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|The Traveling Registrant: Your Right of Travel as a Registered Person
Derek W. Logue 
April 20, 2013, Updated January 29, 2016
In the summer of 2013, a Registered Citizen prepared for months to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary, spending over $16,000 for a
European cruise to enjoy with his wife. On August 28, 2013, the happy couple went to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport to board a plane to Europe.
After checking in, the registrant was pulled off to the side and arrested for failing to properly notify the authorities of his impending trip .
While at first glance, readers may conclude registered citizens cannot travel, but that isn’t necessarily true. However, registered citizens often
have special requirements that make traveling difficult. Whether you are traveling to Europe to dance at your daughter’s wedding, heading from
LA to Chicago to attend a conference, or working as a long-distance truck driver, your ability to travel is regulated by the registry. This fact guide
should help you understand some of the difficulties faced by traveling registrants.
A SUMMARY OF THE RIGHT TO TRAVEL
The right to travel is considered a fundamental right both within the US and internationally.
The “International Bill of Human Rights” is an informal name given to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) with its two Optional Protocols, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights (1966). The United Nations recognizes the right to travel as a fundamental human right.
Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights incorporates this right into treaty law:
As of 1997, over 130 nations have ratified the entire Covenant. The United States, however, has ratified only the ICCPR, and even that with many
reservations, or formal exceptions, to full compliance . It seems ironic that the United States played a role in the creation of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights but has yet to sign the Declaration.
From its earliest decisions in the 1790s, SCOTUS has used international law to help resolve major legal controversies. Direct application of
customary international law, treaties, or the use of international law as an interpretive tool – numerous cases and lines of cases demonstrate the
material role played by international law . In other words, the US is not beyond the reliance of International Law to determine the rights of its
The United States recognizes a fundamental right to travel. The Articles of Confederation, Article IV, states that “the people of each State shall
have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same
duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively.” There are several constitutional bases for the right to travel; the
Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution; the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the
Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“[T]he ‘constitutional right to travel from one State to another’ is firmly embedded in our jurisprudence.” Justice Stevens listed three component
parts of the right to interstate travel:
LIMITATIONS ON THE RIGHT TO TRAVEL
The right to travel may be a “fundamental right” but that does not make travel unlimited. The most obvious example is restrictions placed upon
those on supervision (i.e., probation or parole). Your P.O. can restrict your activities beyond the guidelines set for non-supervised registrants. It
should be assumed if you are on probation or parole, you MUST obtain permission before traveling anywhere, especially out-of-state, even for
emergencies. The Pennsylvania statutes offer the following guidelines as one example of this rule:
PA Rule 1405, Sec. 4: “The defendant will not travel outside of Pennsylvania or the community to which he/she has been paroled or placed on
probation as defined by his/her Probation/Parole Officer without prior permission .”
107. “The terms and conditions of probation, unless otherwise prescribed, shall be as follows: The probationer shall… (c) Obtain the probation or
parole officer's permission before changing residence or employment or traveling out of State .”
For those of us off supervision but still forced to register as “sex offenders,” the rules are a bit more confusing. Exacerbating this problem is the
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) of 2006. The AWA was intended to create a minimum yet universal standard of registration
and management of those forced to register, but this has proven to be more of a problem than a solution. Currently, only 16 states, 3 territories,
and 36 American Indian nations have been deemed “substantially compliant” with the AWA .
A primary problem is state and federal laws differ greatly in determining what triggers the need to register. First, let’s examine the federal statute.
The US Code, 42 USC § 16913 states that sex offenders have a duty to register “not later than 3 business days after each change of name,
residence, employment, or student status.”
