If you or someone that you know has been convicted of a sex crime that requires registration on a federal and/or local sex offender registry, you may have a lot of questions about what that means with regards to travel outside of the country.
(Please note that this article should not be construed as legal advice. We have gathered information that is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but you should consult with a lawyer to verify your complete rights and restrictions.)
People who are registered sex offenders may be able to get a passport in the U.S. The one big exception is for people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Last May, the federal government enacted a new statute that requires anyone convicted of a sex crime against a child to be issued a special registered sex offender passport that identifies that person as a child sex offender.
If you have been convicted of such a crime and still have your old passport, it is likely no longer valid. You should have been notified via letter that your passport is not valid and that, if you wish to travel internationally, you must reapply for a new passport that identifies you as a sex offender.
Practically speaking, this new marked passport works the same way as anyone else’s passport. However, you should be aware that having such a passport may mean that you are barred from entering certain countries. It is up to the discretion of each country to decide who they will let in.
There are also some registered sex offenders who cannot get passports at all. If you have ever been convicted of a sex tourism crime — traveling to another country with the intent of engaging in sexual acts with minors — or a sex trafficking crime, you may be barred from ever traveling internationally.
What if I have been removed from the registry?
Every state has different rules about sex offender registration. Some states require people who have been convicted of sex offenses to register for life. Others require periods of registration ranging from five years to life depending upon the severity of the crime.
In most cases, sex crimes against children are considered aggravated crimes, and this means that they come with harsher penalties. In most cases, people convicted of sex crimes against children will be required to register for life.
However, if a past conviction is overturned or if you are pardoned, you may be able to get your name off of the registry. That said, sex crimes against children cannot be expunged from your record, so even if you are pardoned, your conviction might stay on your record, which means that you would still need to have a passport that identifies you as a sex offender, even if you are no longer required to be registered.
This is where things get murky and we highly suggest speaking to a lawyer. You can also reach out to us any time to learn more about this sensitive topic.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.