A passport is a legal document that proves the citizenship of the person named in it. A passport is required for travel into and out of the country.

The United States Department of State (DOS) issues passports and determines the rules for them The State Department may revoke or limit a passport for any of the following reasons:

  • Fraudulently Obtained Passport: The passport was obtained through illegal, fraudulent or erroneous means; or was created through some illegality or fraud perpetrated upon the DOS;
  • Fraudulently altered passport: The passport has been fraudulently altered or misused;
  • Holder Not a U.S. Citizen: The DOS has determined that the holder of the passport is not in fact a U.S. citizen, or the DOS has been notified that the holders’s certificate of citizenship or certificate of naturalization has been canceled;
  • Fraudulently Obtained Consular Report of Birth Abroad: The DOS may cancel a Consular Report of Birth Abroad when it has notice that the DOS issued the passport on the basis of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad that was illegally, fraudulently or erroneously obtained, or was created through illegality or fraud practiced upon the DOS;
  • Fraudulently Altered Consular Report of Birth Abroad: The Consular Report of Birth Abroad has been fraudulently altered or misused; or
  • Person Born Abroad Not a U.S. Citizen: The DOS has determined that the person for whom the Consular Report of Birth Abroad was issued is not in fact a U.S. citizen, or
  • Canceled Certificate of Citizenship: The DOS has received notice that a holder’s certificate of citizenship has been canceled;
  • Conviction for Sex Trafficking of Minors: The applicant for a passport has been convicted of the crime of sex trafficking of minors and used a passport or otherwise crossed an international border in committing the underlying offense;
  • Federal Tax Debt of Over $52,000: A person who owes a legally enforceable federal tax of more than $52,000 may have their passport revoked. A debt of this amount gives the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the authority, working with the State Department, to deny or delay the delinquent taxpayer’s passport application. If a person already has a passport, it may be revoked. If the person is already in a foreign country, their passport may be limited to allow only a direct return to the U.S.;
  • Unpaid Child Support of More than $2500: The names of people who owe more than $2500 in child support are entered into the passport denial list. The only way to get off the list is to pay the amount of child support owed in full.

In addition, the department may revoke a passport if it is requested by a law enforcement agency for several reasons, including:

  • There is an arrest warrant outstanding for the person for a felony;
  • There is a court order that forbids the person to leave the U.S.;
  • The person is a convicted drug trafficker who used the passport to commit their crime.

A law enforcement agency that wants to prevent a person from fleeing the country may request that the DOS revoke the person’s passport. This might happen when a person arrested and charged with a crime has a prior criminal record. If the criminal record combined with the new charges could result in a lengthy prison sentence, law enforcement might consider the person to be a flight risk.

The law enforcement agency could initiate revocation by sending a letter with supporting information and documents about the person’s identity, criminal history and outstanding arrest warrants to the DOS.

When the request is approved, information regarding the revocation is shared with government databases accessible to law enforcement agencies and border control agencies around the world. This prevents the person whose passport has been revoked from traveling.

When the law enforcement agency that requested the revocation notifies the DOS that the revocation is no longer required, the law enforcement agency must surrender the passport to the DOS.

What Happens If a Passport Is Revoked?

The process for revoking a passport depends in part on the reason for the revocation, but generally a person is provided with written notice by the DOS if their passport is being revoked. It is possible for a person to find out their passport has been revoked when they apply for a passport and their application is denied. Or a person may discover that their passport has been revoked then they apply to renew their passport. A passport may be denied for many of the same reasons for which it can be revoked.

The application process for a passport requires filling out a form, paying a fee, and submitting photographs. For a first passport, it can take six weeks or more to process an application. Some countries require the passport to be at least six months old in order to permit entry. A passport renewal application might be processed within 60 days. Still, it is always wise for a person to apply for a passport or passport renewal well before they are going to need to use the passport, because processing times can sometimes be longer.

If a person’s passport is going to be revoked, they will receive a notice from the DOS. A passport is not revoked without notice to the person who holds the passport. Revocation of a passport can be appealed. A person has 60 days from the date of receiving notice of the revocation to request an administrative hearing before the DOS. The hearing is held within 60 days of the DOS’s receipt of the written request for a hearing. The DOS chooses the hearing officer and the person whose passport has been revoked may attend, of course, and may be represented by a lawyer.

After the hearing, the hearing officer writes up findings of fact. These are reviewed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services who decides whether to uphold the revocation or reverse it.

Can a Revoked Passport Be Retrieved?

A revoked passport may be restored through an administrative hearing. Then, if the results of the hearing do not restore the revoked passport, the next option is to appeal the decision of the administrative hearing to a federal district court.

If a person’s passport was revoked for financial reasons, such as nonpayment of taxes or nonpayment of child support, they have 90 days from the date of the denial letter to remedy the financial issue. If the person pays their child support in full or tax debt in full within 90 days, the original application process can be continued. After 90 days, the application will expire and you will have to submit a new passport application.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If your passport has been revoked, you can get it restored. You should consult an experienced immigration lawyer to learn about your best options and how to get your passport restored. If you have received notice recently of the revocation, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately as you have a limited amount of time within which to appeal the decision.

Or, if you have received a Notice CP508C, Letter 6152, from the IRS, or some other IRS communication about a seriously delinquent tax burden, you need to consult with an immigration lawyer as soon as possible for help if you want to avoid jeopardizing your passport status.
If you owe child support, even if you are making payments, and you want to get or renew a passport, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney before making the application.