What Background Is Checked for a Passport?

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Passport officials examine many aspects of your background when you apply for a U.S. passport. The checks are done mostly to prevent known criminals and dangerous individuals from escaping punishment for their crimes in the U.S., or to prevent them from entering other countries to commit other offences.

Background checks are also done to prevent illegal immigrants from getting U.S. passports they can use to fake their citizenship, or sell on the black market.

Legal Status

When applying for a passport, you are required to supply proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or certificate of consular registration of birth. Passport officials examine the documents for authenticity to verify your identity and to verify you are actually a U.S. citizen. According to the U.S. Department of State website, passport officials also run the name of minors under the age of 18 through the Department of State's Passport Name Check Clearance System to check if the child has a file from a parent or guardian requesting notification of any passport applications submitted for the child. This is done to prevent children involved in custody disputes from being abducted.

Debts and Financial Background

Passport officials check that you do not have any outstanding child support payments. If you do owe over £1,625 in child support payments, the government will reject your application until you pay off the remaining balance. Passport officials also check your tax returns for unpaid taxes. If passport officials discover that you owe the IRS money, they may deny your passport until the matter is cleared, according to author Robert Bauman in his book "The Complete Guide to Offshore Residency, Dual Citizenship and Second Passports."

Criminal Background

Passport officials run a criminal background check to see if you have been convicted of any drug charges. Although passport officials cannot deny you a passport due to a felony conviction in general, officials can deny you a passport if the conviction was for a felony or misdemeanour drug offence committed after crossing an international border, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. This is done to prevent possible drug traffickers from leaving the U.S. to smuggle drugs back in to the country.

Current Investigations

According to the U.S. Department of State website, passport officials look into whether you have any pending federal warrants issued for your arrest, or if you have any federal or state criminal court orders filed against you. Officials check these issues to prevent possible criminals from escaping the country. Passport officials also check if you have a parole or probation condition that forbids you from leaving the United States, or if an extradition order to another country has been filed against you.