How Mobile Passport can save you time at the airport


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It’s no secret that airports can be a chaotic and overwhelming experience for travelers. In its latest report, the U.S. Travel Association revealed that there were 79.6 million international arrivals into the United States in 2018 — that’s a lot of foot traffic to contend with!

To help manage this congestion, government agencies are leveraging mobile devices to help get you through security and customs lines faster. The Mobile Passport Control app is an easy option that shaves off time as you make your way back home from an international trip.

What is Mobile Passport?

Mobile Passport Control allows you to complete and submit a digital customs declaration form to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when entering the States from abroad. The app was created by Airside Mobile and is the first mobile app authorized by the CBP.

When you reach your port of arrival, simply launch the app and fill out the brief customs questionnaire in lieu of the traditional blue paper form. After submitting your digital declaration through the app, you’ll receive a unique QR (quick response) code, which you’ll show to the CBP agent along with your passport.

The goal of the app is to help reduce time spent by CBP agents on administrative-based inspections and expedite your experience during the customs declarations process. If you’ve ever felt the pain of searching for a pen while your plane is taxiing just to fill out the paper declaration form, Mobile Passport will be a welcome relief.

How to use Mobile Passport

There’s no pre-approval or interview required to use Mobile Passport Control, and the process is straightforward as long as you have a solid internet connection. Here are the steps to use this convenient app:

  • Step 1: Set up your profile. Enter your passport information, such as your name, date of birth, gender, and country of citizenship. You can add up to 12 profiles into a single device if you’re traveling with family. Upon landing, you’ll need to also include the name of the airport or seaport, your carrier, and a selfie.
  • Step 2: Answer inspection-related questions. There are a total of five customs inspection-related questions to complete. When you’re done, verify that all of the information is correct.
  • Step 3: Submit your information to the CBP. When completing this step, make sure you have an internet connection; this is best done when you’ve landed at your arrival port of entry. You’ll receive a QR code in a few seconds.
  • Step 4: Show your QR code to an agent. Once you’re inside the airport, follow the Mobile Passport directional signs to find the correct line. Show the CBP agent your passport and scan your QR code to complete the process.

The standard Mobile Passport app is free and available to U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors who have a smart device. Currently, it isn’t available for lawful permanent residents.

For $14.99 per year, you can access the premium version of the app, called “Mobile Passport plus.” It serves the same core purpose as the free version, but Mobile Passport plus users have the added benefit of using its document scanner to automatically fill in basic information. The paid app also lets you store data for upcoming trips so you can complete most of the steps in advance.

Where is Mobile Passport accepted?

Though not all U.S. entry points participate in the Mobile Passport Control program, more than 20 airports as well as three cruise ports use the app. Here’s the official list from the CBP website:

Airports accepting Mobile Passport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Portland International Airport (PDX)
Denver International Airport (DEN) Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) San Diego International Airport (SAN)
William P. Hobby Houston International Airport (HOU) San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Miami International Airport (MIA) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) Tampa International Airport (TPA)
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Seaports accepting Mobile Passport

Miami Seaport Port Everglades (PEV)
Palm Beach Seaport (PBI)

Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry

Like Global Entry, Mobile Passport offers you a way to expedite the CBP inspection process when coming into the U.S. from an international visit. But there are key differences between the programs you’ll want to consider. Here’s what you need to know about Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry.

What’s Global Entry?

Global Entry is also provided by the CBP, but this program requires preapproval and an interview. Instead of using your mobile device to complete a customs declaration form, you’ll use a Global Entry kiosk located within the airport. After you’ve submitted your information, you’ll receive a printed receipt to take to a CBP agent.

There’s a one-time $100 fee to get Global Entry, and once you’re approved, you have access to it for five years. However, many premium credit cards offer Global Entry fee reimbursements as a benefit, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express

Possibly the biggest Global Entry perk, however, is that you get automatic access to TSA PreCheck, which helps you get through security lanes faster on domestic flights.

How Mobile Passport compares

Although Mobile Passport doesn’t require pre-approval and has a free option for travelers, its benefits are limited compared to Global Entry. Even the premium Mobile Passport plusversion doesn’t give users the advantage of coveted TSA PreCheck lanes.

To put the cost savings into perspective, if you’re considering the Mobile Passport plus app, you’d spend $75 in fees over five years, compared to Global Entry’s one-time $100 fee. In this case, the savings might be negligible compared to the benefits that the extra $25 for Global Entry can buy.

Deciding between Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry depends on how often you travel. If you rarely travel internationally or don’t care to go through the cumbersome process of getting pre-approved for Global Entry, sticking to the free version of Mobile Passport might be sufficient enough for your needs. However, if you’re a frequent traveler and regularly sit in security lines, it might be worth looking into Global Entry, especially if you’re already considering a credit card that will cover the fee.

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