Can Convicted Felons Get a Passport?

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After serving your time, it makes sense that you’d like to travel if you can afford it.  So, you start to plan your trip and then stop and think, “Wait a minute, can convicted felons get a passport?”

When you are convicted of a felony, you start to notice that many of the rights you previously took for granted have restrictions placed on them. For example, your voting rights and right to own a firearm are impacted.

However, when it comes to obtaining a passport, you can usually obtain the document unless you have been involved in international drug trafficking. In that case, you won’t be granted the privilege.  The laws for granting a Visa are more stringent as well.  In this blog post we will cover the following;

  • Why a Passport is Issued
  • Conducting Research before Traveling
  • Consider the Nature of Your Crime
  • Situations that Restrict A Passport Issuance
  • How to Apply for a Passport
  • Proving U.S. Citizenship

Note:  If you’re in a hurry to get your passport, you can visit our partner FastPort Passport.  They can expedite your passport as quickly as 24 hours, which is crazy considering that usually it takes at least 3-4 weeks.

Why A Passport is Issued

In order to fully understand you rights for obtaining a passport, it is helpful to define a passport and why it is used for traveling.

A passport basically serves as a worldwide identification card, which is mandated or standardized by various countries. Having a passport, though, does not mean that you can freely travel throughout the world, whether you are a felon or not.

Because a passport is fundamentally treated as a form of identification, you will not see many restrictions placed on its issuance. Naturally, there are some restrictions, but, in most instances, you won’t have too much difficulty trying to obtain one.

Conduct Some Research First

When a passport is issued by the U.S., the government is allowing you to leave the country. However, just because you can leave the country does not mean you can access the country you plan to visit.

Therefore, you need to conduct some research on the country you plan to visit and review their allowances and restrictions.

Consider the Nature of Your Crime

You will need to consider the nature of your crime before you apply for a passport.

For instance, if you were arrested and convicted for smuggling drugs in the U.S., many countries, such as Colombia, will not allow you to cross their borders. You can’t obtain a passport at all if you were convicted of international drug trafficking.

Situations that Restrict A Passport Issuance

Generally, there are three situations that keep felons from obtaining a U.S.-issued passport.

These situations include –

  • Having an outstanding warrant;
  • Being considered a risk to yourself and others overseas; and
  • Being considered a flight risk for a pending trial.

Other Disqualifications

Again, convicted international drug smugglers are not issued passports – you are automatically denied in this case. Certain other drug convictions will prevent you from obtaining the U.S.-issued I.D. as well.

If you have any unpaid federal loans, then you are not eligible for a passport nor will you obtain one if you owe child support and are currently involved in a case.

According to U.S. law 22 U.S.C. 2714, the Federal government will not issue a passport for a convicted felon who was convicted for trafficking drugs, whether it was a federal or state drug charge, and the crime was committed while crossing an international boundary. Any existing passport will also be revoked as well. This disqualification remains in effect during imprisonment and during parole.

The U.S. Secretary of State can also disqualify a convicted felon for a passport if the charge is a misdemeanor federal or state drug charge.

The only exception where issuance may be granted is a misdemeanor drug charge that involves the first offense possession of a controlled substance. Exceptions will be granted by the Secretary of State for humanitarian purposes as well.

Applying for the Passport

If you have not been convicted of an international drug smuggling charge, are not considered a potential flight risk, or a risk to yourself or others overseas, you can apply for a passport by first filling out Form DS-11, which is the Application for a U.S. Passport.

This process can either be done in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency. You can fill out the form online as well.

You can access the U.S. Department of State website to find out where you can obtain the application in your locale.  The site allows you to access the nearest location for applying for a passport.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Passport Services provides such agencies as post offices, public libraries, clerks of court and other governmental offices to accept applications on behalf of the State Department. In order to retrieve the information, you will need to enter the Zip Code or City and State or State. You can also access information about facilities that offer on-site photo I.D.s.

Once you start filling out the form, be as honest as possible. Doing so will streamline the processing and avoid any delays. You will need to include a citizen document as well.

This document can take the form of a copy of your birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, naturalization certificate or a consular report that shows you were born overseas. Also include a photo I.D., such as a current school I.D., military I.D. card or driver’s license.

Proving You Are a U.S. Citizen

To prove you are a U.S. citizen, you must show proof that you are a citizen of the U.S. Therefore, proof of citizenship is a key requirement. If you show evidence of your citizenship with a certified birth certificate, which has been issued by a U.S. city, state or country, the document must present your full name, place of birth and the date that you were born.

It should also show both of the parents’ full names. The document must display the date the form was filed, which must be within one year of the birth date. The document must also be signed by a registrar and show a multi-colored, embossed or impressed registrar seal.

Current passport holders who prove their citizenship with a passport must submit a passport that is still valid or unexpired. The document should not be damaged or otherwise invalid. Passport dates expire after five years for children or minors and 10 years for adults.

Other Acceptable Forms of Identification

If you do not have a birth certificate available, other acceptable proofs of U.S. citizenship include a letter-of-record, state issued, that shows your full name and birth date. The letter must indicate the number of years you conducted a search for a birth certificate but no proof of this type was found.  In addition, you must present public records that were, preferably, created within five years of your birth date. Acceptable recordings include:

  • Early school records
  • Consensus reports
  • Doctor’s or medical records
  • A birth certificate issued by the hospital
  • A Baptismal certificate

A Delayed Birth Certificate

If your birth certificate was delayed or not filed within a year of your birth date, it will still be accepted if it lists the documents used to create it and includes a signed affidavit by your birth parents.  The document can also include a signature of a birth attendant. A delayed birth certificate without these signatures may still be accepted if it is submitted with early public records.

A Birth Affidavit

A birth affidavit that has been notarized by someone who has direct knowledge of your birth may be accepted too. The signer should preferably be an older relative- someone who claims how he or she knows about the birth. Submit the affidavit with early public records.

Passport Pictures

You will need to have two passport pictures taken of yourself, presented in front of a white background. Each picture should be current within six months of the passport application and clearly display your face. Passport photos should be two inches on all sides. The photos and application should be presented to the nearest passport acceptance agent where you live.

Include Your Official Court Paperwork

You will also need to collect your official court paperwork to prove that you have satisfied the mandates of the court and you are no longer on parole or probation. While you may not need to present the documents, it is much easier to include them when you visit the passport agent to save any time or aggravation.

Use the above information to apply for a passport and make sure the I.D. will be accepted where you plan to travel. If a Visa is required, make sure that document will be accepted as well. Do your due diligence if you plan to travel any distance anywhere, if not you could end up getting stuck!

Question: Have you tried to get a passport before and been rejected?  What happened?  Tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

4 thoughts on “Can Convicted Felons Get a Passport?”

  1. This is good information, however this is not completely the case with sex offenders. Would be great if you could update with current information or is this current?


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