On Wednesday, the State Department announced that it will terminate existing passports for registered child sex offenders and require them to reapply for new ones that contain a notice identifying them as sex offenders. All new applicants will receive the updated passport with the notice.
The AP reports that back cover will contain a “unique identifier” that reads: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to (US law).” The notice is too large to fit on passport cards, according to the department, so registered child sex offenders won’t be able to obtain the wallet-sized cards anymore.
While the changes “will not prevent covered sex offenders from departing the United States, nor will it affect the validity of their passports,” according to the State Department, convicted felons who travel internationally may face entry restrictions in other countries.
The policy change, which only applies to those convicted of sex crimes affecting minors, is a result of International Megan’s Law, which President Obama signed the bill into law last February. While it aims to curb child sex trafficking, some civil rights groups and politicians have raised concerns about the bill’s impact, particularly around it’s failure “to allow for the individualized consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the traveler’s criminal history,” as Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott has said. “Details such as whether the traveler is a serial child rapist versus someone with a decades-old conviction from when he was 19-years-old and his girlfriend was 14 … are significant, and would allow law enforcement to more appropriately prioritize their finite resources,” he explained on the House floor last year.
The State Department has not said when it will begin to revoke existing passports, but the AP reports that “affected passport holders will be able to travel abroad on their current passports until the revocations are formalized.” The Department of Homeland Security’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at will provide the State Department with the list of registered child sex offenders.