Hand holding a gavel above a wooden base

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the best tool for securing your data and privacy online. It changes your IP (Internet Protocol) address and encrypts all traffic to keep you safe. While it is a legal tool in most of the world and is used by millions every day, some countries have restricted or outright banned VPN use.

But why do oppressive governments aim to regulate VPN use? And are you 100% in the safe zone if you don’t reside in one of these countries? Let’s get cracking.

Disclaimer: This article is based on information that is freely accessible online. It is not legal advice and should be read for informational purposes only.

Table of contents

    Is it legal to use a VPN?

    Yes, it is perfectly legal to use a VPN almost everywhere. There are no restrictions to using a VPN in the US, the UK, Canada, and most of Europe, where it plays a crucial role in the privacy and security of internet users. VPN use is only restricted in countries with generally oppressive censorship of their people.

    The likes of Belarus and North Korea have completely banned VPNs, and some other countries, such as India, China, and Russia, have restricted their use.

    Disclaimer: Please note that using Surfshark services for any illegal activities is strictly forbidden and constitutes a violation of our Terms of Service. Make sure that any use of Surfshark services for your particular activities conforms to all relevant laws and regulations, including those of any service providers and websites you access using Surfshark.

    Where is it illegal to use a VPN?

    While most of the world enjoys easy access to VPNs, a handful of countries have made VPNs illegal or at least restricted.

    I’ve provided a table with the said countries and their current VPN status below. Looking at it, it’s no surprise that already oppressive regimes are the ones that impose these restrictions.

    Unfortunately, restricting freedom of speech is nothing new for some countries, be it via banning social media platforms or news outlets (usually associated with Western media). Since VPN services protect the fundamental human right to privacy, authoritarian regimes waste no time jumping on that as well.

    China allows VPN providers to operate as long as they cooperate with the state, which defeats the purpose of using a VPN to bypass the Great Firewall.
    Heavily restricted
    In 2017, Russia passed a law demanding that VPNs and proxies ban access to sites banned by the Russian government, ostensibly to stop piracy. If the VPN provider doesn’t comply, they get banned in Russia.
    The UAE
    Heavily restricted
    Freedom House scores UAE 17/100 on internet freedom, part of which is the country’s heavily regulated and fined laws on VPN use.
    Belarus started blocking Tor and VPNs back in 2015, and the recent upheaval over fraudulent elections keeps the regime motivated to maintain the block.
    Initially, Iraq banned or blocked VPN use to fight ISIS, but the restrictions haven’t eased yet.
    North Korea
    While North Korea has its own intranet and uses regular internet to evade financial sanctions, one of the most totalitarian countries is unsurprisingly hostile to VPNs.
    Heavily restricted
    In theory, VPNs are not illegal in Oman. But the law says you need government permission to access any encrypted part of the internet. So you can’t use a VPN without government permission.
    One of the most authoritarian countries in the world, Turkmenistan, makes internet users swear on the Quran (yep) that they won’t be using a VPN. The goal is to stop locals from accessing information the state finds undesirable.
    Iran has had a rocky history when it comes to internet freedom. To control access to foreign websites and services, a proposed piece of legislation to ban VPNs (among other things) has been under deliberations for four years now.
    Heavily restricted
    Uganda started blocking VPN providers because citizens use the service to bypass the OTT tax, commonly called the “social media tax.”
    VPNs are legal in India, but their new data law requires VPN providers to keep customer data. This means that user privacy is highly restricted.
    Using a VPN is legal in Venezuela, but the country has many internet restrictions. A VPN is the best option to bypass them for now, although there were attempts to limit VPN usage in the past.
    Heavily restricted
    Using a VPN in Egypt is legal, but internet use is heavily restricted. Attempts to access blocked content with a VPN may lead to jail time.
    Choose protection you can trust
    Exercise your right to online privacy now

    What’s the situation with Russia and VPNs?

    As of writing this piece, the war hasn’t changed the legislative status of a VPN in Russia: it’s legal to use a VPN that adheres to the demands of the state. However, right from the start of the war, many people have downloaded VPNs illegally to look beyond the iron curtain of censorship. 

    The Internet Protection Society even managed to launch its own VPN services in Russia. They did so in support of Alexei Navalny (anti-corruption activist) and to fight for internet freedom, even if such an act is deemed illegal by the Kremlin. 

    In a further attempt to fight VPN use, Russia plans to block VPN services starting on March 1, 2024. If this ban goes into effect as intended, it will make it even harder for people in Russia to fight the oppressive government censorship of the internet.

    Is it legal to use a VPN in India?

    Using a VPN in India is perfectly legal, but there is a huge caveat attached to it. As of April 2022, India requires all VPNs to keep user data for 5 years. This includes usernames, phone numbers, and even activity logs.

