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When you go through the adult court process, if you’re found guilty, you’ll get a conviction.

This section explains what a conviction is and the difficulties you may face after being convicted.

What happens after I get a conviction?

Having a conviction on your record can have consequences for you later in life. If you’re suspected of criminal activity in the future, the police may know that you have been convicted before and will likely find you more easily in the system. If you come up for sentencing in court for another offence, the court might give you a tougher penalty.

Having a conviction on your criminal record can also limit your job opportunities because employers can ask you about your convictions when interviewing you and ask for a copy of your criminal record. Some countries might also refuse to give you a visa because of a conviction.

I’ve got a conviction, where is it recorded?

When you’re convicted (found guilty) of an offence, your conviction is recorded on a central database which can be accessed by the police. Your list of convictions is called your ‘criminal record’. Find out how to get a copy of your criminal record here.

Can my convictions be wiped? Do convictions follow me for life?

In some situations, your criminal convictions can be wiped from your criminal record. The Clean Slate Act is a law that can protect you from some of the bad consequences of having a conviction. If you meet the conditions in the Clean Slate Act, then your convictions will not appear on your criminal record, and you don’t have to tell most employers about them when you’re asked except for when you’re applying for jobs at certain government or government-related departments. Criminal records are also not wiped for travel or if you want to move overseas.

Does the Clean Slate Act apply to me?

Generally, you’ll be covered by the Clean Slate Act if it has been at least 7 years since your last conviction, and you’ve never been imprisoned or convicted of a sexual offence. If part of your sentence was to pay money, you must have paid everything that you were ordered to pay. You won’t come under the Clean Slate Act if you have ever had your drivers’ licence disqualified indefinitely because of repeat offending.

If you get another conviction, you will have to wait another 7 years from your most recent conviction for the Clean Slate Act to apply again. This means that even if it has been 10 years since your first conviction, it will still appear on your criminal record if you have a more recent conviction within the last 7 years.

What effect does the Clean Slate Act have generally?

If the Clean Slate Act applies, then you’re allowed to tell employers that you don’t have any criminal convictions. This can be helpful in situations like job interviews, however, the Clean Slate Act may not apply if you’re applying for a job in certain government departments, e.g. Police, Army, Navy, and national security etc., where all of your criminal record can be accessed. Also in certain fields where you’re placed in high levels of trust, e.g. doctor, lawyers, teacher, jobs where you work with vulnerable children or people, jobs with professional licensing bodies, sometimes the employer can request for information on certain types of convictions even if it is covered by the Clean Slate Act in other circumstances.

The Clean Slate Act also doesn’t protect your convictions from being disclosed in court or in an investigation into the neglect or ill-treatment of a child or young person. Your convictions can also be disclosed if you apply for a gun licence.

Can I travel or move overseas with a criminal record?

Ensure all your travel documents are sorted out first, especially your passport, visas, exemptions and tickets, before travelling.

Generally, the country you’re travelling to will want to know if you have a criminal record. You’ll be asked about your criminal record when you’re applying for a visa, and even in countries where you don’t need to apply for a visa, e.g. Australia, you must still disclose your criminal record and get approval to travel there – the country you’re travelling to can reject your application to visit if you have a conviction. The Clean Slate Act does not apply to travelling or moving overseas.

If you don’t declare your conviction prior to travelling, the country you’re travelling to have the power to refuse your entrance to their country when you arrive.

Can I get a passport if I have a criminal record?

If you’re a New Zealand citizen, you’re entitled to a New Zealand passport. The only times you can’t get a passport are if:

  • there’s a warrant out for your arrest;
  • you’re on bail, parole, probation or a sentence that involves supervision;
  • there’s a court order saying that you have to stay in New Zealand.

What do I need to do if I want to travel overseas with a criminal record?

You’ll need to go to the nearest embassy for the country you want to visit in order to get a visa. You might need to complete a form if you have had any convictions. You need to make sure that you start the process of applying for a visa well before you want to travel because the process can take a couple of months. There is no guarantee that the country will approve your travels if you have a criminal conviction.

I’m travelling to Australia but have a criminal record, what do I need to do?

If you have any convictions at all (including ones wiped by the Clean Slate Act), you must complete a Consent to Disclosure of Convictionsform and email it to at least 1 month prior to your travels.

Your record will be sent from the police and the Consulate General will look at when you were convicted and the severity of the offence, then decide whether to give you a visa. They’ll send you a letter to tell you their decision and what to do next. If you don’t need a visa, you will get the normal ‘special category’ stamp in your passport when you get there. Otherwise, they might tell you to fill out an application form, and if your application’s successful, you’ll then get a stamp in your passport before travelling.

I’m travelling to the United Kingdom, I have a criminal record, what do I need to do?

If you have a criminal record, you should apply for a Standard Visa before you travel to the UK, even if you have a New Zealand passport. You’ll need to allow at least two months for this process to take place.

On the visa application, you will need to disclose your criminal record. Your application will be refused if you are deemed to be a persistent offender, if you have committed an offence which caused serious harm, and/or you have received a sentence of 12 months or more.

In other cases, the UK Visas and Immigration office may, at their discretion, refuse your application based on an assessment of your criminal record. The factors considered include how serious your offending was, what penalty was given, how many convictions you’ve had and how recent they were.

If you don’t make an application for a Standard Visa, you may be refused entry into the UK.

I’m travelling to the United States, I have a criminal record, what do I need to do?

If you have a criminal record, you’ll need to apply to the United States Consulate General for a visa. You should apply for your visa at least 90 days prior to your travel date. Whether you’ll be granted a visa will depend on what the offence is, how serious it is, how long ago it was committed, whether you have any other convictions, and how old you were at the time of the conviction. Decisions are made on a case by case basis.

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