The U.S. Department of State has an important message for American citizens traveling in the long term, or who are due to fly internationally soon. Starting in July, expired U.S. passports will no longer be considered valid documents when returning to the United States, as certain pandemic-era measures are due to be revoked.
Throughout the Covid crisis, the U.S. Government allowed Americans who had been stuck abroad indefinitely, and whose passports might have ceased being valid amid the never-ending cycle of restrictions, to travel back home on an expired document. The ordinance had been extended a number of times, while travelers still faced a high degree of travel unpredictability.
Now that Covid is close to being considered an endemic disease, and a majority of travel curbs have been loosened, the U.S. is finally revising this once-lax travel policy:
Americans Will Be Denied Boarding If Their Passports Are Not Valid From July 1
As those who have been closely following the latest updates on the websites of major U.S. Embassies lately will already know, after June 30, 2022, U.S. citizens who remain overseas with an expired passport will no longer be able to use it as a travel document for returning to their home country. Instead, they are now urged to apply for a new passport.
Since the announcement was made, several U.S. Embassies around the world were quick to update their own travel guidance, including the American diplomatic missions in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, France, Germany, and several other countries. As early as July 1, only passports that meet expiry requirements will be accepted.
In a message to U.S. citizens holding an invalid travel document and who are abroad at the moment, the Embassies have collectively advised them to seek assistance in obtaining a replacement passport ahead of traveling. As the U.S. Embassy in Albania reiterates, Americans are eligible for ‘temporary passports’ in cases of emergency travel.
These passports can be issued when a travel date cannot be postponed, and the time required for applying for a regular passport would prevent departure. In these situations, they should contact an official U.S. representation in the foreign country they are in – whether it’s Albania or any of the aforementioned nations.
The application process may vary, but same-day issuance is usually available on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, Embassies remind travelers that, in ‘certain circumstances’, additional information may be required, or they may refer cases to the Department of State for further evaluation. For that reason, they are warned against making travel plans in advance.
Change In Travel Rules Follows A Global Reopening Trend
Prior to the tightening of the rule, all U.S. citizens qualified for travel to the United States on an expired passport, so long as the flight back was a ‘direct return’, or included a short-term, air-side transit in a foreign country. U.S. authorities only required that the document had previously valid for a total of 10 years, from the date of issue, before expiring.
As Covid is no longer prompting border closures worldwide, and the world is quickly reopening for tourism, the grace period for void travel documents is poised to elapse. After all, we are approaching a stage in the pandemic where Covid is not seen as a seriously disruptive health threat, especially in Western states that are progressively easing travel rules.
In spite of the positive trend, Americans are reminded holding valid passports is the main prerequisite for international travel – and, soon enough, for entering the United States. Lastly, all travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Program (STEP), including U.S. nationals that are abroad.
STEP is a free service allowing Americans that are either traveling for extensive periods of time, or living in other countries, to register their trip with Embassies or Consulates that are closest to them. This will help U.S. officials assist them during unforeseen events, and strengthen communication between both parts.
Americans May Not Need Passports To Travel To Certain Destinations
It is worth noting that, even though passports are needed for the vast majority of international flights departing from the U.S., there are a number of destinations known to have struck bilateral agreements with the White House, allowing Americans to visit bureaucracy-free – even when they do not have passports.
That is still the exception rather than the rule, and the U.S. Department of State reaffirms Americans will be denied from boarding a plane when attempting to travel to an international destination without valid documentation. As pre-pandemic regulations are reinstated, the best option here is to get a passport, or renew an expired one, as soon as possible.
U.S. citizens can apply for new passports using this link.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories