Starting from 2021, nationalities that are now allowed to enter Europe visa-free will need to apply for a ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) visa waiver before visiting the Schengen area — including traveling to Italy.
The ETIAS system is being implemented precisely to strengthen border security and modernize visa and immigration document checks. Schengen countries will collaborate and share information regarding foreigners entering any of the member countries.
Travelers with a criminal conviction may wonder whether they’ll be allowed entry into Italy and if so, whether they’ll need a special visa application to do so. This article is intended to help felons and foreigners with a criminal record understand the ETIAS regulation and how to obtain a permit to visit Italy.
Can You Go to Italy with a Criminal Record?
Some countries, like the United States and Canada, are notoriously strict when it comes to granting visas to felons. Fortunately, that is not entirely the case in Europe (and therefore, Italy).
A criminal conviction does not represent a reason for denial of your visa or travel permit per se. This means that, if you’re eligible for an ETIAS visa waiver for Italy, you can still apply regardless of your criminal history.
European authorities tend to reject visa applications and entry into the territory only if they detect a serious threat to the security of the area and its residents. Minor prior convictions in your home country or elsewhere, therefore, are unlikely to jeopardize your chances of being granted an ETIAS or Schengen visa and admitted into Italy.
Serious crimes like human trafficking and drug offenses as well as convictions that required the felon to spend 3+ years in jail are likely to have a negative impact on your application. Of course, visa and entry requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and your specific circumstances will be taken into consideration when assessing the application.
Applying for an ETIAS Visa Waiver with a Criminal Conviction
If you intend to travel to Italy for short trips starting from 2021 and are from one of the eligible countries, you will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver. The application is very straightforward and is designed to only take minutes. You can apply online from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to a reliable internet connection.
The application form will include a series of questions that you’ll need to answer as truthfully and accurately as possible. Questions are likely to cover the following topics:
- Your personal information such as full name and date and place of birth
- Your passport information such as country and date of issue as well as the expiry date
- Your contact information such as current mail and email address
- Security-related questions relevant to the assessment of your application
- Itinerary-related questions regarding the plans for your trip to Europe
Incomplete or incorrect information in your ETIAS Italy application form may result in delays and potentially even rejection.
You will also be asked to submit relevant supporting documentation as part of your application. Usually, supporting documents include your passport and a credit or debit card to pay the ETIAS application fee. However, depending on your individual circumstances, you may be asked to submit further documents.
Do Countries Share Criminal Records?
All EU countries, including Italy, share information via the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). ECRIS is a database through which member countries exchange data regarding criminal convictions within the European Union.
Freedom of movement within the Schengen area may potentially facilitate escaping a sentence by going to another country (there are no hard internal borders within Schengen). Sharing information through ECRIS will help prevent this from happing.
In April 2019 the European Commission took one step forward and approved the creation of a European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third-country nationals (ECRIS-TCN), including stateless travelers. The reason for this database is to facilitate the exchange of criminal records information on convicted non-EU nationals, which will allow European authorities to better fight international crime and terrorism.
The ECRIS-TCN system will be managed by the EU-LISA agency. The same agency will manage the ETIAS program together with other large-scale information systems in the area of freedom, security, and justice.
Does a Criminal Record Expire?
This varies greatly depending on a specific felon’s circumstances such as:
- The type of crime they have committed
- The country in which the crime has been committed and where the felon has been convicted
The total deletion of the data concerning a person’s past convictions is called expungement. Rules regarding expungement change from country to country and in some cases (like the US) from state to state. An alternative to expungement is having one’s record sealed. In this case, the public won’t be able to access it.