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Old 07-29-2009, 01:52 AM   #1
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Long time lurker, first time poster. Bear with me as I've read, searched and researched and can't find any reliable information.

About 7 years ago, I was convicted of two felonies, SEC violations. I have served out my probation but I have a felony record. I was denied entry into the EU about 5 months ago due to the US 'sharing' this information.

My crimes had nothing to due with terroism or anything dangerous. However, post 9/11, EU countries are more apt to refuse persons (I had checked with the German consoluate, who said it wouldn't be an issue, but immigration in Frankfurt turned me back).

I had travelled and sailed extensively in the Caribbean prior to all of this occurring, and would like to do so again. I have a valid passport, for all the good it does me. Thus my question: Are Caribbean countries as strict? Back when I used to frequent the area, a Texas Drivers License would be sufficient. Heck, a library card could get me into Mexico

I know I can call the consulate, but I learned the hard way that their advice doesn't necessarily equal what happens when you hit immigration.

I've done my time and I continue to pay for my crime, and I don't represent a threat. Just looking to vacation with my family. I don't want the embarrassment I encountered in Germany.

Thus the question, does the Caribbean community take the same tactic as the EU, denying convicted felons? Do they interface with the US on these type of issues? Any advice would be helpful.
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:49 AM   #2
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Germany is in the Schengen group of countries, most of which are also EU states. Other countries are also in this group such as Norway and Iceland (non-EU) and some EU countries are not members (Uk & Ireland).

The Schengen group of countries has no internal borders but a common policy for admitting non EU/Schengen citizens into the Schengen area.

I am unable to answer your question directly but believe that the French islands in the Caribbean are not part of Schengen and thus, whilst EU regulations may apply, Schengen regulations will not. This does not answer your question but one can conclude that each Caribbean state is likely to have its own immigration rules.

In the case you mentioned above, were you not in possession of a Schengen visa before you arrived in Frankfurt? Normally US citizens do not need a visa for Schengen but in your rather special case I would have applied for a visa anyway thus avoiding any unpleasantries at the airport.

Ays // Stephen
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Old 07-29-2009, 10:39 AM   #3
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very interesting. I'm trying to get my partner over to the States, and he's been told similar (we're from Australia). One small mistake can stuff things up for a long time. Surely there has to be a way around it? Do you have problems getting to Oz??
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Old 07-29-2009, 10:45 AM   #4
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Hi Metalworker,

Here is an official government site that MAY have some useful information (or at least a pointer)

CLICK HERE

Good luck

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Old 07-29-2009, 03:43 PM   #5
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The French islands in the Caribbean are part of France so as anybody other than a major western country citizen you would need a version of the Schengen Visa called an "Out Islands" visa. It looks almost identical to the European version. But as a US/Canadian/major European citizen you might only have problems in the islands that use computers in their immigration procedures. These islands, if I remember correctly, are P.R./USVI, BVI, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique, & Grenada. There may be others. The computers scan your passport and compare it to a database shared between USA Homeland Security and other European databases. If your name is in one of these databases then you might have a problem.

The old or manual check-in/out islands such as the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, D.R., Dominica, St Vincent, & Trinidad just record your entry/exit and otherwise don't do anything with your information. So you would have no problem with these places. Probably Central America and South America ports would also not be a problem.

It might be worth it to explore legally changing your name and then getting a new passport - maybe the data in an old database might not migrate to your new name/passport. If you want a long term solution, emigrating to a small country that does not care about your prior record and getting their passport could be a permanent solution. But that is a long and expensive process.
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Old 07-29-2009, 04:23 PM   #6
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Since you did no Prison time, you might be able to get it expunged from, your record and as such be able to travel again. That will depend on getting a Federal Judge to grant it which can be a bit of paperwork. Also it than means making sure that the State Department updates you Passport information before you try any type of travel. This is an option to look into that may or may not be possible. Depends on the level of offense and a Judge.

