Are VPNs Legal? Where Are They Illegal?

We are reader supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more.

VPN users often ask themselves – are VPNs legal? Well, it depends on your location.

For example, using a VPN is legal in North America, the European Union, and Australia. Meanwhile, it’s restricted in China, India, and Russia.

And in some countries like Belarus and Turkmenistan, VPN use is completely illegal.

I researched the laws of different countries related to digital privacy to give you an overview of where VPNs are legal, restricted, or banned.

I also tried to answer the most common questions about what you can legally do with a VPN.

Want to learn how not to break the law with a VPN? Keep reading to find out!

Are VPNs Legal in the US?

Using a VPN is entirely legal in the US. There are no penalties for using VPN technology to secure your privacy or other lawful purposes.

However, it’s against the law to commit illegal activities on the Internet, such as theft of copyright, whether you’re using a VPN or not. Using a VPN in the US doesn’t absolve you of liability for such criminal acts.

Where Are VPNs Legal?

Here’s a list of countries and regions specifying where VPNs are legal, restricted and full-on banned.

us flag

United States

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
Best VPN for the UK

United Kingdom

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
Best VPN for Canada

Canada

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
european union flag

European Union

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
Best VPN for Australia

Australia

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
brazil flag

Brazil

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
mexico flag

Mexico

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
china flag

China

  • Specifics: Only government-approved VPNs can be used. Accessing foreign Internet without the government’s permission is illegal.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: To block access to unauthorized apps and websites.
india flag

India

  • Specifics: It’s legal to use a VPN, but new rules would require VPNs to keep logs.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Prevention of data breaches.
russia flag with border

Russia

  • Specifics: No restriction on natural persons using VPN. VPNs must cooperate with the government and block access to banned websites.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: To restrict access to “fake” information and information contradicting the government’s official positions.
belarus flag

Belarus

  • Specifics: ISPs banned from providing access to any anonymizing technology, including VPNs.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Censoring opposition websites and resources.
turkey flag

Turkey

uae flag

UAE

  • Specifics: The law penalizes whoever has used a VPN to commit a crime.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Prevention of crime.
iran flag

Iran

  • Specifics: Only government-approved VPNs are allowed. It’s not allowed to use VPNs to access banned information.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Control of information people can access and blockage of “inappropriate content.”
north korea flag

North Korea

  • Specifics: DPRK restricts Internet access by having its own network (Intranet), where VPNs aren’t allowed.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Societal and governmental structure doesn’t allow outside influence.
turkmenistan flag

Turkmenistan

  • Specifics: The country’s sole Internet service provider blocks VPNs. The Internet is too slow and expensive for them.
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: Control of information flow.
venezuela flag

Venezuela

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
south africa flag

South Africa

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A
kazakhstan flag

Kazakhstan

  • Specifics: Legal to use a VPN
  • Grounds for VPN restrictions: N/A

As you can see, VPN services are legal in most of the world.

Even where they’re restricted, there’s mostly no outright ban on VPN use, just certain caveats related to Internet censorship.

In countries where only some VPNs are restricted, such as Russia and Turkey, we recommend using no-log VPNs that haven’t been banned, like CyberGhost or Surfshark.

Penalties for Using a VPN

A good VPN won’t keep logs of you using it. Ideally, it’ll also hide that you’re using a VPN from your ISP via obfuscated servers, like NordVPN.

However, if the authorities establish you’ve been using a VPN for illegal activities like copyright theft, you might be at risk of civil penalties.

If you’re using a VPN in a country where it’s restricted or illegal, here are some penalties (criminal or otherwise) that you may incur:

Belarus

In Belarus, you could get an unspecified fine for using a VPN.

Though, to date, none have been issued or disclosed. The ban on VPNs is regulated by the Decree of the Ministry of Communications of the Republic of Belarus 8/10/6 03.10.2018 “On approval of the Regulations on the procedure for restricting (resuming) access to an Internet resource.”

The UAE

It’s illegal for individuals to use a VPN in the UAE. Such use is punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of not less than AED 500,000 and not more than AED 2,000,000. This is regulated by Article 9 of the Federal Decree-Law No. 5/2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes (as amended by Federal Law No. 12/2016).

Iran

The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have special safeguards in place for specific online tools. These safeguards are intended to block VPNs, amongst other tools from the “Western Internet.”