    In other words, you can use an Indian-based VPN, but your privacy is restricted, and your actions online are being monitored.

    Maintaining a no-logs policy, an integral part of any good VPN, is impossible under current legislation. As a result, most VPN service providers moved their physical servers out of India.

    With that said, some no-logs VPN services, such as Surfshark, offer virtual servers in India, which allows you to get an Indian IP address while using a VPN that doesn’t collect or store data about your activity.

    Can you get caught using a VPN?

    Yes, you can. A VPN encrypts data but doesn’t hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. With a VPN, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can’t see what you’re doing online, but it can see that your data is encrypted by a VPN. If VPN use is illegal in a certain country, an ISP may send this information to the authorities.

    To solve this issue, Surfshark offers obfuscated servers. By connecting to one of such servers, you hide the fact that you’re using a VPN on top of protecting your activity. Shortly put, obfuscation makes the encrypted data you’re emitting seem like it’s normal and not encrypted. In doing so, you become invisible to Big Brother.

    Use a VPN that’s invisible to ISPs
    Protect your privacy with obfuscated servers

    What could happen if you used a VPN illegally?

    The punishments for the illegal use of VPNs vary significantly. In some cases, you can lose your internet connection or receive a fine. In the most extreme cases, using a VPN in a country where it is banned can lead to jail time.

    Therefore, you should only use a VPN where it is legal to do so and only partake in legal activities while using the service.

    Why do people question VPNs?

    Unfortunately, VPNs are sometimes seen as unreliable or not trustworthy. This reputation is brought upon by the dangerous activities of free VPN providers.

    Free VPNs aren’t safe and have been known to sell data to third parties, track your activity online, and even install malware on your devices. As a result, all VPN providers get a bad rep for things done by a select few.

    Premium VPN providers such as Surfshark go above and beyond to secure your data and privacy online. This is further ensured by various audits and no-logs policies.

    The takeaway: are VPNs legal? Yes, almost everywhere

    While some countries restrict or even block VPNs, they are perfectly legal in most of the world. VPNs play an essential role in ensuring digital security and privacy. So if it’s legal to use a VPN in your country, but you’re not doing that already, why not give Surfshark a try?

    Stay safe and private online
    Choose a secure and affordable VPN solution


    Why are VPNs restricted in some countries? 

    VPNs give you freedom and privacy online, and these are things that some governments are trying to limit. As a result, VPN use is restricted or outright banned in countries that restrict the freedom of their citizens.

    Is it illegal to use a VPN for Netflix?

    Using a VPN with Netflix is legal as long as you’re watching your country’s library. However, using it to access libraries outside of your country is against the service’s terms and conditions.

    Disclaimer: Please note that using Surfshark services for any illegal activities is strictly forbidden and constitutes a violation of our Terms of Service. Make sure that any use of Surfshark services for your particular activities conforms to all relevant laws and regulations, including those of any service providers and websites you access using Surfshark.

    Are VPNs legal in China?

    Yes, VPNs in China are legal, but they are heavily restricted. Any VPN operating in China must cooperate with the government, which means they have to collect and store user activity data. As a result, the Great Firewall of China tries to restrict VPNs with no-logs policies, such as Surfshark.

    Are VPNs legal in the UK?

    Yes, using a VPN in the UK is legal. No VPN laws ban or restrict the use of a VPN in the UK. A VPN does not make you invincible, though, so you still need to comply with the law and the terms and conditions of your service providers.

    Is it legal to watch foreign TV with a VPN?

    There is nothing illegal about using a VPN to watch foreign TV. But it may be against the Terms of Service of the platform you’re trying to stream, in which case, your accounts may be restricted. 

    Is it legal to use Binance with a VPN?

    Yes, using Binance with a VPN is legal. But keep in mind that Binance is banned in the US, and using a VPN to access it in the United States is against the Terms of Service. So while it is not illegal, your account can be banned if you don’t follow the ToS.

    Can you get in trouble for using a VPN?

    In general, you won’t get in trouble for using a VPN as long as you don’t do anything illegal while using it. That said, some countries, such as Belarus, Iraq, and North Korea, have banned the use of VPNs. Simply using a VPN in these countries may lead to trouble.

    Are VPNs safe to use?

    Yes, VPNs are definitely safe to use. It is one of the best tools for protecting your data and privacy online. Some countries with heavy internet restrictions ban VPNs, so although it is safe, using a VPN is not legal in a few countries in the world.

    Are VPNs legal for streaming?

    Whether or not using a VPN for streaming is legal depends solely on the streaming platform you’re using. Most streaming platforms don’t want users to circumvent their location because they have region-restricted licensing agreements. As a result, using a VPN to change location will be against the ToS of most streaming services.