Are VPNs Legal?: Your Worldwide Guide for 2024

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Jalluri Sirisha
Written by
Jalluri Sirisha

Updated · Jan 02, 2024

Jalluri Sirisha
Computer Networks Expert, VPN Expert | Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Jalluri Sirisha

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Virtual Private Network or a VPN is a tool that users use for various reasons. Research shows that 31% of internet users worldwide have used VPNs for secure browsing, gaming, accessing content, and more. 

The primary purpose of a VPN is to protect users by encrypting and protecting the personal data of users. A VPN does this by switching IP addresses to a server from the same or different country.

In terms of VPN's legality, it varies from different places. Some countries consider VPNs legal, but some countries entirely ban their use. Learn which countries consider this tool illegal and walk through the legality of VPNs in different countries.

Key Takeaways

  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) encrypt networks to protect confidential data. 
  • Most countries allow VPN usage to safeguard users' network data. 
  • China only allows VPNs for business purposes. 
  • In some countries, VPNs can be legal yet heavily restricted. 
  • North Korea banned all social media platforms, including VPN service providers, to avoid confidential data leakage. 
  • The government uses deep packet inspection (DPI) to examine all the traffic of the user's network. 

Legality of VPNs

VPN services are legal in almost every country, including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe. However, it is still punishable if you do something illegal while using a VPN. These activities include hacking, accessing unlawful content, etc.

Using a VPN can also breach the terms of service of geo-restricted websites and applications you unblock from abroad. Still, these depend on the country, the website being accessed, and the level of security your VPN uses. 

🎉Fun Fact

Indonesia holds the record for having the most VPN users worldwide. The Global Web Index shows 61% of the country’s population uses VPNs. 

On the other hand, VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. VPN services are heavily restricted in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

Here are some of them:

Legal but Requires Government Approval

Legal but Heavily Restricted

VPNs are Illegal 

  • Oman
  • Turkey
  • China
  • Russia
  • UAE
  • North Korea
  • Belarus
  • Iran

Countries Where VPNs are Illegal

Different jurisdictions see VPN usage differently, too. Some consider them helpful, but others perceive them as a threat. 

The table below illustrates the status of VPNs in various nations and the penalties once a user violates this law:


VPN Legal Status



VPNs have been illegal in this country since 2015. 

The government may fine violators with an unspecified amount. 


Heavily restricted

Usage of unauthorized VPNs has fines of 15,000 yuan (estimated $2,057)


Only permitted VPNs are legal

The penalty is up to 1 year of prison time. 

North Korea

VPNs are entirely illegal. 

Violators may get severe punishment, including imprisonment. 


Only government-approved VPNs are legal.

The fine for using an unapproved VPN is $5,100 for the user and $12,00 for the service provider. 


VPNs are only legal when the Sultanate approves it

It is punishable by a $1,300 fine. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Only government-approved VPNs are permitted here. 

It can be punishable by prison time or a fine between $41,000 to $136,000.


Since 2015, the Belarusian government wanted to block VPNs that anonymize internet usage. This ban aims to forbid the freedom of speech and expression within the country. 


There is no clear-cut law on the ban on VPNs in China. Using a VPN within the country is legal but heavily restricted. Certain VPN providers must get the government's approval to work within the country. Despite this, the Chinese government still acknowledges VPNs as useful for business purposes.


According to Iran’s Computer Crimes Law, any sites that contain immoral content or information against Islam are blocked. Internet censorship in Iran is severe, with the country banning most social media sites and platforms. Other websites the government has banned include:

  • File hosting sites
  • News sites
  • Messaging platforms
  • Blog hosting
  • Entertainment platforms
  • Software development and programming
  • Sexual and pornographic content

A VPN can bypass these blocked sites, prompting the country to elicit a ban on VPN usage within the country. 

North Korea

North Korea is known for its strict policy, especially for internet usage. This country does not allow any access to foreign media, making VPNs illegal within the country. Despite this, high-ranking officials and elite members of North Korean society can access the internet.

