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Are VPNs Legal or Illegal?

Written by Novak Bozovic
Last updated June 15, 2023

VPNs are legal in most countries except in a few authoritarian states with strict Internet censorship, such as North Korea and Iraq. Similarly, some countries have certain VPN restrictions. For instance, the Chinese government only allows state-approved VPNs and blocks other providers.

However, regardless of their legal status in your country, you can still get in trouble with the law if you use a VPN for activities like cyberattacks, distributing copyrighted material, and online harassment. Remember that many VPN providers keep user logs, and may be obliged to give your data to government agencies if required. 

In this article, we will discuss the legality of VPNs in different countries. You will learn where VPNs are against the law and in which countries they have partial restrictions. After that, we will also help you pick from the best VPNs for bypassing firewalls/censorship.

Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries. However, there is a blanket ban on VPNs in some countries with authoritarian governments (more about those later). Those governments see all privacy tools as a threat to their regimes. 

Using a VPN in countries where they are illegal can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Obviously, we don't recommend going for a VPN in those cases, no matter how advanced its features are, and even if it has obfuscated servers.

Also, some countries, like China and the UAE, have partial restrictions instead of a complete ban on VPNs. For example, China has blocked most commercial VPNs and only allows government-registered ones. However, Internet users can still unofficially access many VPN services in China.

Regardless of where you live, it's wise to be cautious and check the local laws before selecting a VPN provider and utilizing its services.

Why Are VPNs Illegal in Some Countries?

VPNs are illegal in some countries because authoritarian governments want to maintain control over Internet users in the country. Basically, VPNs hurt mass surveillance efforts because they allow people to access blocked websites, become anonymous, and express their opinions freely on the Internet. 

Hence, oppressive regimes put restrictions on digital privacy tools or ban them. It's important to note that even in countries where VPNs are permitted, you cannot use them for downloading copyrighted material, cyberbullying, breaching security systems, and other unlawful activities.

On a side note, VPN restrictions in designated areas do not necessarily mean that VPN usage is unlawful. Colleges and workplaces are prime examples. Places like these often restrict VPN traffic and block social media websites and streaming services to prevent students/workers from consuming distracting content.

Where Are VPNs Illegal?

VPNs are illegal in countries that have strict censorship laws and oppressive governments that want to control the citizens by monitoring their Internet activities. This is particularly true for nations with a long history of militarist ideologies.

Here’s a list of countries where VPNs are illegal.

Countries Where VPNs Are Partially Restricted

Most countries do not ban VPNs entirely. Rather, they place certain restrictions to maintain some form of control over the citizens. For instance, such countries often only allow VPNs by specific providers who have agreed to share user data with the government. 

Now, let’s look at a list of countries that have partially restricted VPNs.

How Do Countries Enforce VPN Restrictions?

Countries usually enforce VPN restrictions by resorting to repressive methods like blocking, placing fines on users, deep packet inspection, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways of enforcing VPN restrictions: 

What Could Happen If You Use a VPN Illegally?

If you use a VPN illegally, you can end up in jail, which is the worst scenario. However, in the best case, you may be able to get away with a small fine or just a warning. Different countries have different levels of strictness when it comes to enforcing restrictions on VPN usage.

If a country has banned VPN applications, it's likely that they have the ability to also restrict access. Using a VPN on your personal connection or public Wi-Fi in these countries could be dangerous and unlawful.

In some countries like China, VPNs are not entirely restricted, but the police may request citizens and visitors to delete privacy tools from their devices. Along with that, Internet providers may also express their disapproval of VPN usage. 

Best VPNs to Bypass Firewalls and Censorship

Unless they are prohibited in your country, you can bypass VPN blocks and firewalls. However, before choosing a VPN, we strongly suggest you take a look at your local laws and check if there are any restrictions.

Generally, the following VPNs are considered to be the most reliable for bypassing firewalls:

Final Thoughts

VPNs are allowed in most countries. However, they are illegal or banned in certain countries like North Korea and Iraq. Similarly, some states, like China, only allow VPNs approved and licensed by the government. To obtain the license, VPN companies must agree to privacy-invading terms such as sharing user data.

Bans and restrictions on VPNs are usually implemented to maintain political stability, control over citizens, and national security.

Using a premium VPN with obfuscated servers is a foolproof way of getting around restrictions and tough firewalls. We recommend ExpressVPN because all of its servers are obfuscated by default, and it comes with military-grade encryption along with other advanced security features.


Is It Legal to Use a VPN?

Yes, using a VPN is legal in most parts of the world. However, they are not legal in countries like North Korea, Belarus, and Iraq. 

Is It Safe to Use a VPN in a Country Where They Are Illegal?

No, it is not safe to use a VPN in a country where they are illegal is not safe. We encourage users to always follow their local laws to avoid prosecution.

Can You Get In Trouble for Using a VPN Illegally?

Yes, you can get in trouble for using a VPN illegally. In the best case, you may receive a small fine or a warning. However, in the worst case, you can face hefty fines or jail time.

Is It Illegal to Use a VPN for Netflix?

No, using a VPN for Netflix is not illegal as long as you’re not breaking your country’s VPN laws. However, it is against Netflix’s terms of use - but there are no reports of accounts being banned/deleted because of VPNs.

Are VPNs Legal to Watch Foreign TV?

Yes, it is legal to watch foreign TV with VPNs. However, you may be breaking the terms of service of the particular streaming website.

Are VPNs Legal in The US?

Yes, VPNs are legal in the United States. However, you cannot use them for unlawful Internet activities, like copyright infringement, for example.

Are VPNs Legal in Russia?

VPNs are not legal in Russia, except for those that follow a legal framework given by the government. VPN providers must share user data and restrict certain websites/services. Using other VPNs is not allowed, and violations result in hefty fines.

Is VPN Legal in India?

Yes, VPNs are legal in India. However, the government has a history of enforcing restrictions on VPN providers, such as data logging and sharing.

We hope this article helped answer your questions about the legality of VPNs. If you have questions or remarks about any specific country, feel free to comment.

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