How to Apply for a Presidential Pardon

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A federal pardon, more commonly known as a presidential pardon, is the act of forgiving a crime that an individual was convicted of, after the punishment has been served. The purpose of a pardon is to treat the crime as if it had never been committed, which then restores some or all of the rights the individual lost as a result of being convicted. A common misconception is that a presidential pardon will completely remove the conviction from the individual's record; this is not true, and in fact, the pardon itself also becomes public record. Because of this, the individual must still disclose information about their conviction in any situation where it would be required, such as applying for employment; however, he may also include the fact that he was pardoned as part of the disclosure.

Step 1

Review and meet the requirements for a presidential pardon, which state that you must: have been convicted of a federal crime, wait a minimum of five years from the date that you completed your sentence or five years from the date of your conviction if no sentence was served; not currently be on parole, probation or supervised release, not have been convicted of a military offense (pardons for military offenses should be directed to the secretary of the military branch under which you were convicted), not currently be serving a life sentence without parole, not currently be on death row/have received the death penalty and not be convicted of treason. You must meet all of the requirements before your application will be accepted, except in rare, extenuating circumstances.

Step 2

Obtain and organize relevant documents, which include: a certified copy of your criminal history, a certified copy of your complete arrest record, along with every corresponding offense report, a certified copy of your indictment, judgment and sentencing/dismissal information for the conviction that you are applying to have pardoned, information about any additional convictions or trials for federal crimes and all relevant documents that can act as evidence to support your reason(s) for requesting a presidential pardon. Once you have obtained all of the necessary documents, organize them by each incident that took place and in chronological order. Attach these documents to your application. If any question asks for a specific document to be attached along with the answer, make a copy of the document in your pile and attach the copy along with the answer. Keep the original/certified copy of the document in its place with the rest of your documents.

Step 3

Fill out the application for a presidential pardon. The Office of the Attorney General has a 23-page application that you must complete in full as part of your request for a pardon. Questions include information about your personal history and background, the conviction for which you are seeking a pardon, other trials and/or convictions in your history and the reason why you are seeking a pardon. Before filling out the application, you should review the privacy statement at The application is available online at: You will not be able to save a copy of the application to your computer. You can fill in the answers to the questions by clicking inside the blue area next to each question and typing your answer. When you have finished the entire application, you will need to print it out and mail it in. If you run out of space while answering questions, you can continue your answer in a new blank document. Note the continuation of the answer and the number of the question on the new page. Answer every single question in the application, so do not skip questions or leave anything blank.

Step 4

Collect three character references -- a sworn statement of fact, signed in the presence of an oath taker, such as a notary public -- written by three separate individuals who are not family members (meaning anyone related to you by blood or by marriage). Friends, neighbors, employers and even former prison mates or wardens may all submit character affidavits. If for some reason, you cannot submit affidavits, letters of recommendations may be substituted as long as they include the full name, address and telephone number of the reference, along with an indication somewhere in the letter of the offense for which you are seeking a pardon and a notarized signature. Three blank affidavits are included at the end of the application. You can print these out and have your character witnesses hand-write their affidavits, or direct your witnesses to the application online and have them type in the information before printing it out.

Step 5

Draft a pardon letter. While not required, a pardon letter will give an overview of your crime and conviction, the reason you are seeking a pardon and why you feel you should be granted one. Your letter should be succinct and to the point to apply for a presidential pardon, as your application will contain more in-depth answers and you want to refrain from being redundant. Think of the letter as a "preview" of sorts to the application, which will give the reader an idea of who you are, your crime and what you hope to gain from the presidential pardon.

Step 6

Send in your application package for a presidential pardon to:

Office of the Pardon Attorney 1425 New York Avenue, N.W. Suite 11000 Washington, D.C. 20530

When mailing in your package to apply for a presidential pardon, you may want to use USPS Certified Mail, which will give you a confirmation of the delivery along with the name and signature of the person who signed for the package. Before mailing your package, make two complete copies of your entire application and any documents attached. One copy should be kept for your records, while the other should be saved as a back-up in the event your original application package is lost or damaged.


  • When you apply for a presidential pardon and the request is approved, you are accepting guilt for the crime you are having pardoned. For those who feel they have been wrongfully convicted, this may not be a desirable attribute. For these individuals, appealing their conviction would be a more suitable choice.
  • Individuals convicted of a federal crime who are on death row, or are serving life in prison, are not eligible for a presidential pardon.
  • Individuals convicted of treason are not eligible for a presidential pardon.
  • A presidential pardon is hard to secure, and there is a very slim chance your request will even be approved. Knowing how to apply for a presidential pardon gives you a better chance, and of course, it never hurts to try.


  • Whenever possible, ask for originals or certified copies of each document that you request to apply for a presidential pardon.
  • Presidential pardons are only for federal convictions; all other convictions are pardoned by your state governor.
  • The application process can be long and arduous, so it is a good idea to begin requesting and obtaining the documents you will need for the application three to six months in advance and start filling out the application and collecting character affidavits one to two months in advance.
  • Before sending in your application to apply for a presidential pardon, consider contacting an attorney to go over your entire application beforehand.



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