The US Code, 18 USC § 2250 establishes the penalties for “Failure to Register:”
(1) is required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act;
(2) (A) is a sex offender as defined for the purposes of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act by reason of a conviction under
Federal law (including the Uniform Code of Military Justice), the law of the District of Columbia, Indian tribal law, or the law of any territory or
possession of the United States; or (B) travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or enters or leaves, or resides in, Indian country; and (3)
knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act; shall be fined under
this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
(b) Affirmative Defense.— In a prosecution for a violation under subsection (a), it is an affirmative defense that— (1) uncontrollable
circumstances prevented the individual from complying; (2) the individual did not contribute to the creation of such circumstances in
reckless disregard of the requirement to comply; and (3) the individual complied as soon as such circumstances ceased to exist.
The language of the law is confusing because 42 USC 16913 allows three business days to register a change of “residence, employment, or
student status,” but 18 USC 2250 states that if you fail to update your registration while traveling across state lines, onto Indian reservations, or to
foreign nations, you are in violation of federal law. This is why the man traveling from Detroit to Europe was arrested; while traveling as a
registrant was not illegal, he was required to notify the registration office in advance of his travels.
THE TRAVELING REGISTRANT AND THE COURTS
There are two major cases that have dealt with the issue of the Traveling Registrant.
The case US v. Shenandoah  involved a registrant convicted in 1996. In 2007, Shenandoah's employment as an iron worker required that he
travel to, and relocate in, York County, Pennsylvania. He failed, however, either to register as a “sex offender” in Pennsylvania, or to modify his
New York registration to reflect his change of residence and employment, leading to his indictment. The 3rd US Circuit Court ruled against
Shenandoah’s claims SORNA did not apply to him because neither New York nor Pennsylvania adopted the AWA. Among the arguments raised in
Tackling the issue of right to travel directly, the 3rd Circuit Court stated, “Shenandoah may travel interstate, but when he does, must register in
the new state, while a convicted sex offender who remains within a state need only remain properly registered therein. There is simply no
Constitutional violation. Moreover, moving from one jurisdiction to another entails many registration requirements required by law which may
cause some inconvenience, but which do not unduly infringe upon anyone's right to travel. The essential part of the charged crime in this matter
is the failure to register; Shenandoah's right to travel is incidental to this obligation, and not constitutionally offended. Finally, it is worth noting that
the Constitutional right of interstate travel is not an absolute right, and the burden imposed upon Shenandoah is necessary to achieve a
A more recent case arose in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, US v. Robbins . In August 2011, after traveling from New York to
Nevada, Nathan Robbins knowingly failed to update his registration as a “sex offender’ and was arrested for violating SORNA. There is more to
this story, of course. Robbins was on probation and tested positive for illegal drugs, which led to eviction from his approved residence. A county
court in New York issued a warrant on August 11 for Robbins' arrest for violation of the terms of his probation. On August 25, U.S. Marshals
located Robbins at a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Robbins told the marshal who arrested him that he knew about his obligation to register as a
sex offender, but had not done so because he knew that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
It is no surprise here under the circumstances of Robbins, the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of SORNA. The main arguments made by Robbins
stem from the decision from the landmark “NFIB” US Supreme Court Ruling (aka, the Obamacare case), in which the majority of Justices
agreed individual mandate to buy mandatory health insurance was not a proper use of Congress's Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper
Clause powers. Robbins argued the 2010 decision of US v. Guzman , the decision that held SORNA was a proper use of Congressional
Power under the Commerce Clause. In other words, Robbins argued that because Congress overstepped its authority to force citizens to buy
insurance, Congress also overstepped its boundaries by passing a bill forcing people convicted of sex crimes into mandatory registration
schemes. It was a clever argument but the 2nd Circuit failed to consider it.
The Robbins case is only worth noting here because of the following remark made by the 2nd Circuit:
regulated group through their prior criminal activity . And more significantly, whatever else SORNA might require. The registration
requirement that Robbins himself failed to meet was triggered by activity: his change of residence and travel across state lines… The
Guzman Court may not have explicitly considered how long after travel the federal government's period of regulation may extend—when, in
other words, travel ends and inactivity begins—but since that is a question which NFIB does not itself address, we cannot say that any
intervening decision of the Supreme Court undermines the reasoning behind our settled precedent.”
