The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) requires the Department of State to refuse to issue a passport to any person who owes more then $2,500.00 in back child support. Specifically 22 CFR 51.70(a) (8) states:

Sec. 51.70 Denial of passports
  1. A passport, except for direct return to the United States, shall not be issued in any case in which the Secretary of State determines or is informed by competent authority that:
    1. The applicant has been certified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services as notified by a State agency under 42 U.S.C. 652(k) to be in arrears of child support in an amount exceeding $2,500.00.

This law has been upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in Eunique v. Colin Powell 302 F.3d 971 (2002). Through the federal offset process, the Department of Child Support Services via the integrated database, submits obligor information provided by the local child support agency (LCSA) to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement on those cases that meet the criteria for federal tax refund (IRS) offsets and or administrative offsets.

When DCSS submits an obligor's record with arrears greater then $2,500.00, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) automatically extracts the file record and forwards that record to the Department of State for passport denial. California’s Child Support Warning Notice notifies an obligor that his or her name has been submitted for state and or federal off set programs prior to offset.

This notice also informs obligors that the Department of State will refuse to issue a passport in cases with arrearages that have at any time reached more then $2,500.00. This Notice also informs the obligor of his or her right to request a review of past due arrearages. Obligors whose arrearage has been certified to the Department of State and who have been entered into the passport denial program will not be subject to removal unless:

  1. The obligor has paid all arrears in full.
  2. The Court issued a writ of mandate ordering the LCSA to exclude the obligor after the court has reviewed the LCSA’s decision.
  3. A member of the obligor's immediate family resides outside the country and has a life threatening illness. (Requires doctor's letter or Red Cross notification)
  4. The death of an immediate family member occurring outside the United States (requires death certificate).
  5. The erroneous submittal of an individual who due to mistaken identity never owed support.
  6. The erroneous submittal of an individual who has never owed $2,500.00 in support arrearage.
  7. The filing of a petition for bankruptcy (requires bankruptcy documentation).
  8. The government of another country has requested that the obligor be permitted to participate in legal proceedings in that country (requires a signed & dated letter from the government of the other country).
Please note the following: The California Family Law Courts do not have jurisdiction to rule on the federal passport issue directly.

There is no statute that authorizes court intervention when an obligor has been certified as delinquent in child support. Family Code §17800 sets forth the complaint resolution process as the only remedy available to an obligor who believes he or she has been reported in error. It is critical that the obligor take prompt action upon receipt of the initial notice of delinquency (The Child Support Warning Notice).

An obligor must make a timely written request for review to the local child support agency that has certified his or her name to the list. In many cases a person may "dispute" what he or she owes in past due child support. However an arrears balance being "in dispute" does not allow release of a passport even on a conditional or temporary basis after certification.