According to CNN News, approximately 68 million Americans have some sort of criminal record. To put that into context, there are (according to 2012 Census figures) over 313 million people residing in the U.S.
Many of those Americans know that they will, at some point, wish to travel. This leads to the question of whether they will have difficulty obtaining a passport in order for them to do so.
Is it possible, then, for someone with a felony record to indulge in a bit of globe hopping?
There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be entirely possible if all the requirements are met.
Because it’s a shorter list, let’s examine the legalities behind when a person is not allowed to travel outside the country.
When An Ex-Felon Can Not Travel Outside of the U.S.
When the following situations apply, a person cannot leave the U.S.: if there is an outstanding bench warrant for the would-be traveler’s arrest; if the government is looking for the ex-felon for some reason, or if the subject is not paying the child support which the courts ordered them to pay, and that amount exceeds $5,000.00.
One other instance in which an ex-felon would not be allowed to obtain a passport would be if he or she were on probation or parole.
The bottom line is that, until all demands or restitutions which the courts have put forth have been duly met, the ex-felon would have to postpone their travel plans.
The U.S. Passport Information site on the State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs page (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html) says, in the section entitled: Passport Information for Criminal Law Enforcement Officers:
“A federal or state law enforcement agency may request the denial of a passport on several regulatory grounds under 22 CFR 51.60. The principal law enforcement reasons for passport denial are a valid unsealed federal warrant of arrest, a federal or state criminal court order, a condition of parole or probation forbidding departure from the United States (or the jurisdiction of the court), or a request for extradition.”
Note: the latter phrase refers to when states are requesting the return of a subject from another state, in order that they may be tried, or that they may serve a sentence.
A search on the USA Today site “Travel Tips” reveals that federally convicted international drug traffickers and persons who incurred outstanding loans while in prison outside of the U.S., or those under a “release program” for drug charges of a felonious nature, also fall under the category of those who are not permitted to travel abroad.
Additionally, unpaid loans made for assistance in re: repatriation, or for the return of someone to his or her own country, might disqualify the applicant.
If the subject in any of the above-mentioned cases already has a U.S. Passport, law enforcement personnel may apprehend the subject and confiscate the passport.
How Does a Felon Who Qualifies for a Passport Obtain One?
Now, on to how to obtain a passport if you have a felony record and none of the above exceptions apply to you:
1. Access the U.S. Department of State website and fill out an Application for a U.S. Passport (the number for such a form is DS-11.) You may also obtain such an application wherever such applications are available and fill it out by hand. Some local courthouses have an area where this procedure may take place in person; it might be the same section where one obtains a Driver’s License (The Motor Vehicle Bureau).
2. Here are a few highlights to consider: If this is your first U.S. Passport, you must apply in person. Too, if your original passport was issued more than 15 years ago OR it has been lost, stolen or damaged, you must apply in person. Remember to leave the field where you will sign you name blank. (It must be witnessed.)
3. Get together all the papers you will need to prove your citizenship, such as an old passport, a naturalization certificate and either a driver’s license or a state-issued ID (or other government-issued ID). Some of these ID’s can also serve to prove your identity.
4. Make a photocopy of the ID you used to prove your identification.
5. Obtain two of those photos of yourself commonly called “passport photos”. They should be a full frontal face shot and measure 2” x “2 each. The background must be white—remember this if you are taking a “selfie”.
6. Submit all the required documentation and a processing fee. Note: A passport book is good for all international travel and is around $135 to $140 for first-time applicants. There is a passport card which can be used—it looks like a driver’s license or any other government-issued ID—which costs around $30, but this card can only be used when traveling by land or be sea. For instances, you might want to obtain a passport card if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean from U.S. soil.