The Best Guide to Mobile Passport: Breeze Through the Airport

Mobile Passport customs and border protection

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If you’ve traveled internationally recently, you have probably seen signs for “Mobile Passport” when you were passing through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. But you probably didn’t see a long line for that area.

What exactly is Mobile Passport?

Can you use that line instead of waiting in the ridiculously long one (with everyone else) to have your passport checked? The simple answer is yes — you just need to learn how!

Mobile Passport can be a great option when returning to the United States from another country — but many people have no idea what it is or how to use it. You are not alone in your confusion.

This complete guide to Mobile Passport will tell you everything you need to know and help you pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection as quickly as you can.

We will explain what the program is, how you can use it, and even show you why it’s a good idea even if you already have Global Entry.

What Is Mobile Passport?

Mobile Passport is a program authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conjunction with the Airports Council International of North America.

The program is designed to help travelers move more quickly through U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when they are returning to the United States from an international trip.

An iOS or Android mobile device is required to participate in Mobile Passport. The app can be downloaded for free on either operating system (iOS, Android).

Once downloaded, a traveler simply needs to have Wi-Fi or mobile data service at their participating place of entry into the U.S., and they will be able to take advantage of Mobile Passport.

The Mobile Passport app allows travelers to store their passport and personal information securely and use the same information on multiple trips. Upon arrival, travelers answer the required trip and declarations questions in their app and submit the information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The information sent from the Mobile Passport app replaces the paper forms passengers typically have to fill out prior to arrival.

You no longer need to have a pen or fill out arrival forms on the plane or in line. Mobile Passport allows travelers to skip right to passport review and move through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint with ease.

Which Airports Use Mobile Passport?

As of November 2017, Mobile Passport is available for use at 24 airports and 1 cruise port around the country. There are plans to expand the program, but additional airport and cruise port locations have not yet been announced.

The current airport locations where you can use Mobile Passport are below:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
  • 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
  • Houston (IAH) – George Bush Intercontinental Airport
  • Houston (HOU) – William P. Hobby Airport
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Los Angeles International Airport
  • Miami (MIA) – Miami International Airport
  • Minneapolis (MSP) – Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport
  • New York City (JFK) – John F. Kenedy International Airport
  • Newark (EWR) – Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Orlando (MCO) – Orlando International Airport
  • Phoenix (PHX) – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Raleigh (RDU) – Raleigh Durham International Airport
  • Sacramento (SMF) – Sacramento International Airport
  • San Diego (SAN) – San Diego International Airport
  • San Fransisco (SFO) – San Fransisco International Airport
  • San Jose (SJC) – Mineta San Jose International Airport
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Tampa (TPA) – Tampa International Airport
  • Washington, DC (IAD) – Washington Dulles International Airport

How to Use the Mobile Passport App

mobile passport steps for use
In 5 easy steps, you are ready to pass through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. All you need is mobile data or a Wi-Fi connection.

To get started with Mobile Passport, the first thing you need to do is download the Mobile Passport app (iOS or Android).

Once you have the Mobile Passport app, you can set up your profile. This includes adding your personal information and official information as it appears on your passport. Make sure your passport is valid for international travel.

One helpful thing about the Mobile Passport app is that you do not need separate devices for each member of your family. You can set up a profile for each family member within a single app, which is especially nice for families with young children.

When you return to the United States at a participating Mobile Passport location, simply follow these steps:

  1. Open the app and answer 5 brief questions about your trip.
  2. Review all of the information about your travel that is showing in the app. Be sure to check that everything is accurate.
  3. Then, electronically submit your information to Customs and Border Protection.
  4. After submitting your information, you will receive an electronic receipt that contains an encrypted barcode. This should take only a few seconds to get and will be valid for 4 hours.
  5. Finally, follow the Mobile Passport Control signs, show your passport to the Customs and Border Protection officer, and scan the barcode on your receipt. Once this is complete, you should be good to go. It’s as easy as that.

Hot Tip: Remember that when you submit information through the Mobile Passport app, you are certifying under penalty of law that the information is correct. This is the same as filling out a paper form or answering questions directly from a Border Control officer.

Mobile Passport vs Global Entry

Global Entry Logo Trusted Traveler Network
The Global Entry program is one of the Trusted Traveler programs from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Global Entry is a paid service that requires a detailed background check for approval.

Mobile Passport is fairly new. Although it has some similar benefits to the Global Entry program, there are a few key features that make each desirable. You can almost think of Mobile Passport as a sort of “Global Entry Lite.”

Rather than compare the programs to decide which you should use, let’s take a look at why you would want to have both at your disposal. Then you can choose whichever has a shorter line when you arrive at the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint.

Global Entry is significantly more difficult to get approved for. It requires an extensive online application, $100 application fee, background check, and an in-person interview. Once approved, you have to reapply and pay the fee every 5 years.