In summary, both Robbins and Shenandoah decisions were not decisions based upon the simple act of traveling instead they involved a failure to
properly notify authorities of traveling to another state. It is the act of failing to notify the authorities before traveling that led to criminal sanctions.
In other words, the courts have ruled you are reasonably expected to register your travel plans.
INTERSTATE (AND INTRASTATE) TRAVEL
Besides packing sunscreen and downloading itineraries, the Traveling Registrant must register in advance. Each department has different
procedures for noting travel plans (though most might simply make a note in your files and just tell you to have fun). My personal suggestion is
contacting both your local registration office and the registration office in the county you are going to visit, even when traveling intrastate. It is a
hassle, but it may save you some grief in the long run.
The reason for doing this well in advance is states because states define “establishing residence” differently, which triggers mandatory
registration at various times . I know what you are thinking at this point—“I am not looking to move to another state, I’m just going on vacation.”
Most states do not have statutes for “travel,” but most have laws defining when a person “establishes” a “residence,” even a temporary residence,
and it is up to the courts to interpret the statutes and determine whether you ran afoul of the laws. If you wish to travel to Alaska (a non-AWA
state), for example, you literally have a single business day to register with the authorities . Oregon law states that registrants “moving into”
the state have 10 days to register . I should note that while Oregon does not define “establishing residence,” it defines working/ carrying on a
vocation as “works or carries on a vocation means full-time or part-time employment for more than 14 days within one calendar year whether
financially compensated, volunteered or for the purpose of governmental or educational benefit .”
Alabama’s definitions of “residence” are even more confusing :
(6) FIXED RESIDENCE. A building or structure, having a physical address or street number, that adequately provides shelter at which a
person resides. (7) HABITUALLY LIVES. Where a person lives with some regularity on an intermittent or temporary basis. (8) HOMELESS.
A person who has no fixed residence...
(20) RESIDENCE. Each fixed residence or other place where a person resides, sleeps, or habitually lives or will reside, sleep, or habitually
live. If a person does not reside, sleep, or habitually live in a fixed residence, residence means a description of the locations where the
person is stationed regularly, day or night, including any mobile or transitory living quarters or locations that have no specific mailing or
street address. Residence shall be construed to refer to the places where a person resides, sleeps, habitually lives, or is stationed with
regularity, regardless of whether the person declares or characterizes such place as a residence...
(30) TEMPORARY LODGING INFORMATION. Lodging information including, but not limited to, the name and address of any location where
the person is staying when away from his or her residence for three or more days and the period of time the person is staying at that
If you are a resident of Alabama and wish to travel for three days or more, you must acquire a travel permit, which requires you to provide the
dates of travel and temporary lodging information . Because Alabama does not make a definitive line separating what constitutes establishing
a residence, it is better to play it safe by contacting the county you plan to visit to ensure you will not endure any hardships while visiting Alabama.
Pennsylvania gives a pretty clear guideline for determining when you expected to register. “Residence” is location where an individual resides or
is domiciled or intends to be domiciled for 30 consecutive days or more during a calendar year. The term includes a residence which is mobile,
including a houseboat, mobile home, trailer or recreational vehicle. “Temporary lodging” is the specific location, including street address, where a
sexual offender is staying when away from the sexual offender's residence for seven or more days . Upon commencement of such "temporary
lodging", the registrant must notify the State Police of their length of stay, dates of travel and location .
The reason I chose to compare Alabama and Pennsylvania is because these states are both considered “substantially compliant” with the Adam
Walsh Act. Thus, rules can vary greatly even in AWA-compliant states.
