It is without doubt that getting a felony conviction carries lifelong effects and comes with certain restrictions on a person’s rights, but can a felon get a passport?.
In this article, we take a look at the restrictions imposed on a person by virtue of their felony conviction, whether a person can acquire a passport as a felon, travel restrictions and how a felon can get rid of these restrictions. Keep reading to know more.
Can a felon get a passport?
The simple answer is Yes, generally, a person convicted of a felony can get a passport so long as their crime is not listed under the restricted category. Even though a felony doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person from getting a U.S. visa, there are certain categories of felonies and circumstances that may restrict a felon from acquiring or holding a passport.
What felonies disqualify you from getting a passport
There are certain circumstances and felonies that disqualify you from getting a passport in the U.S. as stated in U.S.C. § 2714 . They include:
- Persons arrested for cross-border drug trafficking offenses,
- Persons convicted of multiple drug-related offenses at the state or federal level
- Felons whose penalties include travel restrictions by court order
- Felons on probation restricted from traveling by probation order.
In addition to the above, there are other reasons the U.S. State Department could deny you a passport. Persons facing trial for a felony charge or has a felony arrest warrant will be denied a passport. Also if you owe child support in excess of $2500, your passport application will be denied.
Even though a felon can get a U.S. passport, which is basically an identity document used for international travel, a passport is only one of the requirements for traveling to another country. There are a few countries who may deny a felon the visa to travel to the destination country based on the nature of their conviction.
Can felons leave the country?
Generally, nothing stops a felon from leaving the country, but there is a caveat. The nature of the felony offense such as cross-border drug-related felonies, multiple drug related felony convictions, probation or court orders barring travel can prevent a felon from leaving the country.
Can you get a passport on probation?
Yes, but with caution. Before applying for a passport while on parole or probation, you need to get a letter granting you permission to do so from your parole or probation officer. This is regardless if you have travel restrictions or not.
Applying for a passport without approval from your supervisor can lead to consequences such as revocation of probation and the issuance of a warrant for your arrest.
How long does a felony stay on your record?
A felony record will stay on your criminal history for life and appear in background checks unless expunged. In some states, certain state felony records can be expunged after 7 years, that’s after meeting certain conditions. There are no provisions for expunging federal felony records.
How to remove a felony from your record
Unless a felony conviction is removed from your record, it will stay on the record forever and appear in background checks. There are three main ways that a felony can be removed from your record when certain conditions are met. They include:
1. Acquittal or dismissal
A person can have felony conviction removed from their record following an acquittal by a court. This can be the case upon a successful appeal of a conviction leading to an acquittal or dismissal.
There are several states in the U.S. where state criminal records including some felonies can be expunged after certain conditions are met. They include:
- Montana, Nevada,
- New Hampshire,
- New York, Texas, and
Unfortunately, there are no provisions allowing for federal convictions to be expunged.
Expungement is usually available to people whose felonies resulted from minor or non-violent crimes, people who have received a first felony conviction or people who were convicted as minors. Felonies which cannot be expunged include murder, crimes of sexual nature, crimes against minors.
To expunge federal records including some felonies, the following conditions must be met:
- Complete your jail time or probation,
- Complete the required waiting time,
- pay all fines and fees imposed by sentence,
- pay restitution if any,
- satisfy any other sentence imposed by the court.
A presidential pardon for a federal conviction or a state pardon for state conviction will result in the removal of the record from your criminal history.
What countries can a convicted felon travel to?
There are some countries that does not require you to present a criminal history report before granting you visa. This means you can get a visa to travel to the country even if you’re a convicted felon. These countries include:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- The Dominican Republic
- The Philippines
Even though this is not a comprehensive list, it is worthy of note that, while these countries may not check your criminal history before granting a visa, you may be denied entry if your criminal history comes up at the point of entry.
Can a felon get a passport to Mexico?
Yes, a holder of a valid U.S. passport is eligible to enter Mexico regardless of their criminal history. This is because Mexico allows visa-free entry for holders of US Passport. Also Mexican authorities do not have access to U.S. Criminal database, therefore they cannot conduct independent background checks.
Can you get a passport if you owe child support?
You are not eligible for a U.S. passport if you owe $2500 or more in child support. To be eligible, you will have to clear your child support arrears.
In addressing the question “Can a felon get a passport?”, we have come to know that people convicted of a felony offense can get a passport and even travel outside the country depending on the nature of their felony crime and the conditions of their conviction or ongoing trial.
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