Home Travel Americans Can Now Enter The U.S. With Expired Passports

Americans Can Now Enter The U.S. With Expired Passports

by SharonKurheg

While perusing the internet in recent months, I’ve seen a lot of posts that go the way of, “We’ve been living in [name of foreign country] and need to get home for [whatever event] at the end of next month. Our passports are expiring soon and I applied to renew them months ago, but they still haven’t gotten here. What do I do now?!?!”

The State Department had a huge backlog of passports during the early days of COVID. Fortunately, a few months in, they slowly opened their doors, allowed more and more staff to work as things appeared safer, and got caught up.

However, that only sped things up for U.S. citizens who lived in the U.S. Those residing abroad (except in Canada) are supposed to renew their passports at their nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced most embassies and consulates to close or reduce passport services. The result has been a mass backlog, with many months-long (monthS. Plural.) waiting times to process passport applications and renewals.

So, the U.S. State Department recently released a statement that said American citizens will be now allowed to return home from other countries through the end of the year, even if their passports have expired (from January 1, 2020 onward).

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will accept for admission certain expired U.S. passports, thereby assisting U.S. citizens who have been affected by appointment backlogs at embassies and consulates overseas caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the department said in a notice issued on May 24th.

Not surprisingly, the statement also clarified that expired passports couldn’t be used in the other direction.

“Recently expired passports cannot be used to travel from the United States to an international destination or to travel to a foreign country for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or a United States territory.”

Of course, they also reminded U.S. citizens that before flying back here, that they will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within 72 hours of their flight’s departure. And if they want to renew their passports once they’re back in the United States, current processing times can be found on their U.S. Passports page.

The full statement can be found here.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Nathaniel May 26, 2021 - 9:43 am

Technically a US citizen has never needed a passport to enter the US, they just need to satisfy the CBP agent at the port of entry that they are an American citizen, and the easiest way to do that was with a valid US passport. However it is not unusual for American who lost their passport in Canada to enter the US via land without one.

The problem, and one this announcement only partially satisfies, is will the airlines transport someone with an expired passport. They get big fines if the fly to the US someone who doesn’t have permission (or appear to have permission) to enter the US and they have to fly them back to wherever. I think with this announcement they will be more willing to let these people board their planes for direct flights to the US. However, I don’t know if they will be willing to let them fly on itineraries that transit third countries. What if something happens enroute and the person without a valid passport has to enter another country?

Nick Politakis June 3, 2021 - 2:51 pm

Also, when you apply for a renewal of a passport you send your soon to expire passport in with the application. So if you are waiting for the new passport you have nothing. What do you do then?

SharonKurheg June 3, 2021 - 3:27 pm

I personally don’t know the answer to that, sorry. I would suspect a good place to contact would be the numbers on the U.S. government’s passport application page?


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