Effects of a Felony Conviction on Passport Eligibility in New Jersey

If You Are Convicted of a Felony in NJ, Will Your Passport Application be Denied?

Will a Passport Get Denied if You Get Convicted of a Felony in NJ For the most part, you can get a passport even if you have a felony conviction. A felony conviction is not an automatic disqualifier. There are exceptions, however. The decision rests on the type of felony conviction and the country or countries you plan to enter with your passport, among other considerations of the U.S. State Department. The best way to know your status regarding passport eligibility is to understand what affects your application as far as positives and negatives are concerned.

Main Reasons the State Department Denies Felons Passports

The United States Department of State issues passports. As such, they determine whether you get a passport. The Department reviews your application and runs a background check. So, what shows up on your background check also matters. You are probably not going to get a passport when your felony conviction involves serious or “heinous” felonies, more specifically, a federal or state drug trafficking conviction and sometimes a lesser drug offense conviction (22 U.S. Code § 2714).

Other felonies that may jeopardize your ability to travel abroad are violent crimes, sexual assault, and other sex crimes that require sex offender registration. You can also expect a denial of your U.S. passport application while you are on probation or parole since conditions for normally both forbid you from leaving the state or country. Other significant disqualifiers are incarceration, outstanding warrants for your arrest or appearance in court, and lying on your passport application. You must not hide or downplay your criminal history, even expunged convictions.

Another disqualifier is a court order forbidding you to travel overseas as part of your conviction. A court may even seize your passport or prevent you from applying for or continuing an application for a passport until you fulfill your sentencing terms.

Influential Factors for Felons Seeking Passports

Other conditions that affect your passport eligibility are unpaid child support payments totaling $2,500.00 or more, federal loans, or federal taxes. To remedy such disqualifiers, you must pay your child support arrears, outstanding loan balance, or federal taxes or set up a payment plan with the state or federal agency overseeing these debts. If not, the State Department may deny your passport renewal or first-time application or revoke your current passport in the case of child support arrears.

If you are under 16, you are ineligible for a passport unless both parents or guardians consent by signing the passport application and supplying the verification documents, such as a birth certificate and social security card.

What Happens when an Individual with a Felony Conviction Must Leave the Country for an Emergency?

The Secretary of State can approve a passport for an ineligible applicant for emergency or humanitarian reasons, such as an immediate family member’s death or impending death, or urgent medical treatment.

How to Apply for a Passport if You are a Convicted Felon in New Jersey

When you apply for a passport, you must fill out the same paperwork and provide the same documents verifying citizenship and photos as other applicants without felonies. However, you must submit an explanation of your criminal convictions, including the dates, crimes, sentences, the months or years without a criminal conviction since completing your last sentence, and proof of your efforts to rehabilitate. A longer waiting period since your previous criminal conviction will likely prove your rehabilitation and improve your chances of approval. Additionally, verifying your personal statement with official court documents strengthens your application.

Felons who Have been Denied Passports Have the Right to Appeal

Even if you are unsuccessful, you can appeal a passport application denial. You have 60 days to file an appeal by formal letter. Your grounds for appeal may be a mistake or simply that the denial is unreasonable. You can provide all supporting documents to show your rehabilitation proof, character references, updated court documents, and the like. The decision is wholly in the hands of the passport agency, so you may not be successful in the end.

Immediate vs. Long-Term Travel Issues for Felons

When it comes to felonies and travel abroad, time is your best friend. Obtaining the right to travel again happens over time. The more time that passes, the likelier you are to get a passport approved or allowed entry into countries with stricter requirements. Thus, when ten or more years pass since you completed your sentence, those reviewing your application can assume you paid your dues and now live as a lawful citizen. The converse may also be true if you recently completed your sentence.

Certain countries may forbid you from entering, given that you are a temporary legal visitor to the country. So, the laws of the land and specific national and immigration provisions may affect your ability to enter certain countries. For example, Canada and the United Kingdom want proof of rehabilitation by the passage of time (ten years without a criminal conviction for the UK) and special permission after proving you are crime-free now (Canada). In the UK, your prison term must have been no longer than a month, and to visit Australia, you may not have a prison term longer than a year on your record.

Other Liberties and Benefits You may Lose with a New Jersey Felony Conviction

Even a passport application approval does not help you with other consequential fallout from having convictions for felony criminal offenses on your record. Those with criminal convictions face uphill battles where others may not, such as finding jobs, attending school, or owning guns. Background checks for employment, housing, or firearms purchases may disqualify you and your family income, a professional license, or the home protection and security often provided by weapons ownership. Moreover, your child custody and voting rights may be affected.

Recovering after a criminal conviction for an indictable felony crime in New Jersey is difficult but not impossible with the right help. An experienced attorney on our team can assist you with assessing your eligibility for an expungement and if possible, help you expunge your record of criminal convictions and lesser offenses after the requisite time passes. This can afford you greater access to employment, education, and housing, as well as positioning you in the best way possible to regain some of your lost rights resulting from a felony conviction.

Avoid a Felony Conviction that can Impact Your Ability to Travel with Assistance from our Criminal Defense Firm

Are you worried about losing your travel privileges due to a pending felony case in New Jersey? A conviction for these charges may not mean you are ineligible for a passport, but it can mean a whole host of other personal, professional, and financial troubles moving forward. The smartest decision you can make when you have been charged with a felony of the first, second, third, or fourth degree is challenge the case with help from a skilled and aggressive New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. At The Tormey Law Firm, our attorneys are proactive in assembling the best defense strategies based on each client’s unique case. Contact our team around the clock at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation to discuss your options.


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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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