US Allows Americans With Expired Passports to Return Home

May 25, 2021 Updated: May 25, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration says many American citizens holding recently expired U.S. passports will be allowed to return home from abroad on that document until the end of year.

Citing delays in passport renewals caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said certain passports that expired on or after Jan. 1, 2021, will be honored for reentry into the United States until Dec. 31. That’s because the pandemic forced the department and most embassies and consulates to close down or significantly reduce passport services.

“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 late Monday.

Passengers at Los Angeles International Airport
Passengers wait for their flights inside the new West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, on May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The closures resulted in waiting times of more than two months in some cases for processing passport renewals, and a significant backlog of applications remains. The department cautioned, though, that recently expired passports aren’t valid for international travel from the United States or for travel between third countries that is not directly linked to return travel to the United States.

“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 to a United States territory,” the department said.

It added that not all expired passports will be eligible for the waiver and urged Americans to check their status online at travel.state.gov before finalizing travel arrangements.

Among the requirements are that the expired passport was originally valid for 10 years, that the passport has not been damaged or altered, and that the traveler has physical possession of it.

By Matthew Lee