The extra hassle of signing up does get you a few more perks though. With Global Entry, you get the added benefit of TSA Pre-Check to help you breeze through security at the beginning of your trip.

Global Entry also uses a kiosk system that takes care of your declarations, identification match, and even your passport check without having to wait in line to talk to a person.

When there is no line for the kiosks, there is no faster way to get through the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint than with Global Entry. However, with many credit cards refunding the application fee and most international passengers traveling regularly and valuing the faster checkpoint experience, there are times when you may have to wait in line for a Global Entry kiosk.

In those times, or when you are traveling with family members who don’t have Global Entry, Mobile Passport may be the way to go. Your trip through the checkpoint will still be significantly faster than going through the regular line, and having your family members pre-registered in your app can make things even quicker.

Final Thoughts

As we have seen, Mobile Passport is a great program that can really shorten the time it takes you to clear Customs and Border Protection when returning to the United States. As long as you meet the basic requirements to sign up, getting started with Mobile Passport is quick and simple, with an easy-to-use app that lets you securely store information for your whole family.

If you don’t want to spend the money or go through the extensive application process for Global Entry, Mobile Passport provides an excellent alternative that makes returning to the U.S. a bit more pleasant.

Even if you already have Global Entry, Mobile Passport is free, so there is no reason not to have it set up in case the line is shorter and it is the better option on arrival.

Download the app today and have Mobile Passport ready to go for your next international trip.

Images courtesy of mobilepassport.us


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A Guide to Mobile Passport

FAQ

What is Mobile Passport?

Mobile Passport is a program that allows for expedited entry into the U.S. for qualified U.S. and Canadian citizens. Using the Mobile Passport app allows travelers to submit their passport and declarations information electronically to Customs and Border Protection, instead of using the traditional paper form.

Is Mobile Passport free?

Yes, Mobile Passport is free. There is no cost to use the Mobile Passport service, as long as you have a compatible iOS or Android mobile device.

Can Mobile Passport be used in other countries?

No, Mobile Passport can only be used in the United States when entering from another country.

Who can use Mobile Passport?

Mobile Passport can be used by U.S. citizens with a valid U.S. passport and by Canadian citizens with a valid Canadian passport and either a B1 or B2 visa status. You must have the Mobile Passport app installed on either an iOS or Android device with have Wi-Fi or mobile internet service at the time of entry.

What is the Mobile Passport app?

The Mobile Passport app is used to communicate with Customs and Border Protection, electronically submitting passport and declarations information, allowing travelers to forego the traditional paper forms when entering the United States from another country. Traveler information can be stored in the Mobile Passport app for use on future trips.

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4 comments

  1. EludiumQ36 · February 10, 2018 · Reply

    IMO, Mobile Passport Control is FAR superior to Global Entry:
    1. There’s no application process or background check,
    2. There’s no fee at all vs GE’s $100 for EACH family member,
    3. There’s no time limit on its use,
    4. Unlike GE which only applies to one person, with MPC the WHOLE family gets through on the one app!
    5. Lines for MPC are typically smaller or non-existent compared to GE,
    6. All these benefits and MPC is functionally equivalent to GE for the 25 airports it’s available!

  2. Looks like a big thing

  3. Masie · June 1, 2018 · Reply

    It was the first time I used the Mobile Pass App today for entry at SFO today, June 1, 2018. There was no line, and the officer at the counter checked and promptly gave me a Mobile Pass card. Holding onto that card, I continued to move with the line to get out of the airport. However, there was another staff who took my issued card but also asked me to open my App to show him my selfie photograph there. It was not at the App any more, and it said a receipt has not been issued. The staff said I was holding up the line, and he began shouting at me rudely. Then he shouted at me again to make me move on to wait in the area in the front. He did not say, “I shall get someone to help you” which is what he should say. Even when I was waiting at the area, he kept shouting at me rudely. I was never treated like that at SFO before. Finally, another officer appeared, checked my document and nicely said everything is good, and let me pass. I asked why I could not show the selfie pic, and he said it may be a faulty App! If SFO wants to encourage us to use this App to expedite our entry into U.S., the staff should be properly trained to handle and help those who may not have everything available to show them. I showed the guy my actual passport, but he refused even to look at that. I would therefore NOT recommend the use of this App to family and friends due to my bad experience. It was quite unfortunate. I hope to get some kind of feedback.

    • Jeff Brownson · June 2, 2018 · Reply

      Masie, so sorry you had that experience. Nothing like a cranky Customs or TSA agent to ruin a day of travel. I’ve only heard good things about using the app, so hopefully this was just a one time issue. If you use it again, maybe try taking a screenshot of the pic just in case, so you can pull that up if you need to. Hope the rest of your trip went better than your arrival at SFO!

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