Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reader Request: Getting Peruvian Residency If You Have a Criminal Record

Note: Full disclosure here I have never been detained, arrested, or charged with anything; I don't have a criminal record. I have run across people who have records and have managed to get visas. Here's all I know.

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, laws in Peru are not black and white, but shades of grey. I've had a couple people email me over the years and ask if it's possible to get Peruvian residency if they have a criminal record. They never tell me what's on their record, which is totally understandable. Everyone who has written to me has told me that they were young and stupid and haven't had any run-ins with the law since then.

One tip to remember is that speaking Spanish will help you greatly. You'll be treated differently than if you speak English all the time, it'll help you assimilate to the culture, and you'll be able to communicate easier.
I believe that there's no way you'll get a visa for Peru (or pretty much any country) if you have certain things on your record such as rape, murder, sex crimes, etc. In fact, here's what will definitely exclude you according to Peru this Week: convicted murderers, drug smugglers, illegal miners (gold, diamonds, etc), and being involved with organised crime. Take note that sex crimes aren't mentioned, though I'm willing to guess they would deny a visa to anyone convicted of them.

Expat Peru has contradictory information. They say that anything on your record will deny you a visa, but then say that they got their CE way before they got the results from their CBC (criminal background check). That's not to say that their home country and Peru aren't in contact though and Peruvian immigration gets the results before they do. 

There are three things to consider when applying for a visa.
  1. Will it even show up?: You'll have to undergo a federal check in order to get a visa in Peru. For Americans, that means an FBI check. Misdemeanors that happened over 7 years ago shouldn't show up. It varies by state, but 7 years seems to be the most common. The best way to find out is to ask a friend in law enforcement to run your name. If you get fingerprinted and it's been less than 7 years it will add another 7 years to whatever time is left. Once you find out your record is clean then you can get an FBI check. Most police stations charge about $20 to fingerprint you and you'll pay about $20 to the FBI to get your record. You can find the steps in apostillisations and criminal background checks.
  2. Misdemeanors: Now if you have misdemeanors, such as possession of drugs (not trafficking!) or underage drinking or drunk driving, it is possible to get a visa. I'm not saying that you will definitely get once, because each and every immigration officer is different, but it's possible. 
  3. When it happened: Let's say that you're 50 and when you were 17 you got busted for underage drinking. It was a one time thing and you've never had any issues, not even a parking ticket, since then. If it happened a long time ago and you haven't had any other issues, then it's much different than a 25 year old who has been busted three times for drugs.
If you are denied a resident visa you still might be able to live in Peru. Many people are allowed up to 183 days in Peru as a tourist at a time. You could go as a tourist, then travel for a couple of days and then go back to Peru as a tourist. Be aware that there's no guarantee that you will get 183 days. If you've border hopped a lot, or if they decide that they don't want to let you in because of your criminal background, they can deny you entry to Peru, so keep that in mind. If you're looking at teaching, you might also want to check out teaching with a criminal record. The latter has a list of countries where you can get a visa even if you have a criminal background.



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