The US State Department issued a memo December 28 that said citizens who fall under specific criteria will be able to return to their home country before March 31, 2022, on expired passports.
However, there are many conditions that apply.
For one, not every expired US passport will be acceptable as a return document. This exemption applies to American citizens who are currently abroad and returning to the United States (not leaving the country and going elsewhere) whose passports expired after January 1, 2020.
In addition, only certain kinds of passports are relevant. The expired document in question must have been an original 10-year passport, with exceptions for people who were younger than 15 when the passport was issued, because those are five-year passports.
These passports must be unaltered and in the owner’s possession.
Americans who fall under this criteria can come back to the the United States or a US territory until the end of March 2022. Short layovers are permitted, as some destinations do not have direct return flights to the United States.
This is the second significant passport news announced this week.
“The increased fee is necessary to ensure we continue to produce one of the most secure travel and identity documents in the world,” the State Department wrote in a tweet.
One likely reason for this expired passport amnesty is the backlog in renewals resulting from the pandemic. The State Department’s website advises Americans to expect a passport renewal to take between eight and 11 weeks, although individuals can pay a $60 fee to expedite the process.
That said, government officials have admitted that waits in the past two years have been longer than usual.
At the time, she estimated that there were between 1.5 and 2 million outstanding passport applications.
Those documents, though, will be good only for the single journey back to the United States, so people who get these emergency passports will then have to go through the usual procedure to get a new passport afterward.