than not including it, and should make you less worried about it.

Should it not be relevant, I expect it would be ignored by the decision maker. Should the decision maker decide it is relevant, then according to the gov.uk guidance linked above:

The decision maker will not consider these unless the person has: a. failed to pay and there were criminal proceedings as a result; or b. received numerous fixed penalty notices which would suggest a pattern of behaviour that calls into question their character.

Your penalty fare therefore should not affect your chances of getting a visa.

This answer draws on contributions from many in comments. Credit to Janus Bahs Jacquet, Tor-Einar Jarnbjo, jwenting and Gayot Fow

NB The document this answer is based on is probably not applicable to visa applications, although it is from the UK Visa and Immigration pages. This answer was previously deleted once this was realised, but the answer was reinstated by the community. Immigration Rules Section V3.4 and V3.5 is probably more appropriate, and this only mentions criminal convictions, never mentioning any sort of Penalty Notice.

  • I'm happy to convert to a community wiki if people think appropriate, seeing as I've drawn on other people's statements a lot. I was just a bit worried about doing that when I've included my own opinions in one section. – AndyT Jan 26 '17 at 15:35
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    Section 3 of the guidance document you are linking to is not only about criminal convictions, so even if a penalty fare is not a criminal conviction, I am far from convinced that your conclusion is correct. It is for example not obvious that a penalty fare does not fall into the category of 'Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Charge Notices & Penalty Notices for Disorder', which may be relevant when evaluating a visa application. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 26 '17 at 16:11
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo - Section 3 is titled "Section 3: Criminal Convictions – Non-Custodial Sentences & Other Out of Court Disposals". I think you are correct though that Section 3.2 "Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Charge Notices & Penalty Notices for Disorder" does deal with some non-convictions, so I've attempted to clarify its applicability. – AndyT Jan 26 '17 at 16:46
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    Promoting non-disclosure or other forms of deception are harmful to the applicant and fundamentally wrong. People reading this answer should BEWARE that non-disclosure of material facts can have tragic consequences that follow a person for a long time. – Gayot Fow Jan 27 '17 at 7:26
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    You should take care that the policy you cited is for nationality applications and has NO RELEVANCE AT ALL to visitor applications. It is misleading and harmful to the OP to offer something that is not relevant with the intent of showing your views come from a recognized authority. Poor. – Gayot Fow Jan 27 '17 at 16:07

The relevant part here is "Criminal convictions and other penalty". This refers to Criminal law, as opposed to Civil Law. Would a penalty from your Home Owner's Association count, for putting out the trash on the wrong day? No, because that's clearly civil law.

Fare evasion is slightly trickier. It may be a civil matter when it's part of the terms of a private transport company. It might be criminal, when it's a matter of national law.

In the particular case of the UK, fare evasion is a matter of national law (Regulation of Railways Act 1889) and is prosecuted by the Crown. So yes, you'll have to mention it. On its own it's not going to have an impact on the visa decision, but it might when it fits in a pattern of habitual violations of the law.

  • @AndyT HOA is short for Home Owner's Association. Some types of housing development in the USA have an association that, among other things, may enforce some rules about the appearance of the housing. An HOA penalty might be for not mowing one's front lawn. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 26 '17 at 14:59
  • @AndyT: Home Owners Association. But for the purpose of this question, any kind of civil fine would be comparable. Late fee for the library? It's a sort of penalty, but not criminal. – MSalters Jan 26 '17 at 14:59
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    I think this is incorrect. Although fare evasion can be prosecuted, paying a penalty fare does not involve being prosecuted or getting a criminal record: it's an acceptance of a non-judicial penalty. People are only prosecuted for fare evasion if they refuse to pay the penalty fare, or in egregious cases such as deliberately using the wrong kind of ticket every day for months or years. – David Richerby Jan 27 '17 at 10:12
  • @DavidRicherby: I agree that there's no prosecution and therefore no criminal conviction, but that doesn't alter the fact that the offense is subject to Criminal Law instead of being a contractual penalty clause under a civil law contract. – MSalters Jan 27 '17 at 10:51
  • As long as a an offence is not tried under a criminal law system, it is not a crime. A criminal offence for fare evasion requires intent to avoid payment which is absent in this case. The prosecution would have to prove intent beyond reasonable doubt. A civil settlement such as the one in question here does not require intent to avoid payment. The OP's offence was not criminal in nature due to lack of intent and does not have to be declared as a criminal conviction or criminal penalty. – user58558 Nov 6 '18 at 17:04

The VAF1 guidance form for the paper visit visa application form contains the following question

6.11 Have you been subject to, or received, any other penalty by a court or the police; for example caution, discharge, fine or community sentence in the UK or any other country?

The online form refers to the same penalty. If the penalty fare was issued by the TFL, or any authority other than a court or the police, it would not have to be disclosed. A "penalty" in this context would be one that is part of your criminal record (even though most minor criminal penalties would not be disclosed on a standard criminal check, it would still be a part of your record). A penalty issued by the TFL does not make part of a criminal record unless the matter is concluded by a conviction by a court or penalty by the police.

The general grounds for refusal also support this view. Cautions, reprimands and warnings "form part of a person's criminal record." The visit visa application form does not ask about FPNs, PCNs or PNDs which don't make part of a person's criminal record.

They ask for this information because these penalties can be grounds for refusing entry clearance.

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