Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Your passport is quite literally your key to the world. Without it, you'll be denied entry to overseas countries and you can kiss that dream trip of yours goodbye.
Before your next international trip, whether it's in a few months or a year, it's a good idea to make sure all your ducks are in a row so you don't end up in that situation. If you're planning your first international trip during your time at home during quarantine (check out our suggestions and tips), we know you probably have a bunch of questions, too — namely, how to check the status of your passport.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passport operations by the Department of State are severely delayed. Since March, expedited passport processing is reserved only for those traveling in the next 72 hours with life-or-death emergencies.
According to the Department of State, "a total of 11 passport agencies and centers are in phase two, and 15 agencies and centers are in phase one of [its] three-phase reopening plan," as of Sept. 8. The Department is currently unable to give real-time updates on when you'll receive your citizenship documents and passport and only says, "Expect delays due to COVID-19" with regard to the timeline for the standard process.
Related: Complete guide to traveling during the deadly coronavirus outbreak
Normally, applying for and receiving a U.S. passport can take anywhere from six to eight weeks. That includes the time it takes to apply for one and receive it via mail. If you need it sooner, and when expedited processing is available to everyone, you usually receive it within two to three weeks, though it will be subject to an additional $60 fee for fast-track service.
Related: TPG beginner's guide to points and miles
Sign up for our daily newsletter
How to check your passport application status online
If you've already applied for a passport and want to check its status, you can access the Online Passport Status System. Once there, enter your last name, date of birth, social security number and a security code.
Keep in mind, though, that usually, it takes anywhere from seven to 10 business days for your application to be trackable online. Currently, the only updates you will see are either "Not Found," which means it is in transit to a passport agency, or "In Process," which means it is with the Department of State and will be reviewed as staff returns in phases.
You can also sign up to receive automatic email updates on the status of your passport by entering your email address in the system.
How to check your passport application status via phone
Additionally, you can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (or 1-888-874-7793 if you're hearing-impaired). The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, and normally Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST, but Saturdays are currently not listed. It is not open Sundays or federal holidays.
Related: The best travel credit cards of June 2020
How to check your passport application status by email
While you can email the National Passport Information Center at NPIC@state.gov, the agency does not recommend it. Not only will it take the staff at least 24 hours to get back to you, but they can't email you the status of your passport. Instead, they recommend calling or using the aforementioned Online Passport Status System.
With additional reporting by Mimi Wright.