What You Need to Know About the Mobile Passport Control App

This free app is a quick way to bypass the customs lines, and the application process is easier than Global Entry.

Ramsey QubeinOctober 26, 2020
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Mobile Passport Control allows U.S. and Canadian citizens to avoid filling out paper customs declarations forms and to bypass the customs and immigration kiosks at U.S. airports and cruise terminals. The free Mobile Passport app is available from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and is great for travelers who do not want to wait in line to use (or touch) a Global Entry kiosk.

Mobile Passport doesn’t replace a traditional passport. But you save time by completing the required documentation electronically when your plane lands.

Applying for Mobile Passport is quicker and easier than applying for Global Entry, which has a lengthy approval process that includes an in-person interview. Mobile Passport is a little more time-consuming when you use it because you have to enter more passenger information than you would for Global Entry. But for most travelers, Mobile Passport is far more convenient. Also, unlike Global Entry’s $100 application fee, the basic version of Mobile Passport is free.

Mobile Passport does not require a background check, interview or pre-approval. That means you can download it when you land and use it immediately. You input the required information after you land and while you taxi to the gate, or as you disembark your ship, so that when you step into the terminal you go directly to an expedited line for faster processing.

Mobile Passport Control launched in 2014 through a partnership between the Airports Council International-North America and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to speed up the administrative tasks done by customs officers and to reduce passenger wait times and paperwork at the airport.

Who can use the app?

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 in conjunction with the app. Mobile Passport is unrelated to TSA Precheck or Global Entry; it only works at the U.S. customs and immigration port of entry, not airport security. Downloading and using the Mobile Passport app does not mean you are approved for either of those expedited security or trusted traveler programs.

How does it work?

The encrypted Mobile Passport app, which can be protected via a PIN or touch/face ID using your phone’s settings, asks you to set up a profile, snap a selfie and answer questions about your trip. The app will then send the encrypted information to Customs and Border Patrol, and you’ll get a barcode on your phone to scan at an officer’s booth. The barcode is valid for four hours.

Most airports have dedicated lines for Mobile Passport app users, which save time because you’re not waiting in line with travelers submitting their arrival information at a physical kiosk. Each airport is different. Some blend the Mobile Passport line with other lanes then direct you to a dedicated booth to complete the process. Whether the Mobile Passport or Global Entry line will be faster will vary by airport and situation.

Once at the officer’s booth, Mobile Passport users hand over their passport and scan the code on the app. There are still occasional questions from the officer, but dedicated lines typically mean much faster processing than in the general arrival queue.

Mobile Passport users can pay a $14.99 annual fee (or $4.99 monthly fee) for the ad-free, premium Mobile Passport plus version to have details like passport number and expiration date and a personal photo saved within the app. Otherwise, you have to spend a few extra minutes entering that information each time you use the app.

Mobile Passport plus allows you to scan your passport using your device’s camera instead of manually entering the details. It will store it in the app to save you time. The premium version also keeps a history of your trips so that you can edit fields from past entries as a faster template for a new trip.

Which U.S. airports accept the app?

Mobile Passport is currently accepted at 29 U.S. international airports and four cruise ports.  

Can I add family members?

Unlike Global Entry, which requires that each individual apply and be approved, Mobile Passport allows you to create a profile for members of the same household and submit as one transaction, eliminating the need to enter the same details for each person. Everyone must be a valid U.S. passport holder or a Canadian citizen with a valid Canadian passport and B1 or B2 visa status.

The bottom line

If your travels take you outside the United States, consider downloading the free Mobile Passport app to get you through customs faster when you get home. It’s free, and when you apply, you won’t have to go through the long approval and interview process required by Global Entry. Then, when your plane lands back in the U.S., you just enter the required customs info into the app and head for the Mobile Passport Control line for quicker entry into the U.S.

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