China

The penalties for using a VPN in China are a warning and a fine of no more than 15,000 yuan, as per Articles 6 and 14 of the Provisional Regulations Of The People’s Republic Of China On The Management of International Networking Of Computer Information Networks.

china article 6 vpn penalty
china article 14 vpn penalty

Turkmenistan

The nation of Turkmenistan bans VPNs. In fact, it makes Internet users swear on the Quran that they won’t use a VPN. It also issues warnings and threats of criminal liability. This is regulated by the Republic’s Law on Cybersecurity dated 06.09.2019.

Is Torrenting Legal With a VPN?

torrenting with vpn expressvpn

No, using BitTorrent technology with a VPN is not illegal (unless you’re in countries where general usage of a VPN is restricted).

However, it’s illegal to download copyrighted materials with or without a VPN without the owner’s consent. For instance, if you use qBittorrent to download a popular Netflix show, you’re at risk of getting a copyright violation.

Using a VPN doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for an illegal act!

Is it Legal to Stream With a VPN?

There is no law in the USA and most countries that stops you from streaming with a VPN. The only exceptions are countries where VPNs are banned altogether, like Belarus or the UAE.

 However, some streaming services have terms and conditions that prohibit VPNs. For example, Hulu asks that you disable VPNs or proxy servers to stream its content.

hulu anonymous proxy

If a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix detects that you have a VPN connection turned on, it’ll likely give you an error message and block your VPN IP from viewing its content. For that reason, we recommend VPNs like NordVPN that work with most streaming platforms.

Is Accessing Blocked Content Legal With a VPN?

It’s not illegal to access blocked content with a VPN.

For instance, Russian laws don’t punish VPN users for accessing Facebook and Instagram, which were recently blocked in the country, even though Meta has been deemed an extremist organization.

However, it’s illegal to order any services from Meta, such as Instagram ads.

Using a VPN to do that doesn’t absolve Russian users of responsibility.

There’s also a difference between accessing geo-blocked and unlawful content.

For instance, accessing the dark web to purchase illegal goods is still illegal, even with a VPN.

The rule of thumb is that if accessing specific resources and monetizing them is illegal, it’s unlawful whether you’re using a VPN or not.

What’s Illegal to Do With a VPN?

Using a VPN to commit illegal activities doesn’t suddenly make them legal. With or without a VPN, you cannot

  • Steal copyrighted works.
  • Send abusive messages to people or leak their personal information without their consent.
  • Stalk people.
  • Use the Dark Web to trade illegal goods and pornography.
  • Buy or sell counterfeit goods on any website.
  • Access unlawful content (in some countries).
  • Commit any other criminal acts.

FAQ

VPNs that are cooperating with the Chinese government are legal in China.

It’s illegal to bypass the Great Firewall and access the Western Internet with a VPN that hasn’t been approved by them. To date, they’ve blocked most VPNs in the region.

Therefore, VPN use in China is only legal if you use a VPN approved by the authorities. Therefore, consider a VPN that offers obfuscated servers, like NordVPN.

It’s not illegal to use a VPN in Russia (unless expressly banned).

However, some laws require VPN providers to work with the government and connect to the registry of websites banned in the country.

Some providers like Kaspersky VPN have agreed to comply.

Others, such as VyprVPN and ExpressVPN, were banned by the Russian government for refusing to cooperate. However, they still work on Russian territory, as they don’t have Russian servers, so you can still use them in Russia.

There are no local laws in the UK that restrict the use of VPNs.

However, like in other countries, it’s unlawful in the UK to commit crimes on the Internet, such as buying or selling illegal drugs. Moreover, it’s against most VPNs’ terms and conditions.

It’s not against the law to stream Netflix with a VPN unless you’re in a country where VPNs are illegal.

However, Netflix can sometimes detect that you’re using a VPN to circumvent the platform’s geographical restrictions. If that’s detected, you might get an error and not be able to stream content from another country.

For that reason, we recommend VPNs that can bypass such restrictions, like CyberGhost.

Conclusion

So, are VPNs legal?

In the majority of the world, yes.

There are some countries like Russia, Turkey, and India, where VPNs are subject to restrictions. In such countries, Internet users aren’t penalized for using a VPN.

However, there are also countries like Belarus, Iran, the UAE, and Turkmenistan where using a VPN is against the law and can get you in trouble.

In those cases, we recommend using a VPN with obfuscated servers like NordVPN.

help us to Spread the word
Share This Article!

Please help us spread the word by sharing this article and telling your family, friends, and colleagues.

Share
Share
Explore More

The Big Brother Is Watching You .

help us to Spread the word and create more awareness about the increasing invasion of privacy.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email