AT&T is finally granting its customers permission to unlock their iPhones after fulfilling the minimum contract period for the phone.

The unexpected news was confirmed on Sunday, when AT&T and Apple opened up a simple online process to unlock off-contract phones.

The process comes in five simple steps:

Locate Mobile Equipment Identify Number (IMEI):  Go to Settings>General> About. Copy this number down carefully as it will be required by AT&T to track the purchase of the device. Visit AT&T: Log onto your AT&T account using your wireless number and password.

Connect to a Rep: Visit the Wireless Support Chat section and click on the Technical Support Chat section where you can connect with an AT&T representative. Tell them you want to unlock your iPhone and then give them your IMEI number.

Verification: Wait for AT&T to verify that you have completed the contract period for the device ( Usually 2-years for the iPhone). If your iPhone is approved, AT&T will send the information to Apple who will contact you via email in 72 hours. (People who have tested this out have reported that it takes less time)

Activation Code: Apple will email you a code. You will be required to connect your iPhone to iTunes. You will then need to back up your phone and then restore it. Once you enter in the code the successfully unlocked message will appear on your phone.

If this message doesn't appear, Apple offers the following solutions:

Reseat the SIM card: Remove the SIM card in your iPhone and then reinsert it.

Restore your iPhone: Note that the computer you are using to restore the iPhone needs to be connected to the Internet. You can verify the connection by loading the first page of the iTunes Store.

Contact your carrier to verify that the unlock was applied in their system.

Once your device is unlocked you can successfully use it internationally with GSM SIM cards and avoid extortionate roaming fees applied by native carriers.

Verizon and Sprint customers can call and request their devices to be unlocked through customer care. Both carriers usually grant this permission for accounts in good standing and for clients who have not requested the unlock tool in the past 10 months.