VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are a crucial part of our everyday lives on the internet. Whether you want to spoof your location to access geo-blocked content, avoid bandwidth throttling, protect your privacy, and prevent cyber attacks, a VPN is the perfect tool for you. Millions of users already connect to a VPN server before accessing anything online, and we expect millions more to do the same over the coming years.
However, despite the variety of uses VPNs have, they are a highly controversial technology that has been banned or restricted in several countries. Although in most countries VPNs are perfectly legal to use, there are still some areas where they are not. This is typically due to governments wanting to censor citizens and regulate their internet usage. Regardless, using a VPN in a country where it is not legal can result in fines and even prison sentences, so it’s a good idea to make sure you fully understand the legality of VPNs in a country you live in or are planning to visit. Keep reading to find out where VPNs are legal in 2022!
VPN legality by country
The legality of VPNs varies between counties and laws are constantly changing or being altered, so it can be tricky to know if a VPN is legal or not in your country. Here’s a helpful breakdown of bans and restrictions on VPNs between different countries.
- UK – In the UK, VPNs are completely legal. However, any VPN provider that is based in the UK is required by law to provide information to authorities when ordered to do so.
- US – Similarly, in the US it is also 100% legal to use a VPN. Users are free to use VPNs as long as they are not participating in any illegal activity such as pirating copyrighted content, buying or selling on the dark web, or cyberbullying someone.
- The EU – In most countries in the European Union, including Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, and Spain, there are no laws against VPN usage.
- China – Although VPNs are legal in China, they are heavily restricted. International companies in China regularly use VPNs to securely communicate with the rest of the world, so completely banning VPNs would be detrimental to the country. Despite this, for most citizens and visitors in China, using a VPN can be difficult. Most VPN providers that have not been approved by the Chinese government are blocked and those who have been caught creating unapproved VPNs have reportedly received hefty fines and even prison sentences.
- Russia – Although still legal, VPNs have been indirectly blocked in Russia. In 2017, Russian President Putin enacted a law in 2017 that restricts access to prohibited websites, including those of anonymous proxy servers and VPN providers. However, if you download and install a VPN before entering Russia, then you’ll likely be able to use the service without any issues. Since VPNs aren’t illegal, you won’t be prosecuted for using one within Russian borders.
- UAE – VPNs in the United Arab Emirates are legal since, similar to China, VPNs are a crucial part of business in the country. Although there are no laws prohibiting the use of VPNs, citizens can be punished for using a VPN to access websites that have been blocked by the UAE authorities. This includes websites related to gambling, pornography, drug use, politics, or anything else that can be considered an attack against the UAE regime. Additionally, most VoIP services are blocked in this country, leading to both citizens and travellers using VPNs to circumvent blocks to access apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Facetime.
- Turkey – VPNs are not illegal in Turkey but nearly all VPN providers have been blocked by authorities in recent years. In 2016, Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) blocked access to the ten most popular VPN providers and two years later the country moved to block every single VPN website. In 2019, the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs warned German citizens that they could face legal action for using VPNs in Turkey. Although it’s not entirely clear what legal consequences you could face, if you’re still set on using a VPN in Turkey then it’s advisable to download and install the application on your device before entering the country.
- Egypt – VPNs are legal in Egypt but the Anti-Cyber And Information Technology Crimes Law states that an individual can be prosecuted for using a VPN to access content that has been blocked by the Egyptian government. Claiming to battle terrorism and protect national security, Egypt has censored a huge amount of online content. This includes foreign and local news websites, LGBTQ-related content, VoIP services, encrypted apps, digital activism organisations, and several social media apps. Accessing this content using a VPN can lead to a large fine or even a prison sentence. However, if you plan to use a VPN to access unrestricted websites and content then it is perfectly legal for you to do so.
- North Korea – As one of the most restrictive and censored countries in the world, North Korea has made VPNs illegal. Many citizens in North Korea don’t even have any concept of the internet as only government officials, scientists, and other high-status individuals have access to it. Since North Korea wants to control all media consumed by its citizens, even those that can use the internet will have it heavily monitored and restricted. It’s unclear what sort of trouble someone could find themselves in if they are caught using a VPN in North Korea but varying reports range from a fine to execution.
- Belarus – VPNs have been illegal in Belarus since 2015 along with other anonymizers such as the TOR network. It is speculated that this ban took place so that the Belarus government can spy on citizens and further regulate their internet usage. In fact, despite its constitution forbidding censorship, Belarus has some of the most restrictive internet censorship laws in the entire world, blocking social media services, news agencies, and even search engines. If you’re caught using a VPN in Belarus then you can expect to receive an extremely large fine.
- Oman – In 2010, Oman banned all VPNs except those that are permitted by the Sultanate. VPNs that are still legal in Oman are able to collect user activity logs and share them with the Sultanate. Overall, the country has extreme censorship laws and restricts its citizen’s access to content related to pornography, LGBTQ, drugs, and any that criticises or opposes the Islamic faith. If you’re caught using a VPN in Oman then you can face a fine of up to $1,300.
- Turkmenistan – Around 2015, the Turkmenistan government banned all VPNs. Turkmenistan is notoriously one of the world’s strictest countries when it comes to internet censorship, so it’s no surprise that they have fully banned the use of VPNs. All internet activity in this country is overseen by a single government-controlled ISP, commonly known as Turkmenet. If you’re caught in Turkmenistan using a VPN then you’ll likely receive a massive fine and it is rumoured that you’ll also have to face the country’s Ministry of National Security to have a “preventative conversation”.