Can You Get a Passport if You Have a Felony?

Updated on August 11, 2023
At a Glance: Obtaining a passport can be challenging for individuals with felony charges, although it’s not impossible in all cases. Certain felony convictions, such as drug offenses involving international boundaries or passport use, can disqualify someone from obtaining a passport. Unpaid child support exceeding $5,000 and unpaid federal taxes or loans can also affect passport eligibility. Convicted felons who wish to apply for a passport must complete the appropriate application form, provide necessary identification and proof of citizenship, and gather court documents to prove the completion of parole or probation.

Having a felony can affect you in various ways, especially when you are trying to obtain certain services. But what about getting a passport? You might have to travel abroad for a while, and in order to do so, you will need a passport. But can you get a passport if you have a felony? Let’s find out!

How a Felony Charge Impacts Getting a Passport

A passport is necessary for everyone who wishes to travel abroad. To be able to travel, you must apply for your passport in advance, and in some cases, depending on the country, your passport must have at least 6-month validity before you’re allowed entry.

Usually, passport applications will go smoothly, especially if the individual does not have a criminal record. But people with felony charges will have a harder time obtaining a passport.

Having felony charges does not mean that you will not be allowed to get a passport, but it depends on the felons. In some felony conviction cases, you may not be able to get a U.S. passport.

Still, as long as you do not have felonies that will specifically prevent you from obtaining the travel document, you should be able to apply for the passport.

Felony Offenses that Can Prevent You from Getting a Passport

Being convicted of a crime is an unfortunate situation. Not only do you have to deal with having felonies on your record and possibly ruining your reputation, but it may also affect your passport application.

Sometimes, particular types of offenses will make a person ineligible to obtain a passport. Here are the situations when you won’t be able to get a passport after a felony:

Felony Drug Convictions

The federal law 22 U.S.C. 2714 mentions how the U.S. government will not make a passport for anyone who was convicted of a federal, state, or felony drug offense. This applies when the felony drug conviction happened while someone crossed international boundaries during the crime’s commission or while using a passport.

If the person has an existing passport when convicted of the felony, it may be revoked in some situations. The disqualification applies during your stay in a halfway house or parole or during your jail imprisonment.

Particular Other Drug Convictions

You may not use drugs yourself, but you may be involved in dealing and distributing them, which may end up with you becoming a convicted felon.

When it comes to distributing drugs and getting a passport after the conviction, the law is not too clear, but your chances of obtaining a passport are either small or inexistent. What’s more, if you want to travel abroad, you will be unable to since you may be denied your passport.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor federal or drug charges, you may be disqualified by the U.S. Secretary of State. An exception will apply only in situations of misdemeanor drug charges that only involve a first offense possession of any controlled substance. In humanitarian circumstances, the Secretary of State is the only one who can give exceptions.

Child Support Court Cases

Parents who have to pay child support must make sure that they respect this obligation, because it may affect their passport application.

If you want to get a passport but you have unpaid child support of more than $5,000, you will not be able to obtain the document. So, it is your responsibility to either set up a payment plan for it or make sure you pay the full amount. After all, you want to make sure you support your child, but also that you have the right to travel abroad.

Once you pay the child support, you can then go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and remove your name from an outstanding arrears list. In order to check who owes child support, there is an updated copy of records usually sent to the U.S. Department of State.

Unpaid Federal Taxes and Loans

If you are a worker in the U.S., you must already know that you have to pay taxes to the government. This is something all legal workers have to deal with. Not paying your taxes can lead to various consequences, and one of them is that you won’t be able to get a passport.

If you either refused to pay your taxes or you were unable to file the taxes for some reason, then you will not be allowed to get a passport. What’s more, if you borrowed any Federal loans to pay for your education and you did not repay the amount, you may be denied a passport.

Removing the denial is possible, but only if you go through a specific process to do so. You will have to pay off the outstanding balances to the IRS or your loan providers. This can be done by just paying it off at once or setting up a payment plan.

How to Get a Passport as a Convicted Felon

Are you a convicted felon but looking forward to getting a passport? If you are a first-time applicant, then completing form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport in person or online is necessary. Usually, the form is meant for people who had a passport that expired more than 15 years ago.

But when it comes to passports that expired less than 15 years ago and must be renewed, Form DS-82 should be completed. Meanwhile, Form DS-64 should be completed for a passport that was stolen or lost.

It is essential to be fully honest when completing the application. Also, you should fill out the form entirely in order to avoid any delays.

What to Bring With You

To help support your application, you will have to bring a copy of your photo identification like your military ID card, current school card, or driver’s license. Concurrently, you must provide proof of your citizenship. This could be a previous passport, certificate of citizenship, certified copy of your birth certificate, a consular report of birth abroad, or a naturalization certificate.

You also have to bring two passport pictures of yourself – make sure they’re taken with you standing in front of a white background. Make sure that the pictures are recent, more specifically no more than six months before your passport application. They should be about 2 inches in size and show your face clearly. Take all of the documentation to the nearest passport acceptance agent.

On top of that, you will have to collect official court documents to prove that you are no longer on parole or probation. This may help you save a lot of time, and you won’t have to go back and forth with all the paperwork.

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Final Thoughts

Getting a passport when you were convicted of a felony can be difficult, especially if the specific felony prevents you from obtaining a passport. The process is more challenging, but if you do everything according to the law, you may be able to obtain the necessary travel document.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.