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Old 07-30-2009, 12:49 PM   #7
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I know people who can't go to Canada because of a drunk driving conviction. I also know a guy that worked for one of the bi-national bridge authorities who couldn't work on the Canadian side of the bridge because he got in a bar fight 20 yrs earlier when he was a kid. With Canada you can apply for a waiver ($$$) to be allowed in even with a conviction, can't speak for the Caribbean countries.

But can you really blame these countries for protecting their borders, do we want to allow convicted felones from around the world into the US?
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Old 07-30-2009, 04:30 PM   #8
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Yes, I knew about the Schengen Visa, thats why I had called the German embassy. They said I didn't need it. I guess in retrospect, I could have gotten it and maybe that would have prevented the turnback.

Regarding expungement, yes, this can occur after 10 years. Already talked to my lawyer about this and its in the works. Also talked to him about changing names, but records transfer with the name change so no joy there.

Immigrating to another country, hhmm, never thought about that......any suggestions

Sammy, I don't blame the other countries for protecting their borders. I'm not angry at them, nor myself. I've moved on but I'd like to enjoy some of life's simple pleasures.

The countries that do the manual checkin probably are the easiest route. And I guess if I get refused entry, just hop back on the boat and keep sailing.
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Old 07-30-2009, 04:52 PM   #9
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then of course there is always planning to arrive late in the evening so that the customs officials aren't on hand... in which case you usually get to tie up on the customs dock for free and there's usually not anyone around to make sure you stay on the boat... and when they are they normally don't care and are glad to give directions to the nearest bar/restaurant.

good luck
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Old 07-30-2009, 06:08 PM   #10
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My suggestion of changing your name legally evolves from the fact that most governments are glacier slow in updating their databases and distributing them. Other countries are also extremely slow in implementing or making the updates effective. That would give you some "intermediate period of time to travel" until other avenues and statue of limitations kick in. And there is also probably a huge delay factor after clearing your record before it shows up on these databases. The inefficiencies in the "system" sometimes can work to your benefit, sometimes not.

Also if you opt do change your name, make sure that the new name or any variant is not on an existing "watch list". Many totally innocent people with names similar to suspected or known "bad guys" have had very unpleasant experiences trying to get the officials to recognize that they are not the "bad guy" on the list.

Arriving late to avoid immediate check-in does not work in most islands. Some require you to call and get the officials up and out - for large overtime charges - to check you in. Some are downright nasty and angry if you delay check-in until "normal working hours." Part of this might be caused by the fact that the "overtime charges" go right into the official's pocket and not the government.

Most Caribbean countries do not have "Customs Docks" - only a few do and they are usually commercial docks or where freighters or cruise ships tie up. The general rule is you cannot set foot on the island until you are/have checked in. Some island have local laws allowing "innocent passage" which means you can anchor for the night without checking in, but must leave the next morning to continue your journey.

Best idea - if you could figure out how to accomplish it - is to check ahead of arrival to see if your passport/name is on their "list." Absence of the name by default means you are a "okay to enter". That is what generated my suggestion to change names.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:24 AM   #11
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Yes, I understand the need to stay above board and kinda off the radar. Good idea about comparing names, but I don't know how i'd go about verifying against any list. Guess I change my name to something real unique (thinking Ebineazer Miloslav Quantonicho ).

And I really don't like the idea of sneaking in at night or when customs isn't working. I've been in trouble once, trying to keep my nose clean and stay above board.

I think the best idea is those countries that just stamp the passports without computers. Bahamas etc. Or moving to Belize (or somewhere) and gaining citizenship. Not being anti-American, like I said, I have and continue to pay for my mistake. I thought I'd get a fresh start when all this was said and done, but looks like this will continue to haunt me.

So, theoretically speaking, I could cruise to the Bahamas and a few other eastern carib countries, and possibly central America and shouldn't really have a problem? and if I do, I just claim to be provisioning and hop back on the cat and keep going?

Thanks for the advice gang. This is why I read and like this forum, so far, no hate directed at me.
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:26 AM   #12
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Hi Metalworker,

From an examination of the application form for a passport, following a change of name it can be deduced that will not be a solution.

