Can a Felon Get a Passport? Navigating the Challenges

A criminal record can present various obstacles, including the ability to obtain a passport and travel internationally. However, a felony conviction does not automatically disqualify someone from getting a US passport. This article will explore the eligibility criteria for felons, the restrictions they may face, and the steps they need to take to acquire a passport.

I. Eligibility Criteria for Felons

In most cases, felons can apply for a passport following the same procedures as any other US citizen. The US Department of State only denies passport applications under specific circumstances, which include:

  1. Certain federal or state drug convictions, particularly for those convicted of drug trafficking across international borders.
  2. Outstanding warrants or legal orders prohibiting international travel, such as parole, probation, or court orders.
  3. Unpaid child support exceeding $2,500.
  4. Unresolved financial obligations to the US government, such as unpaid loans for repatriation or evacuation.

If a felon does not fall under any of these categories, they should be eligible to apply for a US passport.

II. Possible Travel Restrictions

While a felon may obtain a US passport, they might still encounter travel limitations. Some countries, like Canada, have strict entry requirements that may deny entry to those with criminal records. To avoid disappointment or inconvenience, it’s essential to research the entry requirements of the intended destination before making travel arrangements.

III. Applying for a Passport as a Felon

Felons applying for a passport should follow the standard application process:

  1. Gather the necessary documents: Proof of US citizenship, government-issued photo identification, a passport-sized photo, and any additional documentation depending on their circumstances.
  2. Fill out the appropriate application form: Form DS-11 for first-time applicants and minors or Form DS-82 for renewals.
  3. Pay the applicable fees: Check the latest fees on the US Department of State website, as they may change over time.
  4. Submit the application: First-time applicants must apply in person at a designated passport acceptance facility or a US Department of State agency. Those renewing a passport may submit their application by mail if they meet specific criteria.

IV. Tips for a Successful Application

Felons seeking a US passport should take extra care to ensure their application is complete and accurate. Here are a few tips for a successful application:

  1. Disclose your criminal history: The US Department of State conducts background checks on all applicants, so it’s crucial to be honest about your criminal record.
  2. Provide supporting documentation: If you have completed your sentence, probation, or parole, provide evidence of your release or discharge. This documentation can help demonstrate that you no longer have legal restrictions on your travel.
  3. Consult an attorney: If you’re unsure about your eligibility, it may be helpful to consult an attorney experienced in criminal law or international travel restrictions.


While a felony conviction can present challenges, it does not necessarily prevent someone from obtaining a US passport. By understanding the eligibility criteria, researching travel restrictions, and following the application process diligently, felons can increase their chances of successfully acquiring a passport and experiencing the benefits of international travel.