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Why Mobile Passport Is the Best-Kept Secret Among International Travelers

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The free Mobile Passport app allows travelers to speed through customs when arriving back in the United States after an international flight.

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The free Mobile Passport app allows travelers to speed through customs when arriving back in the United States after an international flight.

Here’s everything you need to know about this app that gets you through U.S. immigration and customs faster.

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The ability to speed through immigration and customs after landing from an international flight, without wasting time waiting in line, is perhaps one of the greatest modern improvements to travel.

The Global Entry program has long been touted as the fastest way to arrange these arrival conveniences. But it’s not for everyone, considering it comes at a cost of $100 every five years.

Plus, the Department of Homeland Security recently suspended Global Entry enrollment for New York residents due to new state laws. (TSA PreCheck only helps when you’re departing, not arriving.)

But there is another method of getting out of the airport (or making your tight international connection) even faster. Mobile Passport, which launched in 2014, is a travel app that has proven its value. It only works for travelers landing in the United States, but the best part is that it has a free version (a great alternative for those who don’t have a credit card that waives their Global Entry fee, for instance). As for New Yorkers? Airside Mobile, the company that oversees Mobile Passport services, confirmed that it does not anticipate any disruption in Mobile Passport services.

How does Mobile Passport work?

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The free Mobile Passport app is available for iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from the app store. Unlike Global Entry, there is no lengthy application process, no interview appointment that requires a wait time of weeks or months, and no cost associated with it. (Unless you choose to pay a monthly or annual fee for Mobile Passport Plus, a premium version that allows you to digitally scan and store passports instead of uploading your information each time you travel.) U.S. and Canadian citizens with a B1 or B2 visa status are eligible to use both versions of Mobile Passport.

Download Now: Mobile Passport, Free, App StoreGoogle Play

Download Now: Mobile Passport Plus, $15 per year or $5 per month, App StoreGoogle Play

The app is designed to serve as a replacement for completing a traditional customs declaration paper form or using the standard Automated Passport Control kiosk when you arrive. The moment you land in the United States, you can fire up the app and answer the regular questions; you can even make necessary declarations (such as restricted food or large purchases) on the app.

A screenshot of the Mobile Passport app

Once you have indicated your arrival airport and airline and submitted the form (the process takes about a minute), the app creates a QR code that you show to an immigration officer inside the airport. The officer may ask a few questions about your trip, but the process is swift because Mobile Passport users have a dedicated lane in most participating airports that expedites you through the line (in front of most other passengers) to complete the standard immigration and customs process.

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While Global Entry users are still completing their form on the kiosk, you might already be scanning your mobile device QR code with an officer. Any declarations would be discussed at that point, but if you have none, you are sent on your way.

Before using the free version of the app, you must upload a headshot and enter your passport details (it’s as simple as scanning your passport page). When you’re ready to use the app, you can enter your chosen PIN code or use touch ID if your phone has that capability.

Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry

For now, Mobile Passport feels like a well-kept secret among international travelers. While Global Entry users must schedule an interview appointment, go through a background check, and pay a fee once every five years, Mobile Passport is an instant download and free if you don’t mind uploading your passport information each time you travel.

This is not a replacement for a passport and is not a trusted traveler program. This means you have not been “vetted” in the same way that Global Entry users have been. Because not all travelers are eligible for Global Entry (due to prior customs violations, among other reasons), this app can be a great alternative.

If you also have Global Entry, you can still use Mobile Passport. This allows you to opt for whichever line is shorter once you reach the arrivals hall. 

Where can you use Mobile Passport?

Not all international arrival airports in the United States have Mobile Passport lines (they’re currently at 27 airports and 4 cruise ports). Notable airports with many international flights that are not on the list include Detroit, Las Vegas, and Charlotte, North Carolina—although more airports will participate in the program soon, according to Mobile Passport.

Airports with Mobile Passport

  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), Baltimore
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Boston
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Chicago
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Dallas
  • Denver International Airport (DEN), Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Fort Lauderdale
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Houston
  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Houston
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Miami
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP), Minneapolis
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Newark
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO), Orlando
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Philadelphia
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Pittsburgh
  • Portland International Airport (PDX), Portland
  • Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), Raleigh Durham
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF), Sacramento
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN), San Diego
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Jose
  • Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU), San Juan
  • Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Seattle
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Washington, D.C.

Cruise Ports with Mobile Passport

  • Port Everglades (PEV), Fort Lauderdale
  • Miami Seaport (MSE), Miami
  • Port of Palm Beach (WPB), West Palm Beach
  • Port of San Juan (PUE), San Juan
After you input your flight information, Mobile Passport provides a QR code for you to show Border Patrol.

Is it compatible for family travel?

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Families living within the same household can complete their form on one device as a group submission, provided each person’s photo and passport details are added to the app.

Is the Mobile Passport secure?

The app, developed by Airside Mobile in partnership with Airports Council–North America and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, includes privacy protection barriers in place to keep your document details safe. The free version will delete your details (instead of storing them within the app as with Mobile Passport Plus) after each trip. The QR code transmitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection when you complete the form expires four hours after it is created, too.

How to Avoid Getting Fined When You Go Through U.S. Customs

Note that you’ll need to be online or have a data connection for the app to work. Many international airport arrivals halls may have limited cellular coverage, in which case you’ll need to locate airport Wi-Fi. But it’s worth it to speed through immigration and customs, so you can be on your way home in a snap—or to spend more time hunting down the best airport dining options on your layover.

This article originally appeared online on April 5, 2019. It was updated on February 7, 2020, to include current information.

>> Next: TSA PreCheck Versus Global Entry: Which Is Best for You?

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