Whatever special rights granted by your state of conviction, they are meaningless in a new state unless that new state recognizes those rights in
a statute. Without that statute those rights cease to exist in the new state! The following applies to ANYONE who has EVER registered in ANY
state, at some point in their past. Once someone goes on the registry they must sign certain forms, one of the forms they sign may read, "If you
move to another state you must register when you get there." That form and statement is applicable to you for the rest of your life. Courts are
taking that as notice of Federal Law (SORNA sec. 2250) which requires you to appear in the state you move to, and follow their registration
procedures. That is applicable even if you no longer must register in the state from which you moved!
You can read the laws yourself, but can save time and effort by simply contacting the registration offices both in your home locale and the locale
where you will be visiting and inquire about the duties to register as a traveler. Remember, the AWA kicks in the moment you cross a state line
, so doing these simple steps will save you from the threat of 10 years in federal prison and, if in one of the 20 states with civil commitment
laws, may find yourself indefinitely detained.
If your desire is traveling outside the US, the rules are a little different. First, you must understand that SORNA, the part of the Adam Walsh Act
that covers the registry, also dictates rules for registered persons who travel abroad.
about persons entering the United States who are required to register under SORNA, and 18 U.S.C. 2250(a)(2)(B), which makes it
a federal crime for a sex offender to travel in foreign commerce and knowingly fail to register or update a registration as required by
SORNA. To carry out its responsibilities under these provisions, the Department of Justice needs to know if sex offenders
registered in U.S. jurisdictions are leaving the country, since such offenders will be required to resume registration if they
later return to the United States to live, work, or attend school while still within their registration periods. Also, both for sex offenders
who are convicted in the United States and then go abroad, and for sex offenders who are initially convicted in other countries, identifying
such sex offenders when they enter or reenter the United States will require cooperative efforts between the Department of Justice
(including the United States Marshals Service) and agencies of foreign countries. As a necessary part of such cooperative activities,
foreign authorities may expect U.S. authorities to inform them about sex offenders coming to their jurisdictions from the
United States, in return for their advising the United States about sex offenders coming to the United States from their jurisdictions. For
this reason as well, federal authorities in the United States will need information about sex offenders leaving domestic
jurisdictions to go abroad in order to effectively carry out the requirements of SORNA § 128 and enforce 18 U.S.C. 2250(a)(2)(B)."
[emphasis added] 
The SORNA-created and ironically named “SMART Office” (which has become the US Attorney General’s voice on “sex offenders”) established
the International Tracking of Sex Offenders Working Group, in cooperation with representatives of the Department of Justice, Department of
Homeland Security, Department of State, and Department of Defense. The goal of this Group for “developing this international tracking system for
registered sex offenders is to assist law enforcement in protecting public safety domestically and abroad by accurately identifying any registered
sex offender who enters or departs the United States and immediately relaying that information to appropriate law enforcement agencies for any
additional action that might be warranted .”
In 2009, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) wrote and attempted to pass a bill known as International Megan’s Law. It is exactly what you expect—the
US expecting the rest of the world to adopt the same standards as the US in tracking Registered Citizens. While the law itself did not pass, the
SMART Office still incorporated International Megan’s Law provisions into the SMART Office guidelines published on January 11, 2011 . What
this means for the Traveling Registrant is in order to travel abroad, you are expected to notify the authorities of your intent to travel abroad.
The Michigan registrant arrested at the Detroit Airport at the beginning of this article ran afoul of Michigan law, which gives the following rule:
authority having jurisdiction where his or her residence or domicile is located not later than 21 days before he or she changes his or her
domicile or residence to another country or travels to another country for more than 7 days. The individual shall state the new country of
residence or country of travel and the address of his or her new domicile or residence or place of stay, if known. The department shall
update the registration and compilation databases and promptly notify the appropriate law enforcement agency and any applicable sex or
child offender registration authority .”
