Monday, February 6, 2012

Moving overseas with a criminal record

Sitting here in Paris, having a croque-monsieur for lunch. Basically a croque-monsieur is a glorified hot ham and cheese sandwich, but like many French foods, it tastes far better than what you're eating. Did I mention the food here is damned good? The French just don't understand beer or fried food, but the rest of it often makes non-French food seem like prison gruel.

Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco california
Does this kill your expat dreams?
Photo by Tim Pearce
Speaking of which, how do you move overseas with a criminal record? I get asked this from time to time and always answered "I don't know". I had assumed it would be pretty much impossible as many countries are very picky about who they let in. Then I found out about Spencer Global, a Chilean law firm which specializes in helping the international community in Chile.

They claim that you can move to Chile with a criminal record:
Criminal background checks and police records are only required when applying through the Chilean consulates or embassies for visas to Chile. The department of immigration in Chile does not require criminal background checks, police records, FBI criminal reports when applying for visas in Chile.

The reason for the difference is that the department of immigration in Chile and the department of foreign ministry in Chile that operates the Chilean consulates and embassies are two different offices with distinct internal procedures. The recommend method for applying for a residency visa, including work visas and student visas, by the department of immigration in Chile, is to first enter the country under a tourist visa and then apply directly through their office where you will be living in Chile.
That's very interesting news. It goes on to say that even if you do apply for your visa through the foreign ministry, you may still be allowed in the country if it wasn't a serious crime. Forget murder, but maybe if you were busted for a joint?

For many would-be expats, this is fantastic news. I keep hearing rumors that some countries don't do background checks and that others don't care so long as you're not currently wanted, but this is the first time I've stumbled across information that is a bit more credible than "I heard from a friend that ..."

If you have any more information about this, post below! I'm sure there are quite a few people who would like a fresh start and discover that the French Foreign Legion isn't what they thought it was.
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