Traveling to Europe

By Tony from Long Island

I just returned from a short trip to Europe to visit my wife. It’s the first time I have left the country (except for a brief trip to Montreal decades ago). When I received my passport, the first thing I looked for was some sort of “unique identifier.” I found none. There’s nothing I could see on the passport to identify my status.

I flew into Amsterdam and going through customs took 20 seconds. Just a “what’s the purpose of your trip” and “how long are you staying.”

I flew back from Berlin to New York 9 days later. When I had to scan my passport, I got the “X” on my receipt. I, of course, had no idea what this meant and started to stress out. I had to wait on a slow moving line only to be told “You have to be seen by an officer” with no reason given.

So I sat in a holding room for about 20 minutes and when my name was called, all I was told was “you can go.” And that was that.

I have no way of knowing whether that was because my status was flagged. I have read that many people get the “X” for random reasons. If It keeps happening upon subsequent trips it’ll be obvious.

Overall, I can say that I had no issues at all with my status during my trip overseas. Of course, I made sure to check ahead of time which countries would allow me to enter and I made sure to file whatever forms were needed to let the powers that be know I would be travelling.

  1. I was recently in Europe for just over 2 months, visiting 5 countries (The Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary). I was on the registry in Pennsylvania for 7 years for a misdemeanor offense, taken off in 2018 with the Supreme Court ruling retroactive Adam Walsh unconstitutional. My passport has no RSO designation and I am not a “covered” RSO according to my interpretation of IML. Still, I was concerned since any sort of background check reveals my criminal history. I was especially worried about my return flight, both the re-entry to the US as well as the fact that my flight from Budapest had a change of planes at Heathrow. I’m happy to report there were absolutely no issues, despite the almost insane levels of security in London. I actually think it is easier and safer for me to travel abroad than it is to many places in the US, due to local registration requirements that may apply to me even though I’m off the registry. I also travelled to Costa Rica in 2018 just after getting off the registry, and I had no problems there or on return. I am currently planning a trip back to The Netherlands and Scandinavia. Part of this trip could involve a cruise along the Norwegian coast, so we’ll see if I run into any issues with that, but I’m reasonably optimistic about traveling to most places in the world. Few countries seem to have the same level of draconian registration laws that we have here in the “land of the free”. Thanks to NARSOL for your advocacy and I’m a supporter!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Steve. I’m from Pennsylvania, too. My situation is exactly the same as yours. I was also removed from registry due to the Muniz ruling by the PA Supreme Court. When I applied for a new passport I received a “clean” passport with no unique identifier. I’ve not yet traveled with it.

      Did you have the experience when you returned to the U. S. and went through customs where an “X” appeared when your face was scanned? I’ve had that happen several times before I was off the registry and each time I had to proceed to a room where I was questioned by someone. I’m curious to know if the “X” appears because of a criminal conviction or only because I was registered at the time.

      1. Andy, my customs form was flagged when I returned but it had to do with my carrying some food and beverage items that they decided to examine. I did not have a similar issue when I returned from Costa Rica, so my belief is that my former offense and registration status is not impeding me at the border. It’s a bit disconcerting and stessful with the biometric surveillance and general grumpiness of customs agents, but my experience has been free of harassment or delay.

        As a further suggestion, since I carry both a laptop and a phone, I would strongly recommend avoiding any casual viewing of pornography while abroad, or having anything on your devices that could be seen as problematic in the slightest, even if you consider it to be entirely legal. I use wiping software on my computer in addition to this precaution.

        While Europe and Central America have been hassle-free for me, I have questions about whether or not I would have more trouble traveling to “Five eyes” countries in the future, including Canada, or perhaps any other country that shares intel or criminal justice databases with the good old USA. If you or anyone else can enlighten me on this I would appreciate it. I am currently reluctant even to try traveling to Britain, Canada, or Australia/New Zealand, and I am avoiding other countries that seem to have hard line policies toward US registrants, such as Mexico, or countries that have Visa requirements for tourists that might entail a background check. As I said in my earlier post, I also watch my step when traveling to other states in the US to avoid tripping any requirements, which means I completely avoid states like Tennessee, Nevada, Florida, Alaska, and a few others that require registration within 2-3 days of entry regardless of current registration status (moreover, I’m happy not to give them my tourist dollars in favor of more enlightened states in this regard). NARSOL’s State-Wiki is helpful in sorting this out, although in many cases it is difficult to know exactly what the requirements are given the vague language used in these statutes (our rulers are not known for their intelligence, in case you were wondering). I see that there is an article on this website concerning a case in Indiana concerning travel from other states, and it seems encouraging that these laws are being challenged, and even more encouraging that judges of various political persuasions are able to recognize the unconstitutionality of these laws, if not the unfairness. Although I normally have problems with the ACLU I applaud them for bringing these cases on our behalf.

