How to Check the Status of Your Passport Application

iStock.com/TriggerPhoto
iStock.com/TriggerPhoto

Whether or not you have plans to travel abroad in the near future, you should always have a valid passport. Nearly half the states in the U.S. now require residents without Real IDs to show their passports before boarding domestic flights. And with longer wait times for passport processing expected in 2020, you should apply for a passport as soon as possible—or double-check to see when your current one expires. Once you've submitted the request form, here's what you need to do to check the status of your passport application.

To view your passport application status online, visit the U.S. government's online passport status system. After entering your last name, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number, you'll see how far along your passport is in the process. This information is only available seven to 10 business after you apply, so if you type in your information and nothing comes up, you may need to be patient. By entering your email address on this page you can receive automatic updates as your application moves through the system.

You can also check in on your passport status by phone. Call 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Saturday and ask for your application status. For this, you'll also need your last name, date of birth, and the last four digits of your SSN.

Applying for or renewing a passport is a hassle, but if you're a frequent traveler, there are tricks you can use to extend the lifespan of your travel document. For example, you can use sticky notes to save the blank pages in your passport and keep it from filling up too quickly. (Most countries require a specific number of blank pages—often two facing pages—in order to allow for entry.)

Lose a Wallet or Phone in Japan? Here's Why You'll Almost Always Get It Back

A lost wallet in Japan stands a good chance of being reunited with its owner.
A lost wallet in Japan stands a good chance of being reunited with its owner.
AndreyPopov/iStock via Getty Images

There are, of course, worse things in life than losing your keys, a wallet, or a smartphone. But at the moment you realize they're gone, it sure doesn’t seem like it. And unfortunately, in most places, it can be exceedingly difficult to locate those items again. But in Japan, there’s a great chance you’ll be reunited with your missing belongings.

Allan Richarz of CityLab recently broke down the reasons why Japan’s unique legal and cultural climate provides an effective method for retrieval of lost items. Suppose a citizen stumbles across an umbrella or purse that’s missing its owner. Rather than wonder where they might be able to turn it in, they head to a local koban, a small police station that’s usually within walking distance. (More than 6300 kobans span the country.) In 2018, 4.1 million missing items were turned in to police, and the chances of reuniting them with their owners is pretty good. That same year, 130,000 of 156,000 lost phones (83 percent) were returned and 240,000 wallets (65 percent) went home.

Missing items are typically held at the local koban for one month in case the owner retraces their steps and comes back. After that, they’re sent to a Lost and Found Center at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, where the item is cataloged, searched for information relating to its owner, and then put into an online database that the public can check. Belongings are held for three months. After that, they might be handed over to the person who found it. If not, they become the property of the local government, where they might eventually trickle down to secondhand thrift sales.

What prompts the Japanese to be so diligent in handing over items? Respect. Children are taught in school that returning belongings to police is part of their civic duty. It’s also law. The Amended Lost Property Act of 2007 mandates that lost items be turned over to authorities if the owner can’t be located. The same law also enforces a reward that’s a percentage of the value of the item if it’s reunited with its owner.

Losing personal possessions while traveling can be a nightmare. If you happen to lose something while visiting Japan, however, there’s a good chance you can avert disaster. Just ask for directions to the nearest koban.

[h/t CityLab]

law

5 Ways You Can Help the Jaguar Rescue Center Save Costa Rica’s Wildlife

A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
Jaguar Rescue Center

In 2005, Catalonian primatologist Encar Garcia and her husband, Italian herpetologist Sandro Alviani, were living in southwestern Costa Rica when locals began to bring them injured animals in hopes that the two experts could save them. As word spread and more animals arrived, their property slowly transformed into a full-fledged rescue center. So they purchased the surrounding land and named their new organization the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC), after one of their early rescues: a young, orphaned jaguar whose mother had been killed by farmers.

