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Old 07-29-2009, 12:52 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, 07:49 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, 09:39 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, 09:45 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, 02:43 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, 03:23 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, 11:49 AM   #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, 03:30 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, 03:52 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, 05:08 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, 12:24 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, 01:26 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 ? :- Embedded_2.jpg

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

Embedded_3.jpg

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 !! :-

Embedded_4.jpg

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 :-

Embedded_Chip_Symbol.jpg

Putting all the above together may mean that the Card does not contain a chip ????
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:46 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, 02:47 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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