Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 7, 2021

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A criminal conviction will not prevent an individual from obtaining a passport. A passport is an identity document that certifies a person’s citizenship and nothing more. In fact, the passport application form does not include questions about the applicant’s criminal history. This means, most convicted criminals, including felons, may obtain a passport unless the terms of sentencing, probation, or parole deny the person a right to a passport.

When can a criminal offense prevent you from getting a passport?

There are two exceptions to this rule. If an individual has been convicted of a treasonable offense, they are prohibited from obtaining a passport. The second exception is if a person was convicted of a federal or state drug felony and used their passport to cross an international border or if the passport was used in some other way to further the offense. In this case, the individual will not be issued a passport. This restriction only lasts while the convicted criminal is imprisoned or on probation/parole.

It is important to remember that you do not have to be a convicted criminal to be denied a passport. While a criminal record will not prevent you from obtaining a passport, you may still be denied for other reasons. If you owe more than $5,000 in back child support or if you have an outstanding arrest warrant, your passport application will be denied. Outstanding arrest warrants do not include parking tickets or civil infractions.

While a convicted criminal may obtain a passport and be permitted to leave the United States, the individual may have trouble gaining entry into their destination country. When entering other countries, foreigners must supply more than just a passport. Travelers to foreign countries must also obtain a visa. If the destination country runs a background check as part of their visa issuing process, your criminal record may prevent you from being granted entry. The safest thing to do in cases such as these is to obtain information about your destination country’s visa issuing process before booking your trip.