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Do They Run Background Checks for Passports?

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When you wanted to travel abroad in the past, you likely didn’t give much thought to getting a passport. 

Now that you have completed your sentence and want to travel outside the country, you probably hesitate because you don’t know if there is a background checks for passports.

Let’s look at this question.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is a Passport?
  • Getting a Passport?
  • Background Check?
  • Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Steps to Take?


What Is a Passport?

A passport allows you to travel internationally and identifies you as a U.S. citizen.

It doesn’t give you permission to leave the country, but if you want to travel outside the country, you must have one.  

A passport is a type of identification like a driver’s license is in this country. This document will include your name, date and place of birth, and your nationality. It will also have the date of issue and the expiration date. An important feature is your picture and your signature for ready identification.

You carry your passport with you at all times when you are traveling abroad. This is important as again it is a form of ID like your driver’s license.

Getting a Passport

If you want to apply for a passport, you will have to go through the U.S. Department of State which issues and maintains all passport records.

You will be required to complete Form DS-11, which is the application to obtain a passport. It is a fairly simple, straightforward application that requires only basic information.

And no, it doesn’t have any questions about your criminal record or any convictions, either a felony or misdemeanor.

As part of this process, you must present proof of your citizenship. For most, it would be your birth certificate that shows your full name, city, and state of birth along with your parents’ names.

Once you have completed the form, which is the way to apply for a passport, it can take several weeks to process it. 

At that point, if everything is in order, you will be approved for a passport, which will be valid for 10 years.

Background Check?

Yes, there is a background check that will be run before your application for a passport is approved. You didn’t think that you would get off that easy, did you?

A background check will let the U.S. Department of State know if you can be trusted with a passport to leave the boundaries of the U.S. to travel overseas.

It’s kind of like you represent your country whenever you travel. The government wants to know that you won’t engage in any behavior that would land you in legal trouble and result in your being jailed.

It would not only be a black mark on your record, but it would also cast the U.S. in a bad light for not having more control over its citizens. The United States would not want you to go to jail in another country as that would embarrass you and the nation. That wouldn’t be good!

So, a background check could be considered as much for the country as your well-being.

The reason that it takes several weeks to get the approval of your passport application is that the federal government is running your name through a database to see if your name pops up. This helps ensure your eligibility for a passport.

This database includes criminal records as well as driving records to see if you have a criminal conviction or any driving offenses.

Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?

There are a few restrictions placed on felons who want to get a passport. Of course, you must have completed your sentence, including probation.

The type of felony does make a difference. There are two areas that could prove to be problematic in getting a passport.

If you have been convicted of any crime involving treason or a similar crime, you will not be eligible for a passport. One issue that can prevent you from getting a passport is having a felony conviction for drug trafficking.

If you have smuggled drugs into or out of the country, the federal government doesn’t want to give you a passport because it could be used to escape from the country. Additionally, many misdemeanor drug convictions could prevent you from qualifying for a passport.

An outstanding warrant is another issue that could also keep you from getting one.

You’ve gotten this far in reading this probably thinking that it takes a felony conviction to derail you from getting a passport. Well, not so quick there.

It is important to mention that in addition to any felony conviction, there are other issues that could trip you up.

If you owe more than $5,000 in back child support or have an outstanding warrant, even without a conviction, you can be denied a passport.

It is also important to mention that an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic offense like a parking ticket, or for a civil infraction, will not be flagged.

Here’s another category that could be problematic for you. This doesn’t have to involve any particular felony or felony category. If for some reason the terms of your sentence, probation, or parole restrict you from having a passport, you will not be eligible to get one.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Of course, you can. Just like a potential employer would do if you applied there.

Running a background check on yourself before applying for a passport will tell you exactly what the U.S. Department of State will see when they do their review. 

If there are any questions, you can contact an attorney. Take action and don’t risk a chance on the results. Give yourself the best chance to be approved for a passport by being ready regarding your criminal history, so you aren’t taken by surprise. 

Steps to Take

After all of that, as long as you have a passport, you are free to travel out of the country. Your trip will be on. 

However, it is important to watch your step if you travel overseas. Just being in a foreign country will draw attention to yourself. You need to be on guard and make sure that you obey all laws while you are there. You will be observed as you travel about, so be prepared.

At the first sign of trouble, contact an attorney for legal help. You don’t want to enter the legal system in another country. After all, you have had more than enough difficulties here.

Travel safely and be able to return to the U.S. You will be glad you did. Being able to travel to another country is another step along the road to living an honest life.

You have made mistakes, but you don’t have to be defined by them. Define yourself by how you recover from those mistakes.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not they run background checks for passports? Have you or someone you know applied for a passport? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

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