I was so badly hoping that I would be able to write a member submission that would, for once, have a positive outcome in regards to international travel. Sadly, this post has turned in to one that will provide a word of caution about traveling abroad.
In 2009 I plead guilty in Florida to having consensual sexual contact with a 16 year old when I was in my 30’s. The actual charge was “unlawful sexual contact with certain minors (16 – 17 yo).”
Prior to my offense, I had traveled extensively abroad and had a passport that expired in 2009. I was invited to participate in a humanitarian (missions) trip with a group of people headed to Kenya in October 2018. I accepted the invitation barring there were no problems with getting my passport renewal and my visa to get into Kenya.
I sent in my passport renewal in March of 2018 and received a new passport back 6 weeks later. They did NOT place the sex offender identifier in my passport. Immediately I was concerned about this and contacted Angel Watch. They never responded back. I was referred by my local sheriff’s department to the guidelines on the DOS / Angel Watch website that simply states that certain sex offenders get the identifier. I figured my offense must not have qualified for the identifier in the passport.
Next, I did as much research as I could to see if there were any accounts of Kenya ever barring a sex offender from entry. Everything I found stated that Kenya allowed entry for sex offenders. I then applied for my Kenyan visa. I was 100% honest on my visa application. I stated I had a felony sex offense and described the offense on the application. One week later my visa for entry into Kenya was approved and emailed to me. Three weeks before my scheduled departure date, I reported the trip to the sheriff’s office in person as required to do as a registered citizen.
On October 15th 2018 I boarded a flight from Tampa to Washington DC. I next boarded a flight in DC to Frankfurt, Germany. I figured if I was going to have a problem this is when it would be when customs scanned my passport before departing the US; I experienced no problems at all. In Frankfurt I boarded my flight for Kenya. In Frankfurt both my US passport and Kenya visa was checked and scanned; no problems.
I landed in Kenya and went through the customs with no problem. They stamped my passport with a Kenyan entry stamp and told me to enjoy my stay. I walked about 20 feet away from the customs desk when the agent called me back over. He inspected my passport and visa a little closer and called over another agent. That agent then took me into an office. When I asked what the problem was they simply told me they had to “verify some things.” They asked me some additional probing questions about who I would be staying with, what I would be doing, pretty standard stuff really. It did not feel like an interrogation. After about 10 minutes sitting in that office, the agent matter-of-factly told me I was denied entry and I would be on the next flight out of Kenya.
I asked some pretty obvious questions like, “Why?” and “Why did you issue me a visa if you were going to deny my entry?” They literally answered all my questions with the exact same answer: “The Kenyan immigration department has decided to deny your entry.” When asked to please speak with the decision maker I was told the decision was made and that was that. Before they got me on the flight, the hosts of the trip pleaded with the person who was assigned to guard me until I got on the plane with no avail.
At no time did I argue, show disrespect, or display anything but a contrite, quite devastated attitude.
When I finally arrived back in the US and went through customs the agent was friendly. He asked about my travels which I told him about. He sympathetically advised me there is nothing wrong with my passport, handed it back to me, apologized, and sent me on my way back into the US.
I would advise against attempting any international travel at this point. It appears that Project Angel Watch / International Megan’s Law will do all they can to have you barred from entry. No longer can you trust the resources that are out there that state which countries allow entry of sex offenders.