Can a felon get a passport? The short answer is yes, in many cases you’ll be able to get a passport without your felony causing any problems.
However, holding a passport does not mean that you’ll be admitted to the country you were hoping to travel to.
Having a felony conviction on your record can cause you all sorts of problems, and the ability to travel freely to any country you please is one of those problems.
Travel restrictions are a frequent concern for individuals charged with a felony, for felons serving a period of probation, parole, or supervision, and for felons who have completed all sentencing requirements.
In some cases, those travel restrictions can be permanent because the type of felony offense involved means that the government will refuse any new passport application.
Let’s get into some details.
Can A Felon Get A Passport in 2023?
As you’re probably aware, you need a U.S. passport to leave and enter the country. To obtain a passport, you need to make a passport application and pay a fee. The fee is non-refundable if your passport application is refused.
Your felony won’t automatically lead to your passport application being refused, though.
In most cases, a felony won’t impact your passport application at all. After submitting your application form and identity documents, and paying the relevant fee, you’ll receive your passport within the standard processing period.
However, a conviction for some felony offenses could lead to a refusal. There are also some non-felony offenses that will prevent you from obtaining a passport.
Reasons you could be refused a passport:
- Having a felony drug conviction (in some cases).
- Having a conviction for trafficking minors.
- Having a conviction for traveling internationally for the purposes of illicit sexual conduct.
- Being a registered sex offender.
- Being on parole or probation.
- Owing child support.
- Substantial unpaid federal taxes or federal loans.
- An outstanding arrest warrant.
- A court order declaring an individual incompetent or committing an individual to a mental institution.
Passport Eligibility With A Felony Drug Conviction
Can you get a passport if you have a felony drug conviction?
Under federal law 22 U.S. Code 2714, a passport will not be issued to an individual convicted of a felony federal or state drug offense, if that offense involved the use of a passport, or if the offense involved crossing an international border.
If you have a felony drug conviction of any kind, you should speak to a lawyer before you apply for your passport because this law has a fairly broad scope when it comes to passport applications.
Passport Eligibility With A Conviction For Trafficking Minors
Under the Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60, a passport will not be issued to an individual convicted of trafficking minors if that offense involved the use of a passport, or if the offense involved crossing an international border – 18 U.S.C 2423.
Passport Eligibility With A Conviction For Illicit Sexual Conduct
Under the Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60, a passport will not be issued to individuals with a conviction for engaging in illicit sexual conduct within the United States or in a foreign place – 18 U.S.C 2423.
Passport Eligibility As A Registered Sex Offender
Can you get a passport with a felony sexual offense?
Under 22 U.S. Code 212b, a passport will not be issued to a registered sex offender unless the passport contains a unique identifier. The unique identifier is a visual notice placed in a conspicuous location on the passport that identifies the passport holder as a registered sex offender.
Passport Eligibility While On Parole Or Probation
Can convicted felons get a passport while they’re still on parole or probation?
Your eligibility to obtain a passport while you’re completing a period of probation or parole will depend on whether a travel restriction is one of the conditions attached to your period of supervision.
The Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60 states that a passport may be refused to individuals subject to a probation or parole condition that forbids departure from the United States.
You’ll need to check your own conditions or contact your parole or probation officer to see if that restriction applies to you.
Passport Eligibility While Owing Child Support
If you owe child support of more than $2,500, you won’t be able to get a passport.
When child support arrears reach that level, your name will be added to a list maintained by the Department of Health & Human Services. As long as your name is on that list, you won’t be eligible for a passport.
To get your name removed from the list, you need to pay your child support arrears to the relevant state child support agency.
It can take 2 to 3 weeks after payment for your name to be removed from the list, so you’ll need to wait a little while after you clear the arrears before applying for your passport.
You should also be aware that failure to pay child support will result in a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge depending on the circumstances.
Passport Eligibility With Unpaid Federal Taxes or Loans
The Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60 states that a passport may be refused to individuals who have a seriously delinquent federal tax debt or an unpaid federal loan.
For a tax debt to be seriously delinquent for passport purposes, the amount that you owe must have been assessed and exceed $50,000.
Tax debts under this amount and tax debts that are being repaid with a payment plan will not affect your eligibility for a passport.
Unpaid federal loans are another non-felony barrier you could face when you apply for a passport. The loans in question concern:
- Emergency medical treatment
- Dietary supplements
- Emergency assistance
- Repatriation assistance or evacuation
Passport Eligibility With Outstanding Arrest Warrants
The Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60 lists the following reasons for denying a passport application where outstanding warrants are concerned.
- Being subject to the extradition request of a foreign government.
- Being subject to a subpoena for a federal prosecution for a felony, or grand jury investigation of a felony.
- Being the subject of a state or local arrest warrant for a felony.
Passport Eligibility Of Persons Declared Incompetent
The Federal Code of Regulations 22 CFR 51.60 states that a passport will not be issued to a person who has been committed to a mental institution following a court order, or who has been declared incompetent by a court.
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Can A Convicted Felon Get A Passport Returned?
Law enforcement officials sometimes request passport revocation in cases where they consider the defendant a flight risk.
If you have a passport that has been held by the authorities, you’ll be able to get it back once all of your sentence requirements have been fulfilled. If you’re on probation, you may be able to have your passport returned if your probation officer authorizes the early release of your passport.
Let’s run through the process.
To get your passport returned, you need to write a letter to the U.S. Department of State requesting its return.
Your letter must include:
- Your full name and date of birth
- Your social security number
- Your mailing address
- A contact phone number
- A copy of your valid, government-issued ID
- The name of the court or agency you surrendered your passport to
If you’re on probation or supervised release, you’ll need to obtain a letter from your probation officer authorizing the return of your passport. The letter must be on official letterhead and include the date on which your probation ends.
