Understanding Travel Restrictions for Convicted Felons
As we approach the one-year mark for the new, socially-distanced, homebound reality the coronavirus has introduced, Americans nationwide are eagerly daydreaming about where they’ll go first when they can get out of their house and the country.
For Americans with a criminal conviction, however, the process is not as easy as simply searching for the place with the best tropical beaches. Having a record could present an obstacle for the wanderlust.
Getting – or Keeping – a Passport
A passport is your ticket to the world outside of the United States. However, this document is a privilege that the government maintains the right to withhold. You could be denied a passport if you:
- Are forbidden from leaving the country
- Are incarcerated
- Are on a supervised release program for felons with a record of possession, trafficking, or distribution
- Are under felony arrest
- Have a felony-related subpoena
- Have unpaid federal taxes
- Owe more than $5000 in child support
- Were convicted of a felony drug charge that included use of a passport or transcended international borders
The Secretary of State will handle revoking passports of individuals convicted of these crimes.
Criminal Record Checks
Even if your crime did not disqualify you from obtaining or keeping your passport, it could still affect your international travel plans. American citizens may be required to present a “certificate of good conduct” or “lack of a criminal record” if they plan to go abroad to adopt, work, or study. These documents can be obtained from your local police department or the FBI.
Those who aren’t looking to go to another country to grow their family or further their career could still have their record reviewed. Every country’s policy is different, with some looking at your criminal past even if you only wish to visit for a quick weekend getaway. For example, Canada can deny entry to any American convicted of a crime. There are forms that a former criminal could fill out to get the proper permission to see our neighbor to the north, but it requires ample prior planning.