The Michigan Coded Law provision is aligned with the federal SORNA guidelines (MI is considered substantially compliant with the AWA). In
response to a GAO survey question about advance notice of international travel requirements, 28 reported that they require sex offenders to
provide such advance notice, whereas the other 22 do not, primarily because their jurisdiction’s laws do not permit them to do so . This adds
to the confusion because SORNA requires a 21 day advance notice of intent to travel internationally , while some states do not even require
advance notice of international travel. Furthermore, the National Sex Offender Targeting Center (NSOTG), a division of the US Marshals under
the direction of the SMART Office and INTERPOL (using their “RissLEADS server”), even devised a form you can fill out and submit to them prior
to travel .
The idea behind this scheme is that the US will grant other nations ample time to be notified and made aware of your intent to travel and of your
status as a “sex offender,” and giving that country the option to prevent you from entering the country. The justification for this is the panic over
“sex/ human trafficking.” Of greater concern is the intent of this law is an attempt to compel other nations to adopt American sex offender laws, as
stated in the GAO report:
registered sex offenders to assist the counterparts with tracking offenders visiting that country, such as by developing a shared
spreadsheet designed to help the country establish its own sex offender registry, and to monitor sex offenders’ activities while in
that country.” [emphasis added] 
A handful of nations prevent “sex offenders” or those with criminal records in general from entering the country. It has become well known that
Canada has banned anyone with a criminal record from crossing the border (probably thanks to American media shows like America’s Most
Wanted in which it was often discussed how fugitives often traveled to Canada to hide from the law). However, someone with a criminal record can
obtain a permit to travel into Canada under certain conditions. You must apply for a “Certificate of Rehabilitation;” it is an expensive process and
your chances of obtaining it are very slim . Traveling to Mexico has been largely unregulated, though a few individuals have stated they have
been recently denied entry into the country .
Appendix II of the GAO report  lists instances where Registered Citizens were denied entry as the result of the advance notices from the US
Border and Customs Patrol’s National Targeting Center (NTC) program between October 2011 and September 2012. It is interesting to note that
entry was not denied 100% of the time by any nation. Canada, Panama, and The Philippines topped the list in terms of percent denied entry and
total number of denials. Other countries that denied entry to at least one occasion were Costa Rica, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, Great Britain,
Mexico, Thailand, and Jamaica.
Sex offender registries have thus far been adopted in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Ireland, Kenya, the Republic of (South) Korea,
and the United Kingdom. The European Union, New Zealand, and Singapore have also been reported as having expressed interest in adopting
registries, but have yet to do so . The Island of Malta  and Jamaica  are small island nations with sex offender registries. As found
even in the GAO report, registrants have successfully entered countries with registration requirements, though rejections were higher for these
countries. As the panic over “sex trafficking/ sex tourism” continue to grow, expect so see the number of denials of entry increase, especially in
countries generally considered destinations for those seeking illicit sexual activity .
International Travel can be more confusing than interstate travel because there is honestly no way of guaranteed entry into the country. In the
case of the Detroit traveler, there was the possibility that he could have been turned away in Europe and be forced to return to America. Each
nation has their own rules for entry, and in many places, nothing more than a passport is required for visits not exceeding 90 days. The place to
gather the most accurate information is the nation’s Embassy or Consulate . One other fact worth noting is most European nations—Austria,
Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland—have adopted the
“Schengen Borders agreement,” which allows free travel between nations in the agreement under most circumstances once granted entry into
any of the Schengen nations . Various internet websites, blogs and web forums may discuss their personal experiences with international
travel, so there are plenty of ways to discover any potential problems with traveling abroad .
Recently, Mexico has been denying entry for registered citizens under an "international exchange program" called "Guardian Angel"; the program
boasts of preventing 38 entries over a 9-month period . One can only assume this "Guardian Angel" is Mexico's immigration network collecting
info from INTERPOL. When INTERPOL receives notice a registered citizen is traveled, a "Green Notice is issued to provide warnings and criminal
intelligence about persons who have committed criminal offences and are likely to repeat these crimes in other countries. It is an effective way to
share key police intelligence on a global scale and to prevent offenders from crossing borders ." No doubt the US is part of this information
exchange program, so expect more travel problems for registered persons in the future.
