It is possible to get a passport with a felony. You need to understand that a felony does not automatically make you illegible for getting a passport. Nonetheless, certain felonies, including drug convictions, will disqualify you from getting passports.
Other felony offenses that may keep you from getting a passport are unpaid federal taxes, child support, or federal loans.
Generally, a felony on your record has a gross effect in many ways. Apart from its effects on getting employment, it can prevent you from obtaining a passport. So, do you have any positive chances of traveling abroad if you have a felony? Perhaps, you do.
A felony charge affects your passport application
To travel abroad, you need a passport and you must apply for it in advance. Depending on the country, your passport may require up to 6-month validity before your entry is approved.
Generally, a passport application will typically go smoothly if you have no criminal record, but not always the case – no guarantees. If you have felony charges, it can be challenging to obtain a passport.
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Note that felony charges do not mandatorily stop you from getting a passport. However, the kind of felon on your record determines your chances. While some felony conviction cases will get you a U.S. passport, some others won’t.
What if you already served your time? If you have a prior felon conviction, you are eligible, but not guaranteed a passport.
Suppose you were a smuggler. If you got off the conviction for some reason, they’re not going to just say you can travel internationally. The federal code allows the government to deny a passport if the Secretary of State determines that your travel abroad is causing or will likely cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the country.
When you get a passport and travel, the U.S. is responsible for you. Anything that happens could become an international crisis.
So, if you have the kind of felony that does not prevent you from obtaining your travel document, your passport will be approved.
How to get a passport with a felony
If you find it difficult to get a passport as a convicted felon, consider the following:
1. Expunge your conviction
A felony conviction will stay on your criminal record for life. However, you can remove it through expungement. You just have to meet state-specific criteria before petitioning the court to expunge a felony.
You will typically file the petition in the same court where the criminal case occurred. Depending on your state, information like a certified copy of your criminal record may be required.
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In most states, once a felony is expunged, it is no longer in the public record. Therefore, you are no longer required to report the charge or conviction on your applications.
There are limitations to a felony expungement though. For instance, law enforcement agencies can still see your expunged records. Now, your state may also allow both courts and law enforcement to consider expunged charges if that impact your sentencing in a future criminal case.
2. Obtain court proof that you’re not on probation
You need to obtain official court documents proving that you are no longer on probation or parole. This proof helps to save time and keeps you from going back and forth while submitting your paperwork.
3. Complete form DS-11
If you are a convicted felon, you need to complete form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport online or in person as a first-time applicant. This form is typically designed for people whose passports expired more than 15 years ago.
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But for passports you have to renew that expired less than 15 years ago, you need to complete Form DS-82 (Renewal Application). If your passport was lost or stolen, you need to complete Form DS-64 to get a passport.
Go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/forms.html, the U.S. Department of State website for your passport forms.
4. Be honest
You need to be honest during the passport application process. Make sure to complete the form entirely to avoid any delays over missing information.
5. Bring your means of identification
For your passport application as a felon, you need to bring a copy of your photo identification such as a current school card, driver’s license, or military ID card. You must also provide proof of your citizenship using your certificate of citizenship, a previous passport, a certified copy of your birth certificate, a naturalization certificate, or a consular report of birth abroad.
You also need to submit your recent passport photographs (usually 2 copies). The passport photographs should be taken with a white background. The passport photographs should not be older than 6 months before your application for the passport. Usually, passport photographs need to measure about 2 inches and must clearly show your face.
All your documentation should be submitted to the nearest passport acceptance agent.
Felony offenses that disqualify you from getting a passport
It’s quite an unfortunate situation that you have been convicted of a crime, but that is not the end of your ambition. However, you will find yourself having to deal with felonies on your record, which also ruins your reputation and passport application.
Most felonies will not stop you from getting a passport. You do not want to belong in certain felony categories, which will automatically make you ineligible to get a passport. Below are felony offenses that prevent you from getting a passport:
a. Drug convictions
According to federal law 22 U.S.C. 2714, the U.S. government will not give you a passport if you have been convicted of a federal, state, or felony drug offense. This rule applies if you have been convicted of felony drug while crossing international boundaries or while using a passport.
If you are convicted of a felony and you already have an existing passport, the government may revoke it in certain situations. This disqualification typically applies during your jail imprisonment or your stay on parole or halfway house.
b. Particular other drug convictions
if you were involved in drug dealing and distribution but did not use the drugs yourself, you may become a convicted felon.
However, the law is not clear regarding drug distribution and obtaining a passport after the conviction. But you can be sure that your chance of getting a passport, in this case, is either to an extent or slim. Thus, you will not be able to travel abroad since your passport application may be denied.
The U.S. Secretary of State may disqualify you if you have been convicted of misdemeanor federal or drug charges. There may be an exception only in certain situations of misdemeanor drug charges only involving a first offense possession of any controlled substance. The Secretary of State is the only person who can give exceptions in humanitarian circumstances.
c. Child support court cases
If you do not respect your obligation to pay child support as a parent, your passport application may be affected. So, if you have a court case of unpaid child support of $2,500 or more, you will not get a passport with a felony.
The solution is for you to set up a payment plan and pay off the full amount. Besides, the child in question belongs to you, and you will be getting your passport approval to travel abroad.
After paying the child support, have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services remove your name from the list of outstanding arrears. The U.S. Department of State usually receives an updated copy of records, which they use to check who owes child support.
d. Unpaid federal taxes and loans
As a worker and resident in the U.S., you are obligated to pay taxes – paying tax is not voluntary, according to the IRS. You can face consequences for not paying taxes, which include not getting your passport after application. Besides, according to the IRS, it is a felony if you willfully attempt to evade tax.
If you were unable to file the taxes or you evade taxes, you can’t obtain a passport.
Also, if you borrowed any Federal loans for your education and did not repay the full amount, you may not be able to obtain a passport.
You can get rid of the passport denial, but only after a specific process. You need to pay off any outstanding balances to the IRS or your lender. You could set up a payment plan for it or just pay off the full amount if you can.
e. Trafficking minors and illicit sexual misconduct
If you were convicted of trafficking minors and traveling internationally to engage in illicit sexual conduct, you can’t get a passport—these are felony offenses.
Obtaining a passport with a felon conviction can be challenging, especially if the specific felony disqualifies you from getting one.
Depending on your conviction, however, this is still a possibility, though the entire process can be tough. Just make sure to follow the legal steps and involve your local attorney to get you the necessary travel document.