Transfer to UK Prisons
This section gives a brief outline of how British citizens who have been
sentenced to a term of imprisonment abroad may be able to transfer home to
serve the rest of their sentence in a prison in the United Kingdom.
The information on this page is not a statement of your legal rights. It
simply provides a short explanation of the provisions which exist for the
transfer of sentenced prisoners to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
1. Am I eligible for transfer?
You must be a British citizen or have close family ties with the UK
(normally through permanent residence). Criminal proceedings against you in
the foreign country must be complete. You cannot be transferred if you are
awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal against your conviction and/or
the length of sentence.
At the time you make your application for transfer you must normally have
at least six months of your sentence left to serve before release. The
offence for which you have been convicted must also constitute a criminal
offence in the part of the UK to which you are seeking to be transferred
(ie England and Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland).
You must have no outstanding fines or other non-custodial penalties.
2. Why should I transfer?
You would be able to serve the rest of your sentence closer to friends and
family in the UK, making contact and visits with them far easier. You would
also be in an English speaking environment and able, in most instances, to
take advantage of educational and other courses aimed at tackling offending
behaviour and preparing you for release back into the community.
3. How are transfers arranged?
The UK government has signed two international conventions and two
bilateral agreements which allow British prisoners to be transferred to the
UK from certain countries and foreign nationals to be transferred from
prisons in the UK back to their own countries.
4. How do I make an application for transfer?
If you are imprisoned in a country from which transfer to the UK is
possible, and have been sentenced following conviction, you should already
have received information about transfers from the prison authorities. If
you have not or have any questions about it, you should speak to the prison
authorities or raise the matter with the British Consul, either in writing
or during the course of a consular visit.
You should normally make your application to the prison authorities in your
place of detention; but if you prefer you may write to the nearest British
Consulate who will pass on your letter to the relevant authorities in the
UK. The authorities in the UK will then formally make an application to the
foreign authorities on your behalf.
Making an application for transfer does not commit you to going ahead with
it. Your formal consent is required before transfer can proceed and, if
having considered your application both the UK and foreign authorities are
content for you to be transferred, only then will you be asked to commit
5. Who has to agree to the transfer?
The authorities in the country in which you are serving your sentence; and
The Home Secretary, if you are seeking to be transferred to England and
Wales (or the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland for transfer to those jurisdictions); and You – or someone
authorised to do so on your behalf. You cannot be transferred unless all
three parties agree to it.
6. What happens once my application is received?
Initial consideration of your application falls to the authorities of the
country in which you are imprisoned. If they are prepared, in principle, to
agree to your transfer they will forward information about you to the
authorities in the UK, including details of the offence(s) committed and
the length and nature of your sentence.
If, having considered this documentation, the UK authorities are prepared
to consent to your transfer, they will formally notify the foreign
authority of this and provide it with information about how your original
sentence will continue to be enforced.
Provided that the foreign authorities are content with these arrangements,
you will then be provided with relevant information about how your sentence
will be administered in the UK and invited to give your written consent to
the transfer. If you agree, the relevant travel and transfer arrangements
will be made.
7. Will I be responsible for the costs of my transfer?
Most of the costs related to your transfer will be the responsibility of
the UK and foreign authority concerned. However, before your transfer can
take place you will be required either to pay the cost of your own airfare
or to give an undertaking to repay the money as soon as possible after
arrival in the UK. If you choose the second option your passport will be
retained until repayment has been made.
8. How long will it take?
The length of time varies from case to case. The process of considering
applications is a lengthy one for both authorities concerned and can
sometimes take as long as eighteen months to two years to complete. It is
important that you understand this and are not over-optimistic about a
speedy transfer. Every effort will be made to process your request as soon
9. How long will I serve on my return?
Your ‘UK sentence’ will be calculated by deducting the time you have
already served abroad from the original sentence imposed by the foreign
court (including time spent in custody on remand in cases where the foreign
authority takes this into account) and any remission to which you are
eligible for this period.
Once you have been transferred, you will be treated as if you had been
sentenced by a court in the UK and the relevant provisions of UK law with
regard to discretionary early and automatic release will apply. For
prisoners transferred back to England and Wales this means that if you were
sentenced abroad to a fixed period of imprisonment of four years or more,
your non-parole or automatic release date will fall after you have
completed two-thirds of your ‘UK sentence’. Short-term prisoners (those
sentenced to up to four years abroad) will be automatically released when
they have served half of their ‘UK sentence’.
Other arrangements apply to prisoners who have been sentenced to life
imprisonment abroad and to those who were sentenced prior to 1 October 1992.
Full details about how your sentence will be administered on your return to
the UK, including your eligibility to be considered for release on parole,
will be sent to you. You can then consider whether to agree to a transfer.
Information about provisions for the early release of prisoners in Scotland
and Northern Ireland is available from the Scottish and Northern Ireland
Prison Services – see paragraph 11 for contact addresses.
10. Will I be liable to prosecution for other offences if I return?
You cannot be prosecuted in the UK for the offence for which the sentence
you are currently serving was imposed. You will, however, be liable to
detention or prosecution in connection with any other alleged offence
11. How can I get more information about being transferred?
You can ask either the prison authorities in your place of detention or
your nearest British Consul or write to the relevant authorities in the UK.