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Extended through March 2022: Americans overseas can return to the US with expired passports – under certain conditions

Dec. 29, 2021
3 min read
Extended through March 2022: Americans overseas can return to the US with expired passports – under certain conditions
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Editor's Note

This story has been updated with new information.

The U.S. State Department has extended a pandemic policy that allows citizens living outside the United States to return without renewed travel papers if their passports expired during the pandemic — provided they meet certain criteria.

Americans currently living outside the country and holding passports that expired on or after Jan. 1, 2020, may be able to use their expired U.S. passport for direct return travel back to the U.S. until March 31, 2022.

Typically, travelers must have a passport that is valid for at least six months to be able to travel to most countries. But thousands of Americans have reportedly been stuck overseas because they can’t get renewal appointments at embassies or consulates due to the fact that many are either understaffed or closed due to COVID-19.

The change in policy was originally made “to alleviate travel difficulties and unprecedented appointment backlogs created by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a State Department statement.

An estimated nine million U.S. citizens currently live abroad.

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Related: How and when to renew your passport

Only U.S. citizens seeking to travel directly back to the United States qualify for the exception to travel with an expired passport. It must be in your possession, unaltered and undamaged. Your expired passport must also have been valid originally for 10 years. If you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport must have been valid for 5 years. All American citizens — regardless of vaccination status — returning to the U.S. must still show proof of a negative COVID test result, now taken within one calendar day of departure.

It’s important to point out that the exception does not allow Americans overseas to travel to other countries with an expired passport.

President Biden did sign an executive order on Dec. 13, 2021, that directs the State Department to offer online passport renewals in the future that don't require any physical documents to be mailed. If and when that option becomes available, renewing a passport will hopefully take much less time and effort than the current process. However, it's important to note that a timeline for creation or implementation for such a program has yet to be announced.

In the meantime, this policy provides a much-needed respite for Americans living abroad who are unable to get their passports renewed at present.

Related: Why I renewed our passports in the midst of a pandemic and how long it took

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured image by Passport
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023