Can I Apply for a Passport with a Criminal Charge? Will I Lose My Passport If I am Convicted?

USA Passport

Being charged with a crime can cause consequences related to employment, housing, and transportation. If you are a current U.S. passport holder or are in the process of applying for one, having pending criminal charges or previous criminal convictions can cause your passport application to be denied or your current passport to be revoked. Let’s discuss ways in which your passport might be at risk.

May I Apply for a Passport with a Pending Criminal Charge?

Denial and restriction of passports due to criminal charges is covered by federal law under 22 CFR 51.60. The Department of State may refuse to issue a passport to anyone who:

  • Has an outstanding arrest warrant for a federal felony
  • Has a criminal court order, condition of probation, or condition of parole, any of which forbids departure from the United States
  • Has an outstanding state or local arrest warrant for a felony
  • Has a request for extradition to another foreign country for prosecution

That means that if you currently have outstanding felony warrants for missing court or warrants for felony charges that have not been served, your application for a passport may be denied or using your current passport may result in revocation.

Additionally, even if you have no outstanding warrants, there are still potential issues in attempting to use your passport while charged with a crime and awaiting trial. Any order from the criminal court which prohibits travel as a condition of bond will keep you from traveling outside the country. While it is not common in the Charlotte area, many courts will ask a person charged with serious felonies to surrender their passport as a condition of release. Anyone on probation or parole may have conditions in place through their officer that prohibit any kind of international travel. You will want to make sure to clear this with your probation or parole officer first before applying for a passport or using the one you have.

Law enforcement officers can apply to the Department of State for denial of your passport application if you have pending charges. However, they would have to show that your misconduct falls into one of the categories above.

While some websites claim that even the existence of a pending charge can derail your application for a passport until it is resolved, nothing in federal law makes that the case. If you find yourself applying for a passport and need to disclose the pending charge, make sure to provide any documentation that you can that there are no outstanding warrants or court orders that would prohibit you from traveling.

Finally, passports are not allowed for anyone who owes more than $2,500 in outstanding child support or in specific government loans.

How Can My Passport be Revoked?

There are several situations in which a person’s existing passport can be revoked, even if it was previously valid.

According to 22 USCS § 212b, passports shall not be issued to registered sex offenders without a unique identifier on the passport indicating that the person is on the sex offender registry. Any person who is a registered sex offender whose passport does not have this unique identifier may have their previously valid passport revoked.

A passport may not be issued to anyone who is subject to imprisonment or supervised release as the result of a state or federal felony drug conviction involving the use of a passport or crossing an international border. A passport may also be refused to anyone who is subject to imprisonment or supervised release as the result of a state or federal misdemeanor drug conviction involving the use of a passport or crossing an international border, other than a first time offender. However, these offenders may still qualify for a passport if emergency circumstances or humanitarian reasons exist that are satisfactory to the Department of State.

A person convicted of federal human trafficking across international borders will also have their passport revoked. Any passport obtained by fraud, forgery, or pretense must also be revoked.

Anyone whose passport has been revoked or whose application has been denied must receive notice from the Department of State with the specific reasons for the denial or cancellation. If there is an opportunity for review, the notification will include those procedures. Under 22 CFR 51.70, those procedures can include a hearing to review the basis of the decision provided that the Department receives a request in writing from you or your lawyer within 60 days. The Department will make reasonable efforts to hold the hearing within 90 days of the request. You may continue the hearing once, up to 90 days. That is especially important if you don’t currently have counsel to help you at the hearing.

These hearings are difficult since the person requesting the hearing is responsible for all of the costs involved, including interpreters. They take place in Washington DC, which can make traveling cost prohibitive. An attorney can appear on your behalf but they will need to present testimony and evidence to help your case. While normal rules of courtroom evidence do not apply during these hearings, the hearing officer can still decide to exclude certain evidence if they feel like it is not relevant. You will likely need to make an affidavit or sworn deposition at additional expense. The decision of these hearings is final and not subject to further review.

I Have My Passport and Want to Travel, What Now?

Before booking international travel, it is important to check the requirements of every country a person intends to visit, even if only passing through briefly. That is because some countries have requirements that will keep people with certain convictions from entering. This occurs regardless of whether the US issues you a valid passport. If your previous state convictions can be expunged, doing so prior to traveling would be best. We can assist you with that process. However federal convictions are unlikely able to be expunged.

International travel is vital for so many people. Whether it’s a sightseeing trip to see different cultures and parts of the world, a voyage on an international cruise ship, or a reunion with family and friends abroad, you’re going to need a passport to get there. If your passport application is denied or you need help fighting your revocation, call us here at Jetton and Meredith at (704) 931-5535 today!