Can a Felon Get a U.S. Passport?

Can a Felon Get a U.S. Passport?

Generally speaking, if you are a U.S. citizen, you are allowed to get a passport so that it can serve as international identification allowing you to freely depart from and return to your country.

However, obtaining a U.S. passport is not a right, but a privilege and the government may deny you this document for a number of reasons. One of them may be unpaid child support or taxes, another being a minor who does not have parental consent to possess travel documents. But can a felon get a U.S. passport? When it comes to your criminal history, there are two significant cases that will impact your ability to successfully apply for a U.S. passport and they both concern felonies.

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I am a convicted felon – can I get a passport and travel?

It depends on the type of felony you have committed. Most convicted felons and ex-felons can get a passport. However, even if you are issued a passport, it does not mean that you will be able to travel anywhere you wish. Many countries refuse to let convicted felons enter their borders, both for public safety and for political reasons.

So, if you’re featured in the crime register, you may have problems obtaining a visa to some countries. If you plan to travel overseas, you should check the list of felon-friendly countries as well as those that don’t allow felons to cross their borders.

Find out more about passports from these articles:

Felonies that affect your ability to get a U.S. passport

Being convicted of one of the following federal drug charges will serve as a basis for passport denial:

  • international drug trafficking
  • distribution of drugs and/or controlled substances.

Felony drug convictions are a significant obstacle to getting a passport. The above 2 (two) types of drug offenses will  void your passport application.

If you engaged in international cross-border drug trafficking and were arrested and convicted for it, you will be ineligible for a passport under federal law 22 U.S.C. 2714, because you used your passport to commit the crime.

A conviction for possession of a controlled substance, however, cannot serve as a basis for denial. Also, if a person is awaiting trial, is on probation or parole, or is in any other way banned from leaving the country, they cannot obtain a passport.

Other instances that affect your ability to get a U.S. passport

Though the following don’t fall into the category of felonies, they may also affect your eligibility to obtain a U.S. passport:

  • the misdemeanor of owing more than $2,500 in child support;
  • unpaid federal loans or taxes;
  • not having parental consent to get a passport (if you’re a minor).

Confiscation – can a felon get their passport back?

The court can take away a valid passport of a person suspected in a criminal case even if it was obtained before the crime was committed. The Secretary of State can also cancel a passport, even if it is not confiscated, to discourage a felon from fleeing to a country that does not have extradition agreements with the U.S. In such a case you cannot apply for a new passport till the end of criminal proceedings.

As long as you are not convicted for a crime involving trafficking drugs internationally and/or drug distribution, you have the right to apply for a new document after serving your sentence. However, it doesn’t mean that every foreign country will automatically accept your passport knowing your status as a convicted felon.

Where can a felon obtain a U.S. passport?

Like every other citizen, you need to complete an application form online or in-person at one of the U.S. passport offices such as a Passport Agency or Passport Acceptance Facility. The same rule applies if you want to renew an expired passport or replace a stolen or lost one.

Which documents are required from a felon to get a U.S. passport?

Like everybody else, you must provide the following documents:

  • documentation that proves your identity, for example, a birth certificate;
  • a verified passport;
  • naturalization certificate and certificate of citizenship, or a consular report of birth abroad;
  • court documents to show you are no longer on probation or parole (you cannot get a passport on probation or parole);
  • 2 (two) passport photos.

U.S. passport photos

Remember that a U.S. passport photo must meet specific requirements to be accepted by the government. These requirements are set forth by the U.S. Department of State and concern size, resolution, facial expression, background, head position, and more.

Now you can take your passport picture at home, even with your Android smartphone, using our online passport photo tool. This photo service will get you your passport photos in no time without even having to leave your home. All you have to do is upload an image of yourself that you think is suitable to be used as a U.S. passport photo and have our AI system verify it for you.

The photo verification process also involves confirmation by a human expert, so the likelihood that your pictures will be approved by the U.S. passport services is extremely high, as Passport Photo Online prides itself in an almost 100% acceptance rate.

Can a felon get a U.S. passport – final remarks

As you can see, not every person with a felony record is automatically disqualified from getting a U.S. passport. In the case of felonies and misdemeanors, your application may only be denied as a result of certain drug-related history or outstanding child support that exceeds $2,500.

If you’ve had a felony conviction in the past and want to travel overseas, the first step is to make sure that you have no criminal record with international drug trafficking and distribution of controlled substances. If not, you can apply for your traveling documents.

Can a felon get a U.S. passport: FAQ

Can a felon get a passport?

In most cases, a felon can get a passport on the condition they are not awaiting trial, on probation or parole, or otherwise prohibited from leaving the country. That said, many countries refuse to let convicted felons in due to public safety and/or political concerns.

What felonies can prevent you from getting a passport?

Under federal law 22 U.S.C. 2714, drug-related felonies as well as some drug-related misdemeanors will cause you to be ineligible to receive a U.S. passport.

Can a felon have their passport confiscated?

The court may revoke the passport of a person suspected in a criminal case if they are a flight risk, have an outstanding felony arrest warrant or a court order that prevents them from leaving the country, or if they are a convicted international drug trafficker.

Can felons leave the country?

Generally speaking, yes. Anyone with a valid passport can use it to travel internationally. Be sure to get permission to travel from your parole officer, caseworker or probation officer first, though, so you don’t risk being revoked. And be aware that some countries may not accept passports from convicted felons; felons may be denied boarding by the airline, or refused entry by immigration officials.

Can you get a passport on probation?

Yes you can, unless your judge or probation officer objects for some reason. The most common reasons are if they consider you a flight risk, or if you’re convicted of international drug trafficking.

Can you get a passport with a criminal record?

It depends on the nature of the charges. If it’s just misdemeanors, you are probably okay. If it’s drug-related charges, those can act as a major hindrance to obtaining a passport.

Can you get a passport with a misdemeanor?

Yes; in fact it should be no problem. It’s only certain drug-related charges that act as a major hindrance to obtaining a passport.

Can a felon get a passport to Jamaica?

If you have a valid U.S. passport, you can visit Jamaica for up to 90 (ninety) days even if you have a felony conviction. However, it is important to get permission from your probation officer or parole officer to leave your home jurisdiction. Traveling without permission, especially internationally, can lead to revocation of parole or probation.

Can a felon travel to the Bahamas?

Yes. The Bahama immigration form does not ask about convictions. Once again, however, be sure to get permission from your probation officer or parole officer to leave your home jurisdiction. Traveling internationally without permission can lead to revocation of your probation or parole.

Can a person with a felony conviction get a passport to go on a cruise?

Typically, yes. In the case of closed-loop cruises, you may not even need a passport. Be sure to get permission to travel from your case officer. Most felons can apply for a U.S. passport without any obstacles. It’s felony drug convictions that act as a major hindrance to obtaining a passport.

Can you travel to Mexico with drug conviction?

Probably, yes. Mexico does not require a visa and they do not ask about a criminal record. They will deny you entry if you’ve been convicted of drug trafficking, murder, or terrorism. Be sure to get permission to travel from your case officer.

Can you travel to Italy if you have a criminal record?

Travelers to Europe and Italy are currently not asked about minor offenses, especially in the Schengen passport-free zone. Those who have served more than 3 (three) years of jail time or have been convicted of human trafficking or drug offenses are likely to be refused entry.

If you owe taxes can you still get a passport?

Yes, you can. It helps if your tax burden is not seriously delinquent and if you’ve worked out a payment plan with the IRS; in such cases you may be considered a flight risk, and the IRS can ask the State Department to cancel your passport.


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