Can Former Felons Get Passports in Utah?

Despite anti-discrimination laws, a prior felony conviction can still make routine parts of life more difficult. Even after a person has paid his or her debt to society in the form of restitution and incarceration, he or she often continues to face discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, and lending. The person may lose their ability to run for public office, and will also be prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm under state law. In addition to these limitations and restrictions, there is also another, lesser known effect of having a felony record: the way it impacts your ability to travel abroad. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson explains how felony passport eligibility laws affect international travel for individuals with previous convictions.

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Can You Get a Passport and Travel Abroad with a Felony Record?

This is a two-part question with a two-part answer. First, there are situations where a criminal record will prevent you from getting a passport. Then, even if you are able to obtain a passport, you could still be prevented from traveling abroad. But before we discuss potential restrictions on international travel, let’s start with an explanation of passport eligibility.

You may be able to get a passport if you have a felony record in Utah, depending on what you were convicted of. However, some restrictions apply under federal law. 22 U.S. Code § 2714 prohibits any person who has been previously convicted of drug trafficking or other drug offenses from getting a passport if the person “used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the offense.”

Under 22 U.S. Code § 2714(a)(1), “A passport may not be issued to an individual who is convicted of an offense described in subsection (b) during the period described in subsection (c) if the individual used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the offense.”

So, what counts as “an offense described in subsection (b)”? There are two answers:

  1. Any drug-related felony, regardless of whether you were convicted in state or federal court.
  2. Any drug-related misdemeanor, regardless of whether you were convicted in state or federal court. However, unlike felonies, there are some exceptions for misdemeanors. First of all, only the Secretary of State is authorized to decide whether the restriction should be applied in your case. Additionally, the restriction does not apply if it was your first offense misdemeanor drug possession (possession of a controlled substance).

The “period described in subsection (c)” is the passport ineligibility period. You are ineligible for a passport:

  • While you are incarcerated in jail or prison for a misdemeanor or felony drug conviction.
  • While you are on parole for a felony or misdemeanor drug conviction.

In summation, you generally cannot get a passport if the following statements are true:

  1. You were convicted of a drug crime where you crossed international borders, or otherwise used a passport, to commit the offense.
  2. The crime was a felony or a second/subsequent offense misdemeanor.
  3. You are incarcerated or on parole.

Even if these statements do not describe your situation, and you are eligible for a U.S. passport, you could still be prevented from traveling abroad. Many countries (including the United States) prohibit people with records of certain offenses from becoming citizens, or in some cases, even visiting temporarily. Whether you will be barred from entering or moving to a foreign country ultimately depends on many factors, which can include:

  • How long ago you were convicted.
  • Whether you were a juvenile (under age 18) when you were convicted.
  • Whether the offense was violent or non-violent.
  • Whether you are able to obtain special permission from the destination country’s government, where necessary.
  • Whether you wish to visit or actually immigrate. For example, this is part of Canada’s immigration policy: “Under Canada’s immigration law, if you have committed or been convicted of a crime, you may not be allowed into Canada. This includes both minor and serious crimes, such as: theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and possession of or trafficking in drugs or controlled substances.”

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How to Get a Passport in Salt Lake City

Once you have determined that you are eligible for a passport, the next step is having one made. To get a passport in Salt Lake City, submit a passport application to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, Passport Division. The application is available online through the Department of State website. To access it, simply enter the URL passports (dot) state (dot) gov in your web browser, then click the grey “Get Started” button on the homepage and follow the prompts.

If this is your first time applying for a passport, you should use Form DS-11. If you already have a passport and need to renew your passport, use Form DS-82. If you need to update or change information on an existing passport, use Form DS-5504.

Keep in mind you’ll be required to meet age requirements and supply certain documentation (such as a certified copy of your birth certificate) in order to obtain a U.S. passport.

Contact a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Fighting Felony Charges

A criminal conviction can interfere with many parts of your daily life, and could ruin your dreams of working abroad or traveling the world. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Utah, you need immediate legal assistance from an experienced criminal lawyer.

To speak confidentially with a Salt Lake drug crime lawyer or drug possession attorney, contact the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation. We handle misdemeanor and felony drug charges in Utah involving marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, prescription drugs, drug paraphernalia, and more.