Send the letter to the following address:
- U.S. Department of State
- 44132 Mercure Circle
- P.O. Box 1234
- Sterling, VA 20166-1227
Can A Felon Get A Visa?
Even though most felons will be able to obtain a passport without any difficulty, being able to use that passport to travel to the country of your choice may not be so easy.
First some good news! Many countries allow U.S. passport holders to enter their territory and stay for a short period visa-free. The length of time you can stay without a visa will depend on the rules set by each country. Most countries only allow visa-free travel for non-work purposes, if you plan to work you’ll need to apply for a visa.
So, for the vast majority of countries, you’ll be able to go on vacation or visit family and friends without needing a visa.
If you need a visa to enter a country, the following countries will refuse to issue a visa if you have a felony conviction.
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- The United Kingdom
A felony conviction should not prevent you from obtaining a visa to travel to the following countries:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- The Dominican Republic
- The Philippines
Can A Felon Enter The European Union?
Currently, individuals who are entitled to visa-free access to the Schengen zone for up to 90 days can enter any EU member state even if they have a criminal record.
However, from 2023, the EU will introduce a new entry system called ETIAS.
Under ETIAS rules visitors to the EU must obtain a visa-waiver authorization prior to travel. The ETIAS authorization is an online system and once you have entered your details, your approval will only take a few minutes, although in select cases it could take 2 weeks.
Once approved, your authorization will be valid for 3 years and will allow you to visit any European nation for stays of up to 90 days.
The ETIAS application includes a section asking for details of any convictions for serious offenses, including (but not limited to) sexual offenses against children, murder, rape, terrorism, and offences involving trafficking in drugs or human beings.
There is an ETIAS processing fee which is non refundable. This fee is set at 7 euros (around $7).
How Can A Felon Obtain A Passport?
You apply for your passport in exactly the same way as everyone else. There isn’t any special procedure that a felon needs to follow, and you won’t have to provide any extra documents.
Unlike many countries that have moved to online passport applications, the U.S. still issues passports the old-fashioned, time-consuming way.
You’ll need to complete a passport application form and then go to a passport acceptance facility along with your form, identity documents, passport photo, and the passport fee.
Passport acceptance facilities are designated post offices, clerks of court, public libraries, and state, county, and municipal government offices. You can find your nearest location using the search facility at https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/
Passport Application Form
Filling out the application form is quick and easy. You can fill the form out online, or you can print a copy to fill out by hand. Even if you fill out your form online, you’ll still need to print the form and take it to the passport acceptance facility. There is no way to submit a passport application online.
To access the online form go to https://pptform.state.gov/passportwizardmain.aspx
To access a form you can print to fill out by hand, go to https://eforms.state.gov/Forms/ds11.pdf
If you don’t have access to a printer, you can obtain a passport application form from your local passport acceptance facility.
The form asks for your:
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Social security number
- Email address
- Contact number
- Other names – maiden name, previous married names, legal name change
- Parent’s names, date of birth and place of birth
- Marital status and the name of current or most recent spouse
- Occupation and employer
- Height, hair color, and eye color
- Emergency contact details
You must not sign the passport application form until the agent at the passport acceptance facility tells you to.
As part of your passport application, you need to submit your identity documents. The first document is your proof of United States Citizenship. This can be any of the following documents:
- Your U.S. birth certificate
- A valid U.S. passport (can be expired)
- Consular report of birth abroad
- Certification of birth abroad
- Certificate of naturalization or citizenship
The next document is proof of your identity. You will need to submit your original document along with a photocopy of the front and back sides. The ID must include a photo.
Acceptable forms of ID are:
- Driver’s license
- Previous or current U.S. passport
- Military ID card
- Federal, state, or city employee ID card
- Certificate of naturalization or citizenship
There is a multitude of requirements for passport photos. It’s best to use a passport photo service or go to a local photographer for your photo.
The basic requirements are:
- The photo background must be plain white or off-white.
- The photo must be printed on photo quality paper with a matt or gloss finish.
- The photo must be recent, taken within the last 6 months.
- The size must be 2 inches by 2 inches.
- The photo must be colored.
- Your head must face the camera, and your face must be in full view (your hair should not obscure your face).
- The size of your head on the photo must be 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the top of your head to the bottom of your chin.
- You cannot wear eyeglasses or head coverings.
- You can not wear a uniform of any kind, or clothing that looks like a uniform or camouflage.
Your passport application fee is non-refundable and must be paid when you submit your application. There are two parts to the fee. The actual passport application fee, and the execution fee payable to the acceptance facility.
The passport fee itself must be paid by check or money order made out to the U.S. Department of State.
A U.S. passport costs $130 and is valid for all international travel.
The execution fee may be paid in whatever way the acceptance facility specifies.
Quick Recap – Can I Get A Passport With A Felony?
Unless you were convicted of one of several specific felonies, you will be able to obtain a passport.
However, there are other reasons why you may not be eligible for a passport, and these include being on probation or parole and having outstanding arrest warrants.
You won’t need to go through any special passport application procedures or provide any information or documentation relating to your felony.
Once you have your passport, you’ll be able to visit many countries as a tourist because a huge number of countries allow U.S. passport holders to enter their territory for short stays visa-free.
If you need to apply for a visa for work, study, or family reunification, some countries will not issue visas to individuals with a felony conviction.
The European Union could also be a problem for travelers with a felony from 2023. Their new ETIAS system requires travelers to obtain entry authorization prior to departure from their home country, and criminal backgrounds will be checked.
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