WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department is allowing Americans to reenter the country with expired passports through the end of the year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021," the department posted on its website. "All other passport rules and regulations remain in effect."
Travelers must meet certain conditions to become eligible:
* You are a U.S. citizen.
* You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
* You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit ("connecting flights") through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
* Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
* Your expired passport is undamaged.
* Your expired passport is unaltered.
* Your expired passport is in your possession.
State department officials said the pandemic has greatly impacted international travel.
"Challenges to any international travel at this time may include mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements, quarantines, travel restrictions, and closed borders. Foreign governments may implement restrictions with little notice, even in destinations that were previously low risk," officials said.
The department also recommended travelers check with their airlines and destinations for specific COVID-19 safety protocols before heading overseas.
The airline industry has reflected some of the challenges with international traveling.
According to the International Air Transport Association, international passenger demand was down 87.8% in March 2021 compared to March 2019, but it’s a slight improvement from February 2021.
Last month, the State Department urged Americans reconsider any international travel they may have planned and said it would issue specific warnings not to visit roughly 80% of the world’s countries due to risks from the coronavirus pandemic. Travel is also discouraged for the remaining 20%, though not as emphatically. It says people with plans to visit those countries should reconsider before proceeding.
U.S. health officials and the State Department on Monday warned Americans against travel to Japan because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, which is preparing to host the Olympics in just two months.
"Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan," the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new COVID-19 update. "Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan."
CDC advises Americans not to travel internationally unless they are fully vaccinated. They urge unvaccinated Americans to get tested if they must travel in addition to following other safety protocols.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.