American citizens will be now permitted to use expired passports until the end of 2021 to enter the United States, after a change in U.S. government policy attributed to “unprecedented appointment backlogs created by the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the State Department, “U.S. citizens currently overseas whose passports expired on or after January 1, 2020, may be able to use their expired U.S. passport for direct return travel to the United States until December 31, 2021.”
The move was met with a huge sigh of relief by Americans living in Israel who have been unable to renew passports over the past year that required in-person appointments. Although the problem has been worldwide, the outcry has been particularly loud in Israel, where the U.S. Embassy consul-general estimated that there was a backlog of 15,000 passport applications and renewals.
Americans in Israel complained of feeling “trapped” overseas and “abandoned” by a government that has made them unable to return to their country of citizenship and see their families. The frustration of Americans struggling to obtain appointments was compounded over recent weeks when the Tel Aviv Embassy Branch office was closed during the Gaza conflict, and existing appointments were cancelled.
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- ‘Keep trying’: U.S. Embassy’s message to Americans trying to obtain U.S. passports in Israel
The announcement, released by the U.S. State Department spokesman, said that the move represented an effort by both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security “to facilitate U.S. citizens’ return to the United States.”
Citizens are able to confirm their eligibility to travel to the United States with expired passports on the State Department website.
The announcement stressed that 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.”