50,000 Americans Abroad Seeking State Department Help to Urgently Return to the United States Due to COVID-19 Pandemic; Number of Those Diagnosed With COVID-19 Is Unknown
The State Department estimates that as many as 50,000 United States citizens are stuck in foreign countries, who have requested evacuation and reparation assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the overall number was released, specific demographic and location information remained confidential, including the number of Americans abroad who already may be infected with COVID-19 and the severity of their medical condition.
United States Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit
The United States Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit’s Repatriation Task Force is at the lead of the massive global repatriation effort and is aggressively “organizing transportation through a charter or noncommercial means for American citizens stranded overseas and requests from U.S. embassies facing severe travel restrictions.” The Repatriation Task Force was created on March 19, 2020, by the Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit (CGRCU). According to the State Department, the Task Force “is charged with the following: coordinating and providing support for private American citizens stranded overseas; managing requests from posts facing severe travel restrictions requesting transportation assistance to implement Authorized or Ordered Departure; and supporting any evacuation operations of official or private American citizens involving charter or non-commercial means.”
Americans Abroad Seeking COVID-19 Assistance
With thousands of Americans seeking assistance, the State Department is attempting to alleviate the processing capacity surge and strain on the Department by urging all Americans abroad to continue attempting to schedule their own commercial flights to the United States and immediately return, if possible. If successful in securing a flight to the United States, Americans are encouraged to inform their closest United States Embassy or Consulate. To locate a United States Embassy or Consulate, please click here.
Absent commercial air return to the United States, the State Department expects that many Americans may be forced to stay overseas for an “indefinite period of time” while the Department attempts to secure private jets, Defense Department aircraft equipment, and commercial airliners that the federal government could lease to transport United States citizens stuck abroad back home.
If you, a family member, friend, or employee is a United States citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident that is traveling or living in a foreign country and requires repatriation assistance, the State Department encourages those Americans who are abroad to take the following steps:
Inform the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate. To locate the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate, please click here. Americans should keep the Embassy or Consulate informed of any updates in contact information, travel restrictions, or, in the unfortunate circumstance of COVID-19 infection.
Register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP “is a free service to allow United States Citizens, nationals, and lawful permanent residents traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate.” STEP provides the American traveling or living in a foreign country real-time information from the Embassy about safety and travel conditions, assists the Embassy to contact the traveler when repatriation arrangements are ready, and assists family members, friends, and others to contact the American living or traveling abroad. To enroll for an individual STEP account, please click here. If you are a corporate entity, business, or another group, an organization account may be created by clicking here.
Continue to search for return air travel to the United States through any commercial airlines that are still in operation, or, as they resume operations in the future. As noted earlier, if the return to the United States is successful, the United States Embassy or Consulate should be informed of this update, to allow the State Department to focus on Americans who remain stranded abroad.
The State Department has established a 24-Hour Consular Emergency Line for Emergency Circumstances Only when the local United States Embassy or Consulate is unable to be reached in the first instance. The 24-Hour Consular Emergency Line Number is (202) 501-4444.