Applying for a visa? It is important to be honest about your criminal history

Many countries request a criminal background check for visa applicants. It is important to be aware of how this affects your chance of success.

If you wish to move abroad and have a criminal record, it is important to know that this will likely restrict your entry to certain countries. 

Spanish Visas has previously dealt with people who have attempted to cover up a criminal conviction, only for it to be discovered at a later date. Please do not do this, as it results in frustrating the foreign authority and may affect the future relationship between you and them.

Each country will have its own criteria for being able to settle there, and if you want to make the move, you should check how strict or lenient your destination is when assessing immigrants’ criminal history. 

Portugal, for example, allows you to move there with a criminal conviction (provided the offence did not result in any more than 12 months sentence), while Spain has a stricter approach. 

You can check the specific rules of your destination country online, or at the relevant embassy.

Case Study

Woodcock Law & Notary Public has known of previous clients who have attempted to hide previous convictions. In one of these cases, the client was asked to fill in an ACRO questionnaire, and answered ‘no’ to the criminal conviction question. As a result, we applied for the ACRO on the client’s behalf.

The ACRO then arrived to us and contained an entry for a previous conviction, dating back to 2017. It then became apparent that the client would be unable to move to Spain, as the Spanish authorities require a clean record. 

The client’s criminal record meant that we advised them to apply for the Portuguese D7 Visa, as this allows applicants to have a criminal record providing that the offence does not carry a maximum jail sentence of 12 months. 

If the client had been honest from the start, and had provided all the details of his criminal history, we could have saved him a lot of time and money and advised him from the onset not to proceed.

Providing your criminal history

Because the UK does not routinely share criminal record information with other countries, you may be required to provide a copy of your criminal record as part of your application. 

Different countries have different requirements, but you will usually be asked to provide an ACRO, issued by the Criminal Records Office, which provides a full criminal background check. Offences will show on ACROs for 12 years. Find out more about ACROs

If you have a criminal conviction

If you are planning on moving to a country like Spain, which has strict rules on criminal convictions, and you have a criminal conviction it’s worth noting that the chances of you being allowed to move there are slim.

We recommend that you go through your options with other countries that are not as strict. Please do not attempt to deceive the Spanish authorities, this will not work and will only waste your money and time. 

If you make an application through Spanish Visas, please be aware that we are not responsible for any failed applications that are caused by deception. 

If you have any worries or questions about what is required in terms of the information you need to provide, we can talk you through both the process of your application, and what your best options are going forward. 


Spanish Visas is highly experienced in assisting with legalisations and providing apostilles. 

Contact us if you need any assistance on +44 (0)161 932 1451 or email

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We are experts in Spanish emigration. We understand how the system works and guide our clients through the entire process.

Whether you are simply researching your options or ready to apply, we are here to help.

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