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Can Americans overseas still get home during the pandemic?

Americans who are currently abroad have been advised by the State Department to seek out the nearest U.S. embassy to coordinate a return flight home. The State Department’s guidelines for aiding with options for return travel are highly specific and reliant on whether commercial travel is available. 

In a press conference on March 31, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Americans abroad to consider making their plans as soon as possible, saying, “I want to deliver a message to Americans who are still abroad. We remain steadfast and committed to getting you all back. We do not know in some countries how long the continued commercial flights in your country may continue to operate. We can’t guarantee the U.S. government’s ability to arrange chartered flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist. I urge Americans to register with their nearest embassy at step.state.gov and work your way back here. Americans abroad who wish to return home should do so immediately and make arrangements to accomplish that.”

As of April 3, more than 21,000 Americans were still abroad, with many trying to get home. At that time, the U.S. had already repatriated about 37,000 Americans from 69 countries. 

State Department guidelines indicate that if there are “no commercial options available, and if we have consular officers at the embassy or consulate and if the conditions permit,” it may aid Americans trying to return home by working with the “host government” and other government agencies to coordinate transportation. However, Americans assisted in this way will usually not be reimbursed for the cost of travel. 

The status of the host country’s borders also plays into whether Americans can return home at this point. Some nations have closed their borders only to incoming flights, allowing expatriates to return home. Others have suspended travel both ways, meaning Americans would not be able to leave without assistance from the State Department.

Sources: The State Department on Travel, The Dallas Morning News, Al Jazeera


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