      2. Thanks for your reply, Steve. My research and reading of other comments on this site appears to confirm the fact that any criminal conviction, whether involving a sexual offense or not, will prevent anyone from entry into Canada, Great Britain and Mexico. Some people suggest coming into England via the Chunnel, or other means of transportation besides air travel, from another country. They had no difficulty.

        I assume you’ve reviewed the RTAG site, the Registrant International Travel Matrix, at registranttag.org. It provides information about which countries don’t admit sex offenders; however, I’m not sure how that information relates to those of us who are no longer on any registry. Again, I assume a criminal conviction of any kind can keep one out of a country such as Thailand or the Philippines. I was surprised to hear you had no issue in Heathrow.

        In my initial comments to your post I asked if you saw an “X” when you had your passport scanned at customs when you came back to the states. Did you? My experience has been, when I was still on the registry, that an “X” required anyone to go to another area to be questioned. I don’t know if this will happen again the next time I travel abroad as I will be traveling for the first time since being removed from the registry in PA.

      3. Andy, in response to your specific question, no I did not receive an X on my customs forms upon re-entering the US in either of my trips abroad. I don’t take for granted that this can’t happen to me in the future, but so far I have been under the radar of the authorities. Good luck with your travels, I predict you will not have any real issues, and thanks for reminding me about the RTAG site, I had forgotten about it and it does have some useful information.

  2. It’s good to read of positive travel experiences. Since IML was passed I ended my International travel. Prior to that dreadful signing into law I traveled extensively as I was an International Pilot, yes a Pilot. Now I am still flying but only in the US. I was very fortunate that I could this job as it does not involve passengers. In fact I had more liberty while I was on Probation than now days, thanks to IML. It’s the 21 day notification that is practically impossible as my schedule could change with little notice. IML has cost me lots of future retirement earnings but again I was and am lucky the way my case was handled but I am increasingly worried about changing laws in different states that may make it impossible to do what I am doing now!

  3. Thank you for the update. My experience traveling in Europe has been painless. Just don’t go to the UK, they won’t let you in. I still want to try getting in through the Chunnel, but that is an adventure for another day. Yes, I got the “X” on my last visit to the states as well. Pretty painless, just took about 30 min of my time and the agents at the passport control were discreet, thank goodness. They treated me professionally and respectfully. I saw a response saying someone was going on a Norwegian Cruise in Mexico. I would defiantly like to see how that trip goes. I heard going on a cruise is a no-no. I have a buddy on the registry that goes to Mexico via California, but just walks across the boarder, so my thought is getting off a cruise in Mexico may be possible. I encourage the gentleman going to Mexico on a cruise to try and disembark in Mexico. But I understand if you don’t want to chance it.

    1. Hi and thanks for sharing, what level sex offender are you classified in your state? How.long has it been since your conviction? And was that a brand new passport or did you order a replacement?

      1. Thanks for all your comments. I’ve been off the registry in Pennsylvania for a few years. When I travel out of the country I will no longer have to give 21 days notice to anyone. I recently applied for a new passport and it does not have a unique identifier or statement. Does anyone know if the “X” notification when going through customs in the U.S. will still occur for someone no longer on the registry? Of course, I still have a criminal conviction, but I don’t know if that alone will cause an “X” to appear.

  4. Thank you so much for posting. The thought of being singled out of line by somebody in authority still frightens the Hell Out me. I’m going on a Norwegian Cruise to Mexico in January. I know I can’t get off the ship because of Mexico’s no entry status. But I’m still nervous. I think it’s 21 days to notify the local law enforcement agency? I’m not even sure how this works. I’ve been off parole 10 years?

    1. In New York, I e-mailed the registry. They sent me a form that I filled out. It wasn’t even that incredibly detailed and they send it to the US Marshals. It e-mailed it back to them 29 days before my trip and asked for an e-mail confirmation that it had been received. They sent one.

      1. This wasn’t always the case for NY. I would be interested in knowing more about the form you filled out, and who notified you that it was being sent to the Marshal’s Office. According to SMART dot gov, and the Substantial Implementation Reports, NY still does not comply with the 21 day notification provision.

  5. I’ve traveled internationally a few times before my passport was revoked. You will always get the “X” on you customs processing because you have to be seen by an officer. My general experience is the same where they check to make you are who you are and you’re let on your way. It’s reasonably painless (and extremely unnecessary IMHO).

    Anyone who travels internationally I highly recommend you carry necessary legal documents (electronically or printed) showing your current position w/ probation or release. If you are no longer on probation, then carry the termination paperwork (again, electronically or a copy) because if their system isn’t current/correct, then it could be a bigger hassle.

    Just my $0.02 for whatever that is worth.

    1. If I may ask – why was your passport revoked?

      Also, in New York, we don’t get any release papers. When your parole is up , it’s up. That’s it. You don’t sign anything. My info with dates will always be on the DOCCS website though.

      1. Yes. That’s me. But I don’t want to be embarrassed disembarking in front of 10,000 people and be turned away. So I’ll stay on. Norwegian doesn’t have a rule against offenders. It’s Carnival.

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