American passport holders can still return home, even if their passport is expired. The United States government is extending the rule exception until June 30, 2022.
Typically, American travelers are not able to travel internationally with an expired passport or if their passport is due to expire within 6 months (though some countries allow exceptions to this rule). But, the U.S. decided to temporarily suspend this rule during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to passport renewal and processing times much longer than normal. The exception was set to expire March 31, 2022, but will now last until June 30th.
Travelers may only use expired passports to gain re-entry into the United States, not to travel from the U.S. to another country. Similarly, Americans living abroad cannot use an expired passport to travel from country to country; they are only allowed to enter another country while en route (i.e. a layover) back to the US.
Typical turnaround time for a passport renewal is 6–8 weeks, however, the U.S. State Department anticipates processing to take up to 11 weeks as we head into the busy summer travel season. While long, that is down significantly from the 18-week turnaround time during the height of the pandemic. Also note that the 11-week estimate does not include mailing time on either end of the process. Officials are urging travelers to send in their documentation for a new passport or renewal well in advance of any international travel.
The only way to speed up passport application is to pay an extra $60, but that will only get you down to a 5–7 week turnaround. You are able to get a passport within a few days, but that’s reserved for emergency situations only, like a death in the family or another urgent travel need.
Once you have that valid passport in hand, check out our top small towns to visit internationally, or maybe you’re thinking of retiring overseas? If so, read our top international retirement locations.