Because it clearly asks if there has been a name change ? :- Click image for larger version

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It also asks if you have ever had a US Passport Book before :-

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In the same application form, mention is made of a Passport Card,

This may provide a solution, because it is only valid for countries neighbouring the USA ,

including the Caribbean countries, and is ONLY valid for land or SEA !! :-

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On a pure assumption/guess that the embedded chip in a Passport Book contains all a persons significant history going back many years, when such a passport is presented to immigration in countries where they have the facility to scan that chip, then that authority may deny entry on what they read from the scan.

Note a symbol showing the ability to scan looks like this :-

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Putting all the above together may mean that the Card does not contain a chip ????
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Old 07-31-2009, 03:46 AM   #13
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Osirissailing gave you good advice. *I am happy to read that you have no intention of sneaking into a country - that way lies a lot of grief when you least expect it. *You'd be surprised how many little out islands have village chiefs who will report boats that haven't checked in.

It's been a long time since we've cruised the Caribbean, but in our visits these past few years it doesn't seem to have changed very much. *Deshaies, Guadeloupe is a low-tech place to check into Guadeloupe, visiting the local Gendarme's office. *Most places in the Bahamas, excepting Nassau or Freeport, are small offices, again pretty low-tech. *the less-visited islands, such as Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis, or Tobago are also pretty laid back. *It's the international airport check-ins that receive the most money and attention, and it's there that you are most likely to be examined carefully and watch lists will exist and be checked.
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Old 07-31-2009, 03:47 AM   #14
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What is in the passport "Application" is not the concern, what actually appears in the passport you carry determines its worth in this situation.

E-Passports contain a RFID chip but that chip only contains "biometric" data. That translates to besides your name and passport number it contains your physical appearance and physical statistics - height, build, weight, etc. Nothing else is on the chip. Not that they didn't want to put more on the chip, it was just demonstrated to the government that these RFID chips are easily "hacked" and read by "other" people. The result is that only basic biological data is on the chip which is of little or no use to a hacker.

All major countries must have/issue "machine readable" passports at the next issuance. These passports have the two lines of "barcode" stuff on the inside page. The Immigration/Customs officials swipe the passport through a "reader" and the basic data is transferred to their computer screen exactly like the laser scanners in a grocery store check out. This saves significant time and lessens errors by the official over when he has to hand-type in your passport information.

Both of the above passports only assist in calling up the information stored in the "database" contained inside the officials computer. What is in the stored database will be the determining factor whether a "felony record" triggers a "no entry" flag. Change the name or get a passport from a different country and the database entry will not be accessed - assuming - that they are using an old or out of date database. Or in the case of a different country - there is no database generated by that country. Primarily if you have not gotten in "trouble" while in the USA or some other major country, you will not appear in the "database". Few, if any, third world or small countries have the money, equipment or trained personnel to bother publishing their "bad guys". The whole system was started and is driven by USA Homeland Security.

Third world countries can still use the age-old passports but probably will be required to spend more time in line.

The "passport card" is a expediency developed between Canada and the USA to simplify transit back and forth across the border by frequent users like truck drivers, and other including boats that make frequent trips. It is not applicable to normal tourist activity or travel to other countries.

But in every case and variation thereof, there is one super-major burr in the saddle. If you move to another country, renounce USA citizenship and get citizenship in the "new" country - you must apply for a US Visa should you wish to enter the USA. That process is full of long forms, fees, and waiting periods. I know from personal experience that avoiding having to apply for a USA visitor visa is most times worse than just waiting for the statue of limitations to kick in and solve the problem.
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Old 07-31-2009, 06:46 AM   #15
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The Document issued by the US Government's Department of State regarding the issue of a Passport Card includes in a addition to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

If these additional Countries have been excluded from the list, please provide the authority so that we can be sure of the current rules.

