What Does a Sex Offender Passport Look Like?

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Since 2017, passports for people convicted of sex crimes that involve minors must be labeled with an identifier under International Megan’s Law. The label doesn’t prevent people on the registry from having passports but may limit their ability to enter foreign countries.

But what does this label look like? We took a closer look to find out.

What is a sex offender?

As of May of this year, all registered sex offenders who are covered under International Megan’s Law (IML) will be issued a passport with a unique identifier that states they are a registered sex offender. These passports will still allow them to travel internationally, but they will need to have that identifier on them in order to enter the United States. The government has not yet determined exactly what the identifier will look like, but they have indicated that it will be an easily identifiable symbol or mark.

People who are registered sex offenders must register in every jurisdiction where they live, work or attend school. The length of time that they must register varies, but it can be as long as life. It is also a crime to knowingly fail to register, and there are statutory penalties for those who do so.

When IML was passed, it required the Department of State to mark all passports of registered sex offenders. This new requirement is a result of IML, which was enacted in the aftermath of the murder of young Megan Kanka in 1994 and is an effort to crack down on child exploitation worldwide. This new requirement does not prevent people from traveling to foreign countries, but it will alert authorities in the destination country that they are a registered sex offender and could lead to them being denied admission.

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What does a sex offender passport look like?

A sex offender passport will have an identifier on it that states the person is on the registry. According to a press release from the Department of State, “Under this policy, covered sex offenders (including those convicted of sex offenses against minors) who hold or have previously held a United States passport will receive one with an identifier that indicates their status as a registered sex offender under 22 U.S. Code 212b(c)(l).” This will be done by adding a sentence inside the back cover of the passport:

The State Department announced this change in late 2017 in an attempt to stop child exploitation, particularly sex tourism crimes, worldwide. The sex offender identifier will alert countries that the person on their registry may be in their country and could result in them being denied entry.

The sex offender identifiers will be added to existing passports and will also appear on new ones. Those who are pardoned or have their convictions overturned and taken off the registry will still have the identifier on their passports. However, if someone is convicted of an aggravated crime against children such as rape or sexual assault, they will be required to register for life and their passports will have this information on them. Some sex offenders are barred from ever getting a passport, especially those convicted of sex trafficking or sex tourism crimes.

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How do I get a sex offender passport?

Until recently, a person who was convicted of a sex crime involving a minor would have to notify their local registry before traveling abroad. This notification process would ensure that foreign authorities were aware of a potential sex offender’s travel plans, and in some cases would lead to the offender being denied entry into the country. This is no longer the case, thanks to a new rule enacted by the Department of State. Under International Megan’s Law (IML), the department now adds a special identifier to the inside cover of a passport book for anyone who is a registered sex offender under IML. The identifier reads: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 U.S. Code 212b(c)(1).”

According to WUSA9, the new requirement was brought about by IML and is intended to help authorities combat child exploitation across the globe. Passport cards cannot be labeled in the same way, so if you’re on the sex offender registry, your passport will be marked to reflect this status.

If you’re a current sex offender who’s looking to travel internationally, then you’ll need to speak with your criminal defense attorney to learn more about how the new requirements will impact you. Even if you’ve been cleared of a past conviction or pardoned, your registration on the sex offender registry will remain on your record. As a result, you may still be required to give notification of your travel plans before leaving the country, and you’ll need to apply for a new passport that has this identifying mark on it.

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What are the requirements for getting a sex offender passport?

The requirements for getting a sex offender passport vary depending on your conviction and where you live. In general, sex offenders have to register with the National Sex Offender Registry and must report any travel plans to their local law enforcement agency at least 21 days prior to leaving the country. This is true whether you are traveling abroad for a short weekend getaway or if you are going to school or work in another state.

Passport rules for sex offenders have recently been changed in response to International Megan’s Law, passed in 2016 to prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes through advanced notification of traveling sex offenders. This new law requires a unique identifying mark on the passports of convicted sex offenders and empowers the Department of State to revoke a passport that does not contain this identifier.

The identifying mark will be printed on the inside back cover of your passport. It will include a phrase such as “Convicted Sexual Offender” or “Sex Offender.” This doesn’t prevent you from traveling internationally, but it does alert the authorities in other countries that you are a sex offender and may influence their decision to let you enter their country. It also doesn’t apply to people convicted of sex tourism offenses, who are still allowed to get passports and travel abroad.

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