Today, the center covers nearly 5.5 acres of land near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s Limón province. It can accommodate around 160 animals at a time, and is home to everything from spider monkeys to sea turtles (though, by law, staff members aren’t allowed to accept domesticated animals like cats and dogs).

While locals still bring injured and orphaned animals to the JRC, others are brought by tourists, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Animal Health Service, and even the police, who confiscate animals that have been poached or illegally kept as pets.

howler monkey at jaguar rescue center
Skye, a young howler monkey who recovered from electrocution.
Jaguar Rescue Center

The rescues are often victims of road accidents, animal attacks, environmental destruction, human interaction, or electrocution from exposed power lines. After the animals are rehabilitated, they’re released into La Ceiba Natural Reserve, a human-free (except for JRC workers) part of the forest where they can safely reacclimate to living in the wild. The JRC has cameras installed in the area to monitor the animals after their release and make sure they’re finding enough food.

Unfortunately, not all the creatures brought to the JRC recover from their injuries—in 2019, for example, 311 of the 749 rescues died [PDF]—so JRC staff members and volunteers understand just how remarkable it is to watch an animal regain its health and be successfully returned to its natural environment.

“There are so many amazing things about working for the JRC, but I think we all can agree that seeing a rescued animal make it through rehabilitation and be released is the best and most rewarding part of the job,” Torey, a JRC tour guide, tells Mental Floss.

Some thought-to-be-orphaned sloths are even released right back into the arms of their mothers. After recording the cries of a baby sloth, JRC staff will take the sloth back to wherever it was first found, play the recording, and wait for the mother to recognize the cries and (slowly) climb down from her leafy abode to reunite with her child.

Despite its partnerships with government agencies, the JRC doesn’t receive government funding. Instead, it relies on public donations and revenue from its visitor services. Find out more about how you can help below.

1. Donate money.

You can make a one-time or monthly donation that will go toward food, medical care, and supplies for the animals, or you can donate specifically to the JRC’s “Shock Free Zone” program, which insulates power lines and transformers that run through forests to prevent them from electrocuting wildlife.

2. Donate items.

Check out the JRC’s Amazon wish list to see which items are most needed—and what they’ll be used for, too. Examples include Pampers diapers for baby monkeys, snake hooks for safely rescuing snakes, and cans of worms to feed birds, opossums, and bats.

One of the most important products on the list is powdered goat’s milk, which staff members use to feed orphans of many mammalian species at the JRC.

“It has the most universally digestible enzyme compared to other milk,” Torey says. “Unfortunately, we do not have sloth milk, monkey milk, etc. readily available for the baby animals.”

3. “Adopt” an animal.

diavolino, a margay at the jaguar rescue center
Diavolino, the Jaguar Rescue Center's "feisty little margay."
Jaguar Rescue Center

For $105, you can virtually “adopt” an animal at the JRC. Choices range from Diavolino, a “feisty little margay” rescued from the illegal pet trade, to Floqui, a whitish two-fingered sloth who was born with only one digit on each hand and foot.

4. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center.

You can stay overnight at the JRC in one of its three visitor residences—La Ceiba House, Ilán Ilán House, or one of the Jaguar Inn bungalows—which offer a variety of amenities, restaurant service, and access to nearby beaches.

Whether or not you’re staying there, you can book a tour of the JRC, where you’ll get to explore the premises and even meet some of the animals. There are private, public, nighttime, and VIP tours, and you can find out more here.

5. Volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on, potentially life-changing way to help Costa Rica’s wildlife, you can apply for the JRC’s four-week volunteer program or a position at La Ceiba Natural Reserve that lasts three to six months.

According to the website, JRC volunteers are housed in the Jaguar Inn and help with “a broad range of tasks, from doing the dishes and cleaning up after the animals ... to building and remodeling enclosures, or babysitting a new arrival to ease the stress of their new environment.”

La Ceiba volunteers, on the other hand, stay right on the reserve and do everything from monitoring captive and recently released animals to keeping the trails clear.

Find out more about becoming a volunteer here.

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