Other nations that have announced programs preventing registered citizens from entering include Sri Lanka  and The Phillipines .
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
International travel requires an official US Passport for entry. The US Passport is merely a form of ID, not a guaranteed entry into another country.
If you are a Registered Citizen living in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware, Tennessee, or Oklahoma, there are special marks on
your state-issued license identifying you as a Registered Citizen. However, NJ Rep. Chris Smith's "International Megan's Law" [HR 515 (114th
Congress, 2015)], as passed by the House and Senate, will require registrants to have a "unique identifier" placed on their passports . This
bill would cause an affirmative restraint on the ability to travel as a registered citizen.
Registered Citizens, like any other American citizen, can obtain a passport good for 10 years for about $140 plus a $25 “Execution Fee.” (prices
as of the original writing of this article) Under previous versions of "International Megan's Law," a Registered Citizen’s passports would have been
limited to a single year or whatever the Secretary of State decided was an appropriate period to force a Registered Citizen to renew the Passport.
This means a Registered Citizen would have had to pay $1650 over the same ten year period for the privilege of carrying a US Passport. In
addition, a special registration fee had been proposed to pay before traveling internationally . Thankfully these provisions were taken out of
more recent versions of International Megan's Law without passing.
A “Visa” is a document (or sometimes simply a stamp or mark placed on a valid passport) that allows a conditional entry into a foreign nation. The
country issuing the visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay,
whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc. A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within
specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. The
possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it and can be revoked at any time; the applicant's
circumstance, such as financial security, reason for applying, and details of previous visits to the country can be taken into consideration. Some
countries require that their citizens, as well as foreign travelers, obtain an "exit visa" to be allowed to leave the country. In some cases, visas are
not even issued at all .
One persistent rumor going around is acquiring a so-called “World Passport” to circumvent potential problems as a Registered Traveler (as if
being an American Traveler in general is viewed with any less disdain in many parts of the world). American expat Garry Davis created the World
Passport in 1948 after renouncing his American citizenship, and wanted to create a world without borders. There are only a handful of nations
that have “officially” recognized the World Passport as an acceptable Passport—The Vatican, Ecuador, Tanzania, Mauritania, Zambia, Burkina
Faso, and Togo. Two of these nations have since rescinded recognition of the World Passport .
In short, the US Passport should be sufficient for most travels, though Visas may be issued under certain circumstances, particularly in long-term
stays abroad. The World Passport is not worth obtaining unless you find small and mostly poor African nations interesting this time of year. Most
distressing is the proposal by Rep. Smith to mark the passports of Registrants with a so-called "unique identifier," but as of April 2016, that
provision is being challenged in a lawsuit in federal court.
My advice for traveling as a Registered Citizen, regardless whether you are traveling to another state or another country, or even an extended
stay in another part of the state, is to check in with your registration office as well as the registration office/ proper authorities of your travel
destination to ensure your freedom to travel without arrest. Most of the time, this will be a fairly informal process, but the burden falls on you to
understand follow the registration requirements. Even the GAO report admitted there is really no way of knowing if anyone is traveling without
notifying the authorities. Just remember there is a Registered Citizen who spent his 25th Wedding Anniversary sitting in a Detroit jail cell instead
of in Europe.
|RSOL's Registrant Travel Action Group (RTAG) is compiling a list of nations that have impeded entry for registrants. CLICK HERE to see the list.
This is a work in progress and is not all inclusive, but it may help folks traveling to popular destinations.
2/1/16 -- "International Megan's Law" (HR 515) passed into law
As of 2/1/2016, "International Megan's Law" passed the House under "Suspension of the Rules." IML will place a "unique identifier" on the
passports of registered citizens, a la Nazi Germany! See our International Megan's Law fact guide for more info.