If you're planning on heading overseas, you'll need to apply for a U.S. passport. Once you've done so, it's equally as important to track your application's status, especially if you'll be leaving the country soon. I don't recommend booking any accommodation or flights until you have your passport in hand (and in some cases, you'll need your passport number to book hotels and flights anyway), so getting confirmation and knowing when you'll receive your passport is critical before making your travel plans.
Learn how to check your U.S. passport application status below:
Check Your U.S. Passport Application Status Online
The quickest and easiest way to check the progress of your passport application is to do so online.
Head to the Department of State's website. Be prepared to enter the following information: your last name, including suffixes without punctuation except the hyphen (for example: Smith III, Jones Jr, Jones-Smith), your date of birth in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY, and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. After you click submit, you'll be able to see what stage your passport application is currently at and how long it will most likely take for you to receive it.
It currently (in 2016) takes 7-10 days after submitting your application until you'll be able to see what's going on with your application online, so wait at least a week before checking on it.
Check Your U.S. Passport Application Status by Phone
Another easy way to check on your U.S. passport application's status is by phone.
Between six a.m. and midnight on Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (excluding federal holidays), you'll be able to call the Department of State to find out how far along your application is and how long it will take to be fully processed. The Department of State says the best time to call is between 8:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. EST., as this is when the least amount of people call, so you won't have to wait as long This is the number you need call:
And for those of you who are hearing impaired: 1-888-874-7793.
Check Your U.S. Passport Application Status by Email
You can also check the status of your application by sending an email to NPIC@state.gov -- make sure to tell them your last name, your date of birth, the last four digits of your social security number, and your passport application number.
Most inquiries will be answered with 24 hours, so this is the slowest method of finding out what is happening. You'd be best off calling or using the website unless you're not in a huge rush.
Leaving the Country Soon?
If you'll be leaving the United States within 14 days and urgently need to submit your passport application, the government offers an expedition service to help you get everything arranged in time -- in this case it will take two or three weeks for you to receive your passport, including mailing times.
Do not fall for the expediting service companies you'll see in the Google results as you research, as these are overpriced and the companies are just doing exactly what you'd do to expedite the process.
Do it yourself instead and save your money for your vacation -- it's no faster to use a company unless you really don't have a spare half an hour to fill in your application.
Learn how to get it done in the following article: How to Expedite a U.S. Passport Application.
Keep Up-to-Date With Any Issues That May Affect Your Application
Ten years ago, U.S. citizens used to be able to enter Mexico and Canada without having to show their passport and either of the borders. As long as you had ID, such as a driving license or birth certificate, you were free to enter both countries as a tourist.
Ten years ago, this program was stopped and all U.S. citizens had to apply for a passport if they wanted to enter either country. Unsurprisingly, there was a huge rush for passports, which resulted in major delays in applications. At its worst point, there was a backlog of three million passports and the wait time for a passport to be processed was over three months.
The reason why this is relevant today is because that happened in 2007 and an American passport is valid for ten years.
In 2017, the millions of American citizens who applied for their passports simultaneously are now going to have to apply for a new one. Therefore, if you're hoping to apply for a passport in 2017, it's worth doing it as soon as possible, as it's most likely going to take longer for your application to go through this year.
This post has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.