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Old 08-01-2009, 04:18 PM   #16
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The "Passport Card" was developed in response to people who frequently have to cross the USA borders for business or other reasons. Ages ago that was done with a simple US drivers license, but after 9-11 the USA instituted the requirement that any USA border crossing required a full passport (book). It wasn't very long before this requirement proved stupid and silly as the passport book was filling up with entry/exit stamps in months rather than years. So a compromise was worked out and the passport card was introduced.

The passport card is not usable anywhere where entry/exit stamps are required. Which happens to be most of the Caribbean. Those places like the French Islands that are now on the "computer only" check-in/out might not object to the use of the passport card as nothing is stamped into your passport book. Other islands as they move from physical stamping of your passport book to a computer entry only will probably also allow the passport card. But currently they are few and far between. The regulations allow you to have both a passport book and a passport card - but - they are not cheap. Since the passport book is acceptable everywhere while the passport card is severely limited I personally don't think it is cost-effective to have both.

Here are some extracts from the US State Department Q&A on passport cards:

>>>>>

Why can’t I use the passport card to fly to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda?

The passport card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities and is not a globally interoperable travel document as is the traditional passport book. While the passport card has limited use, the passport book will remain the premier internationally accepted travel document.

Does the passport card contain an electronic chip?

To facilitate the frequent travel of Americans living in border communities, and to meet the Department of Homeland Security’s operational needs along the land borders, the passport card has a vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. With this technology, Customs and Border Protection inspectors are able to access photographs and other biographical information stored in secure government databases before the traveler reaches the inspection station.

Won’t this chip violate Americans’ privacy?

There is no personal information written on the electronic chip itself. The only information contained on the chip is a unique number which points to a stored record contained in secure government databases.

<<<<<<

A lot of Caribbean Island countries want to physically stamp a passport book because they want it on record in your passport that you are forbidden to work (get wages) in their country unless you apply, justify the need and pay for a work permit. Having a stamp in your passport makes it legally easy for the country to "Deport" and/or imprison you for working without a permit. Increases in local population has made the jobs issue very touchy for the politicians.

And still a lot of the Caribbean countries do not have the computer systems and probably will not have them unless some other government is willing to donate them to the island country. Read this as the various Island country's politicians are not stupid, if the USA Homeland Security wants the information on where their citizens are or anybody else, they are going to have to pay for it.
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Old 08-02-2009, 06:20 PM   #17
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I'm not suggesting anything shady.. and I'm defnitely not trying to start a debate but in the Caribean that I know of specifically at least Tortola, St. John, Antigua, Martinique, St. Martin, St. Vincent all have customs docks and I've never had anyone say anything about waking someone up, extra fees, or getting mad when i didn't wake them... ... I don't cosider coming in late shady at all... I like day passages (which are easy to do in the caribean) so I most always leave in the morning get in in the evening and check in the next day...

similar experience in Europe... depending where you land there is not always a customs office and the local port captains usually don't give two snorts if you've checked in or not as long as you state that your next stop is another country and you just need some supplies/repairs... same with scandinavia... because I sailed in and was flying out (so had to check in to get out) I once had to take a bus 3 hours one way to get from Grebstad (where we landed) to Goteborg (I think)... when I finally found the police station and got to talk to the customs officer the dialog was something like:

Customs Officer: "how did you get into the country"

Me: "on a sailboat"

CO: "ah... so why do you want to check in"

Me: "because I'm flying out"

CO: "oh... so why do you want to chck in"

Me: "so that they will let me fly out"

CO: "oh they won't care, just show them your captains license and tell them you came in on a sailboat"

Me: "ok, I'll do that, but can you stamp me in anyways."

CO: "Sure (STAMP), Have a nice trip"

Maybe I'm just getting lucky or something but in my experience if you smile and say "sir" a lot, act mildly confused, say things like, "I just wanna make sure I do everything I'm supposed to", and show them the deference of rank they don't get from a lot of people most customs officers are very amicable and helpfull... they are people after all not automatons... I've even had tourism fees waved a couple of times because I didn't have the cash on me... again... not talking anything shady here... just being smart, planning well, and being super-uper duper polite and friendly...