💡Did You Know?

North Korea has its own intranet called Kwangmyong. This intranet is a state-controlled network and is separate from the global internet. 

Additionally, if North Koreans were to use devices to access the internet, they have their brand of tablets called Ullim. This Android-based tablet has built-in surveillance and controls to prevent users from accessing blocked content.


Since the advent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country has started banning and sanctioning free speech. This ban makes it hard for Russians to access information within the country. They have also prohibited websites that contain blocked information or “unlawful content.”

The ban also prevented some VPN services from providing servers to Russia. However, the country allows government-approved VPNs, making it legal. The penalty for using unapproved VPNs is $5,100 for the user and $12,000 for the service provider

✅Pro Tip:

Here are some of the government-approved VPNs in Russia.

  • NordVPN: It has fast servers and can be accessed on geo-blocked sites. 
  • Hotspot Shield: This VPN offers fast speeds and is available in Russia. 
  • CyberGhost: One of Russia's few VPN servers that is strong and has privacy. 


Like Russia, the Omani government legalizes the use of VPNs, but only for government-approved VPN providers. Also, if a VPN provider aims to provide services to Oman, they are required to seek the approval of the Sultanate.

When caught trying to use an unauthorized VPN, it is punishable by a penalty of $1,300 or can be prison time. 

United Arab Emirates 

Using a VPN in the UAE is not illegal. However, if it violates the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), users may be fined $136,000 to $545,000 or imprisoned.

The TDRA states that accessing or bypassing blocked, banned, and illegal content through VPN servers is considered illegal within the country. Another cause for its violation is accessing illegal communication services.

How Anti-VPN Policies are Enforced

The government can manipulate VPN access, block them, and use anti-VPN tracking systems to prevent suspicious connections. They can also monitor citizens' online activity, request information from ISPs, and potentially catch users downloading illegal VPNs. 

Here are some ways the government blocks VPN services. 

  • Blacklisting all the IP addresses of the VPN service provider.
  • Conducting Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to examine all the traffic on the user’s network. 
  • Implementing legal restrictions and penalties to prevent VPN usage.
  • Blocking VPN services through monitoring individuals with advanced surveillance tools.
  • Adding firewalls to enable them to detect and block several VPN providers.

Continue to read about what to remember when using a VPN while traveling in other countries. 

Things to Remember When Using VPN in Other Countries

Users must be careful when accessing the internet in different countries as they might violate policies or laws. The same goes for using a VPN to access content they usually view in their home country.

Here are some helpful tips when using VPNs in other countries: 

Tip #1: Research before traveling to other countries

To ensure proper VPN usage, research the destination's VPN laws and regulations and ensure you understand how to use it correctly. Some countries may penalize users for VPN usage, so conducting thorough research can help avoid such offenses.

Tip #2: Install a travel-friendly VPN app

When traveling, ensure a travel-friendly VPN offers access to various countries. Research the VPN's usage and description before installing it to ensure it will function effectively in the destination. Also, ensure the VPN is suitable for the specific location you're visiting.

Tip #3: Change your VPN’s server location

In some countries, specific IP addresses of VPNs may be blocked. To resolve this, log in to your VPN app, select a different location, and connect to the new server to continue using it.

Final Thoughts

VPNs are encrypted networks that make user activity anonymous and are legal in most countries. However, some countries restrict VPN use to prevent users from accessing the dark web or illegal sites.

Using a VPN as an individual is essential as it provides you with ample security from malicious hosts. Still, if you are traveling to different countries, it is necessary to check if it is legal in this place.


Can I get caught with a VPN?

The government can request users’ information and activity history from the service provider. With this, you can get caught with a VPN. 

What happens if a VPN is banned?

You cannot use a VPN if it is banned in the country you are in. When users get caught, they can get fined or face prison. 

Can a VPN hide my location?

VPN can hide your physical location from the website you visited. However, you can’t hide it from the internet service provider. 


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