After a long international flight back to the United States, answering the immigration questions at a kiosk and standing in a long line to present the form to a Customs and Border Patrol Officer is something I don’t look forward to. The Mobile Passport App is a free travel hack that eliminates the lines and waiting at U.S. Passport Control. I reported on Mobile Passport five years ago. As travel begins to revive, I think this useful app deserves another look.
What Is Mobile Passport?
Mobile Passport is a program authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in conjunction with the Airports Council International of North America. The program is designed to help travelers move quickly through CBP checkpoints when they are returning to the United States from an international trip. The Mobile Passport app allows certain travelers to avoid filling out paper customs declarations forms and to bypass the customs and immigration kiosks at many U.S. airports and several cruise terminals
Who Is Eligible For Mobile Passport?
Mobile Passport Control is limited to U.S. citizens with a valid passport and Canadian citizens with a valid passport and B1 or B2 visa status. You must have your passport in your possession when using the app. Mobile Passport is unrelated to TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Compared to those expedited security or trusted traveler programs, Mobile Passport offers advantages and disadvantages that are discussed below.
How To Use Mobile Passport
First, preferably before traveling, download the Mobile Passport app, which can be protected by a PIN or touch/face ID, and set up a profile by scanning your passport or entering the information manually.
When you flight lands or cruise ship arrives in port, open the app, snap a selfie and answer the CBP questions about your trip. Review all of the information about your travel that is showing in the app. Be sure to check that everything is accurate. Then send the encrypted information to CBP, and you should almost instantaneously receive a barcode on your phone. Follow the Mobile Passport Control signs in the immigration hall, show your Mobile Passport barcode to the Customs and Border Protection officer who will scan the barcode on your receipt. Once this is complete, you should be good to go. It’s as easy as pie. There is no need to fill out any information on a paper form or kiosk. The barcode is valid for four hours.
This chart summarizes the process after landing.
After landing I pull up the app, enter my information and answer the questions while the airplane is taxing to the gate. The barcode is always received before passengers are allowed to disembark.
Which Airports And Ports Accept Mobile passport?
Mobile Passport is currently available at 30 international airports and 4 cruise ports around the country.
- Baltimore (BWI) – Baltimore-Washington International Airport
- Boston (BOS) – Boston Logan International Airport
- Chicago (ORD) – Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Dallas (DFW) – Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
- Denver (DEN) – Denver International Airport
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- Fort Lauderdale (PEV) – Port Everglades Cruise Port
- Honolulu (HNL) – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
- Houston (IAH) – George Bush Intercontinental Airport
- Houston (HOU) – William P. Hobby Airport
- Kansas City (MCI) – Kansas City International Airport
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Los Angeles International Airport
- Miami (MIA) – Miami International Airport
- Miami (MSE) – Miami Seaport Cruise Port
- Minneapolis (MSP) – Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport
- New York City (JFK) – John F. Kennedy International Airport
- Newark (EWR) – Newark Liberty International Airport
- Oakland (OAK) – Oakland International Airport
- Orlando (MCO) – Orlando International Airport
- Palm Beach Seaport
- Philadelphia (PHL) – Philadelphia International Airport
- Phoenix (PHX) – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- Pittsburgh (PIT) – Pittsburgh International Airport
- Port Everglades Seaport
- Portland (PDX) – Portland International Airport
- Sacramento (SMF) – Sacramento International Airport
- Salt Lake City (SLC) – Salt Lake City International Airport
- San Diego (SAN) – San Diego International Airport
- San Francisco (SFO) – San Francisco International Airport
- San Jose (SJC) – Mineta San Jose International Airport
- San Juan (SJU) – Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
- San Juan (PUE) – Port of San Juan Cruise Port
- Seattle (SEA) – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- Tampa (TPA) – Tampa International Airport
- Washington Dulles (IAD) – Dulles International Airport
Mobile Passport Advantages
Mobile Passport is very similar to Global Entry except applying for Global Entry requires filling out a detailed form, undergoing a background check, participating in an interview with a CBP official, and must be renewed every five years. The process can take months. Global Entry also costs $100 although there are several credit cards that will absorb that fee for their customers. Mobile Passport skips that process, is free, and needs no renewal.
Mobile Passport can be faster than Global Entry, but that doesn’t necessarily apply at all airports. There are privately sponsored versions of the Mobile Passport app that charge a nominal fee. Those versions are the same as the free one except they can store passport info and trip histories.
Mobile Passport also beats Global Entry because Global Entry can be used only by the person who has been approved for the program. A entire family can be cleared through Mobile Passport when their information is supplied together.
Global Entry Advantages
Those who qualify for Global Entry are also enrolled in the TSAPre expedited security program. Participants in Mobile Passport who are not Global Entry members can still be part of the TSAPre program, but must pay an $85 fee (unless covered by a credit card) and meet the other requirements for TSAPre.
While Mobile Passport is limited to U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens with a valid passport and B1 or B2 visa status, Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, citizens of Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Argentina, India, Colombia, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, and Mexican nationals who apply, meet the standards for participation and are approved for the Global Entry program.
I have Mobile Passport and Global Entry and value Global Entry primarily for the TSAPre membership. Because Mobil Passport avoids having to visit a kiosk and its line, if any, is always shorter, I’ve found it to be the quickest option at CBP. Have you used Mobile Passport, or think it could minimize your waiting time at CBP?