I've actually had more trouble now that I'm sailing in the US than I ever did in foreign waters.. here the harbor masters are mostly beurocrats looking to stuff the cities coffers
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Old 08-03-2009, 03:28 AM   #18
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Ativist - your next to last paragraph definitely states the crux of how to have an as pleasant as possible experience with most C/I officials. Be nice, be deferential, be courteous, make them feel important and "most" times you will have a short and painless check in/out. Works for me! - most of the time.

However, you must have been on commercial boats in the islands you mentioned as all these same places I have also been to every year for the last 5 years and there are no Customs docks where private boats can dock. And you wouldn't want to because the "government" docks or C/I docks are normally concrete with big dirty and ugly truck tires tied to them. And there is usually a surge in such places and you would spend the night grinding your topsides against the pier. Private boats anchor or take a mooring and dinghy in to clear in/out.

There are few islands like Trinidad that is really obnoxious about delayed check in/out. Trinidad does have an "official" Customs that private boats must use. And you can get into serious trouble and fines for not "immediately" checking in or delaying after checking out.

But the other island countries in the eastern Caribbean are generally rather easy going and will work with you - if you are pleasant to/with them - about waiting for the next morning or leaving up to 24 hours after formally checking out. However, all of this is very fluid and what worked last year on an island might not work this year after a new official takes over the department. And sometimes you have to be a little insistent with them to get the proper paperwork so you can leave/arrival on a boat/airliner. The officials at the airport might not be as pliant as the one at the docks, or vice versa. I have been screamed at by C/I officials in Ponce,P.R. because according to the local officer the check-in at Mayaguez was not done correctly by their officials. I told him that was his problem - you are all in the same organization and take it out on them not me. Bottom line, there is always the standard 10% who can make your life miserable no matter how nice, pleasant, deferential, etc. you are. Smile and press on . . .
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Old 08-03-2009, 04:15 AM   #19
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This Topic is the subject of sailing to the Caribbean and asking for help regarding immigration procedures etc.

To provide an answer to a question in a the State Department's FAQ section IE:-

Why can’t I use the passport card to fly to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda?



Is misleading to say the least.

The Passport Card is issued only for land and sea travel.

The site that provides the current information on the card is to be found HERE

What is needed is information regarding the use of the Passport Cord when visiting Caribbean countries by sea. The ability to read that card appears be only available to US authorities when returning to the the US by land or Sea.

If that card is not acceptable or prove a problem in any of the countries of the Caribbean, could someone quote chapter and verse?
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Old 08-03-2009, 01:21 PM   #20
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What is needed is information regarding the use of the Passport Cord when visiting Caribbean countries by sea. The ability to read that card appears be only available to US authorities when returning to the the US by land or Sea.
I'm not sure I understand your question. *As I read the information on the US site, the RFID chips are new, implemented only in the past two years. *It's clear to me that the chips are designed to be read by the US Immigration officers, not for use in the destination countries, though possibly they might be provided to some of the US's allies to screen entries. *However, for the next eight years, the majority of US passports will not have an RFID chip.

I think that the passport card has been issued in order to make US Immigration officers' lives easier when processing the returnees from a cruise ship cruise to Bermuda or the Caribbean. *2,000 or so people descending on Immigration all at once must be a difficult job. *And for those US citizens who regularly travel to Mexico and/or Canada on business or pleasure, border patrol will be better able to process carloads or bus loads of people much, much more easily. *And for the occasional or one-time cruise ship passenger, a passport card is significantly cheaper than a regular passport book. *I don't think that the passport card had cruising sailors in mind, and I doubt that cruising sailors would be interested in obtaining a passport card unless they did not expect to travel further than the Caribbean.

I would expect that the US would share its technology and information on questionable citizens with Canada and Mexico - it would be sensible for them to do so (and yes, go ahead and say "but where in the history books does it say the US government policies were/are sensible?" ). *
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