Prepare for Adventure by Securing Your New Passport
Airplanes wait for no one but the president, so if your new passport doesn't arrive before the day of your international trip, there's not much you can do. The U.S. Department of State handles all things passport-related, so that's where you should turn to check on the progress of your renewal application. You can get some general answers from the department's website or by calling them directly.
How to Check Your Status
Whether you applied to renew a passport by mail or in person, use the same process to check its status. That's important if you're checking on passports for your kids or other family members. Different situations call for different application processes. For example, children's passports and heavily damaged passports cannot be renewed using the general renewal form, but once applications are submitted, they're all entered into the same system.
You have two ways to learn the status of your application: Check online or by phone. Checking online is definitely the easier way and takes just a minute or two, but getting this done over the phone is also pretty straightforward.
Note that your application won't show up in the system right away. Typically, it takes a week to 10 days after the application is received for it to be searchable in the status system. If you applied by mail, factor in a few extra days for the application to be received. If your application still doesn't show up in the system after that time, call the National Passport Information Center for more help.
Visit the Online Passport Status System, accessible through the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website. First read and accept the privacy notifications. Then, you'll be directed to a second page that asks for the applicant's last name, date of birth and last four Social Security Number digits. From there, you'll see that the application hasn't yet been received; that it has been received and is being processed; that it's in the final processing stages; or that it's finished and has been mailed to you.
The system also gives you the option of entering your email address and receiving status updates as they happen.
Checking by Phone
Call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 (or 888-874-7793 if you need TDD/TYY services) anytime to use the automated system to check your renewal status. If you prefer to talk to a customer service representative, call between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST, Mondays through Fridays, or between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
The state department tells applicants to expect processing times of six to eight weeks for routine service and two to three weeks for expedited service, which requires paying an extra fee of $60 or more. Those estimates include mailing time and apply to all applicants, including children, whether they've submitted renewal or first-time applications. However, many people who opt for routine service report receiving their passports within three to four weeks, or less.
If you've already sent off your renewal application but fear you won't receive the new passport in time, you can try calling the National Passport Information Center to ask about changing your application to expedited service. If they're able to do it, you will have to provide credit card information to pay the fees for expedited service.