Are you an American citizen currently abroad who has been waiting for months and months for a backlogged appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate?
You are not alone.
In May 2021, an estimated 100,000 U.S. citizens were stuck abroad waiting for embassy or consulate appointments for their passports. Many embassies and consulates closed down for part of the pandemic, and have not been able to return to pre-pandemic working hours. This is due in large part to the different pandemic restrictions still faced in the countries the embassies are operating in, and the backlog faced from nine months without embassy appointments. We wrote about the serious backlog issue for visa appointments in a previous post, but today we are highlighting the issues that have affected American citizens abroad who need passports.
Thankfully the U.S. government has finally recognized this as a problem, and has announced it is giving U.S. citizens until December 31, 2021 to travel back to the United States on their expired U.S. passports.
This still requires careful planning, as the passport travel exemption only applies to certain passport holders.
What are the Requirements for Traveling with an Expired U.S. Passport?
- Your passport must have expired on or after January 1, 2020.
- You cannot use your expired passport to travel from the United States 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.
- You should check country-specific requirements for any countries you are flying through on your way back to the U.S. to make sure you are eligible to fly through them on an expired passport.
So, Why the Issue?
If you are not abroad, you may be wondering why passport appointments are an issue for American citizens - after all, can't passports be renewed by mail?
In some countries, adult U.S. passport holders are able to renew their passports by mail. However, in some countries mailing passports is not reliable, and passport holders must renew in person.
The State Department requires that all children applying for their first U.S. passport or first renewal must apply in person, as well as children transitioning to adult-status passports. Additionally, all Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA) must be obtained in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. A CRBA documents that a child born abroad was a U.S. citizen at birth, and is very important to secure for your child. Please note that a CRBA is not a travel document.
If you have an immigration issue you would like help with please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.