State Department to allow travelers stuck overseas with expired passports to travel home

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The agency reminds travelers that it still discourages international travel

Travelers who are stuck overseas and holding a recently expired U.S. passport are being rescued by the State Department. The agency announced on Tuesday that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate their return home. The agency says the move will help reduce travel difficulties and unprecedented appointment backlogs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any U.S. citizen currently stranded overseas with a passport that expired on or after January 1, 2020, can use that passport anytime through December 31, 2021. There are certain criteria that apply, but the agencies ask that those travelers get in touch ahead of their trip home so that their eligibility for traveling can be confirmed and the paperwork can be processed before finalizing travel arrangements.

The agencies want travelers with expired passports to know that those documents cannot be used to travel from the U.S. to an international destination for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the U.S. or to a U.S. territory (e.g. American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

For those wishing to renew their passport upon their return to the U.S., current processing times can be found on the U.S. Passports website.

Reconsider travel abroad

Even though international travel is starting to trend upward as the pandemic trends downward domestically, the State Department continues to strongly recommend that Americans think twice about traveling abroad — especially to places where COVID-19 levels remain high.

“We also remind U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States that proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within 72 hours of their flight’s departure, is required for air travel to the United States,” the agency said. 

The agency also reminds travelers that processing times for passports are currently running at about 10-12 weeks — a timeline that could push international travel back to mid-to-late August. 

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