Can a Felon Get A Passport?

Felons who have spent a large amount of time locked up may feel an urge to see the world and explore new places. A passport is required for travel outside of the United States to foreign countries. Any felon who wishes to see the world will be required to possess a passport, the only question is, are felons allowed to get one? In this article, we will cover the laws surrounding the process of a convicted felon receiving a passport, as well as explore how a felon can obtain one, and any possible restrictions that could be imposed on the traveler.

Are Felons Legally able to Have a Passport?

It is important to note that just become someone has committed a felony, therefore making them a convicted felon, does not mean that their rights to have a passport have been automatically stripped. A passport is an official government document that can be held by U.S. Citizens. If the felon is a U.S. citizen, then they are still entitled to apply for and receive a passport, regardless of their status as a convicted felon.

So yes, for the most part, felons are able to have a passport. There have been documented instances where a felon has been declined a passport; such instances typically are due to the felony that is on their record. Any drug charges are given special consideration when applying for a passport, especially drug trafficking charges. Convicted felons that served time for either domestic or international drug trafficking have been known to be declined from receiving a passport.

How To Obtain a U.S. Passport.

Felon or not, the process is exactly the same for every applicant.

  • The first step is to visit the State Department’s official website, there the applicant will print out a form called “DS-11”. The DS-11 is the general application form that everyone is required to fill out.
  • The second step is to print out the completed DS-11 form. DO NOT SIGN THE APPLICATION FORM, simply mail the form unsigned. The reason for this is because a postal employee must witness you sign the form.
  • Make photocopies of any documents that will help prove your identity. A Driver’s License, social security card, or birth-certificate are acceptable. To be on the side of caution, send as many supporting documents as possible in case there is a problem with one of your submissions.
  • Take passport photos. A passport photo must be of an individual against a white background looking straight ahead without any obstruction to their head or face. The individual also must not smile. Remove any glasses, hats, or jewelry before taking the photo. Many drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens take passport photos, just go to the Photo and Video counter and ask to take one. Postal offices also will take your passport photo.
  • Mail your application to the State Department for approval. The mailed items should include the DS-11, two passport photos, the fees for obtaining the passport, and any identification items (with a minimum of two).
  • The last step is to find the nearest postal office and schedule an appointment. It is required to have an appointment in order to get a passport.

The above steps to obtain a passport are accurate and used quite commonly, but some people prefer to do the entire passport process at their local post office. The post office can take care of all of these steps for you, so long as you bring the proper documentation. Anyone looking to acquire a passport will have to go into a post office at one point for their interview, so many just find it easier to use the postal office for the entire process.

Restrictions Felons Have with Their Passport.

For felons that are able to have a passport, there are little to no restrictions that are applied to them. Felons run into the majority of their issues when applying for visas.

A visa is a formal authorization to allow a foreigner into a country. Many countries do not require travelers to obtain a visa, but some countries do.

Examples of countries that require travelers to get a visa are:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Australia
  • India
  • Cuba
  • and many more…

Any applicant can be declined a visa for any reason, but felons find in most cases that the reason they were declined was due to their criminal record. Visas are not standardized; every country has a different process when deciding to issue a visa or not. A felon may be declined a visa to Cuba but granted a visa to Australia.

How to Get a Visa.

Before we begin this section, it is important to make it clear that the visas in question are traveler/tourist visas. There are many different kinds of visas; from employment visas to religious worker visa, the process is different for every kind.

The first step in getting a traveler visa is to find out if the country you plan on traveling to requires them. A quick google search can turn up this information, but be careful, some countries will be marked as “VISA REQUIRED”, but will be refereeing to requiring a business visa, not a tourist visa.

If the country does in fact require a tourist visa, then it is time to begin the application process. A great place to find the tourist visa application is on the country you plan on visiting website. If a tourist is looking to visit Australia, they will find the application on the Australian Home Affairs government website.

The United States Embassy also has great resources for helping you get a visa. Simply contact them or select the country you plan on visiting on their website and the Embassy will guide you through the process.

A number of third parties exist as well. Many are country specific and are able to issue travelers visas under the authority of the country’s government. These third parties can be a great idea if you do not feel confident about dealing with visas. The third parties take the majority of work off of the traveler, and in return, the fees for their service are more expensive.

Restrictions Visas Have.

In a large majority of countries, a tourist is unable to lawfully stay in the country they are visiting for over 90 days. If the tourist wishes to remain in the country for a longer period of time, they will have to apply for either a long-term visa, employment visa, or other visas that grant the stay past this time.

If a traveler overstays their visa, major fines and punishments may be imposed. The details of the fines and punishments vary by country, but usually include paying hundreds of U.S. dollars and not be allowed back in the country for a certain period of time (or indefinitely).  Deportation or jail time is also considered as a punishment. For the most part, these two options are only considered for offenders who have either overstayed their visa for a very long time (years), or offenders who have committed other crimes in the country they were visiting.


How much is a visa?

The price of a visa varies depending on the country, but it is a good rule of thumb to budget around $200.00 for a visa. The application fee for most visas is only $160.00, but unexpected costs may arise.

Can a felon take a vacation on a cruise?

In most cases, yes. There are certain countries that do not allow U.S. felons in their country, so it is important to do the proper research to make sure that the countries being visited are felon-friendly and have no restrictions.

Can a felon receive a second passport from another country?

Dual citizenship is highly desired by many people across the world due to the freedom it brings. Felons, in most cases, are unable to hold dual citizenship which in turn means they are unable to have a second passport.

The reason for this because most countries will not grant citizenship to a felon, even if the felon received the felony in another country.

Is it possible to vacation without a passport?

Absolutely. Millions of Americans go on vacation without a passport every year, they just stay within the United States. Those that have a felony for drug trafficking and are unable to get a passport can still have great vacations.

There are many exotic locations tourists can visit without a passport such as.

  • Puerto Rico
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • The Virgin Islands
  • Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The list is very long, so do not feel discouraged if you cannot get a passport, there are still many places you can visit to have a great vacation.

Thank You for reading! We hope you enjoyed the article. Do you think felons should be allowed to have a passport? Is it fair that some felons face travel restrictions? Let us know your thoughts below!


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