If you’ve traveled internationally, you have probably seen signs for “Mobile Passport Control” while passing through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
You might have wondered if you could use that line instead of waiting in the ridiculously long one (with everyone else) to have your passport checked. And the simple answer is yes — you just need to learn how!
Mobile Passport Control can be a great option when returning to the U.S. from another country — but many people have no idea what it is or how to use it. And you’re not alone in your confusion.
This complete guide to Mobile Passport Control will tell you everything you need to know and help you pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection as quickly as possible.
We will explain the program and 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 Control?
Mobile Passport Control (MPC) is a program authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The program is designed to help travelers move more quickly through U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when returning to the U.S. from an international trip.
You don’t need to have a pen or fill out arrival forms on the plane or in line. All you have to do is download and use the Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport Control (CBP MPC) app (available for iOS and Android). The information sent from the app replaces the paper forms passengers typically have to fill out before arrival.
In addition, you can securely store your passport and personal information on the app and use the same information on multiple trips. You can even set up a profile for each family member within a single account, which is especially nice for families with young children.
Hot Tip: The original Mobile Passport app, developed by Airside, still shows on the Apple and Android app store. However, when you click it, you’ll be directed to download the new (as of February 2022) CBP MPC app.
Which Airports Use Mobile Passport Control?
Mobile Passport Control is currently available at 31 U.S. airports, 3 Canadian preclearance locations, and 4 cruise ports around the country.
The current airport locations where you can use Mobile Passport Control are below:
How To Use the Mobile Passport Control App
You can download the CBP MPC app for free from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
As a new user, you’ll need to create a secure profile with your passport information, name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship.
To use the service upon arrival in the U.S., open the CBP MPC app. You will be prompted to select your arrival location, take a photo of yourself, and answer a series of required trip and declarations questions.
After submitting the information through the app, you’ll receive an electronic receipt with a QR code, which you’ll present to a CBP official to finalize your entry.
When you return to the U.S. at a participating Mobile Passport Control location, simply follow these steps:
- Open the app and enter all of your passport information (if you don’t already have it saved).
- Answer a few brief 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, electronically submit your information to Customs and Border Protection.
- Receive an electronic receipt that contains an encrypted QR code(this should take only a few seconds to get).
- Follow the Mobile Passport Control signs, show your passport to the Customs and Border Protection officer, and scan the QR on your receipt.
It’s as easy as that!
Hot Tip: Remember that when you submit information through the Mobile Passport Control 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 Control vs. Global Entry
Although Mobile Passport Control has some similar benefits to the Global Entry program, a few key features make each desirable. You can almost think of Mobile Passport Control as a “Global Entry Lite.”
Rather than compare the programs to decide which you should use, let’s look at why you might 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, a $100 application fee, a background check, and an in-person interview. Once approved, you must 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 PreCheck 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 waiting in line to talk to someone.
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.
Mobile Passport Control may be the way to go in those times or when you’re traveling with family members who don’t have Global Entry. 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.
Hot Tip: Check out our answers to the top FAQs for more info on Global Entry.
Mobile Passport Control is a great program that can really shorten the time it takes you to clear Customs and Border Protection when returning to the U.S. As long as you meet the basic requirements to sign up, getting started with Mobile Passport Control 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, consider Mobile Passport Control. It provides an excellent alternative that makes returning to the U.S. a bit more pleasant.
Even if you already have Global Entry, Mobile Passport Control 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 CBP MPC app today and have Mobile Passport Control ready to go for your next international trip.
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Featured Image Credit:
U.S. Customs & Border Protection