American citizens who are currently abroad can return to the U.S. without having to renew their passports, if it has expired, until the end of the year.
Passports that expired on or after Jan. 1, 2021 will be honored for re-entry into the U.S. through Dec. 31, the State Department announced Monday, citing delays in passport processing due to the pandemic.
"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 State Department's announcement read.
Due to the pandemic, consulates and embassies around the world were forced to cut back staffing, leading to an "unprecedented" backlog of passport services appointments, according to the memo.
Specifically, some consulates are posting wait times of more than two months for processing passport renewals and there is still a "significant" backlog of applications, The Associated Press reported.
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Expired passports that will be considered OK for travel must not be damaged and must have been originally valid for 10 years. Additional criteria may still apply and Americans should check their passport status online before making final travel arrangements.
Travelers cannot use their recently expired passports to travel from the U.S. to an international destination nor can they travel to a foreign country with the passport for any length of time longer than a connection between flights.
At this time, the State Department "continues to strongly recommend U.S. citizens reconsider travel abroad and postpone their trips if possible" and reminds those returning home that they will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of their flight's departure, in order to enter the U.S.