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

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

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

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

Photo by Shutterstock

The ability to speed through U.S. immigration and customs after an international flight without wasting time waiting in line, is perhaps one of the greatest improvements to modern travel. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry program has long been touted as the fastest way to arrange these arrival conveniences. But, considering required interviews can be cumbersome to schedule and it comes at a cost of $100 every five years, it’s not for everyone.

Fortunately, there is another method of getting out of the airport (or making your tight connection) even faster. Mobile Passport Control, (Mobile Passport)which CBP launched in 2014, is a free app that lets travelers use a dedicated, and often shorter, customs line in U.S. airports and cruise ports. Here’s how Mobile Passport works and what you need to know before using it.

What is Mobile Passport?

The Mobile Passport app is available for iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from the app store.

Download Now: Mobile Passport, Free, App Store; Google Play

The app serves as a replacement for completing a traditional, paper customs Declaration form or using the Automated Passport Control kiosk when you arrive. The moment you land in the United States and connect to WiFi or data, you can fire up the app and answer the regular questions; you can even make necessary declarations, such as restricted food or large purchases, within the program.

When you first use it, 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.

Once you’ve 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, as a Mobile Passport user, you’ll have a dedicated lane in 31 participating airports that expedites the line to complete the standard immigration and customs process.

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.

For now, Mobile Passport feels like a well-kept secret among international travelers. “There’s often no one else in the Mobile Passport line when I land at SFO [in San Francisco],” says AFAR Senior SEO Manager, Jessie Beck, “Thanks to this app, I typically clear customs in five minutes or less—sometimes faster than my friends with Global Entry.”

Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry

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.

Unlike Global Entry, there is no application process, no lengthy interview appointment that requires a wait time of weeks or months, and no cost. U.S. and Canadian citizens with a B1 or B2 visa status are eligible.

Mobile Passport 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 have Global Entry, you can still use Mobile Passport. This allows you to opt for whichever line is shorter once you reach border control.

Like Global Entry, Mobile Passport can only be used for arrival in the United States.

Where can you use Mobile Passport?

There are currently 31 airports and 4 cruise ports in the United States that have Mobile Passport lines. Notable airports that are not on the list include Detroit, Las Vegas, and Charlotte, North Carolina. However, the number of airports on the list continues to grow.

Airports with Mobile Passport

  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Baltimore
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Boston
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Chicago
  • Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Dallas
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Honolulu
  • Dulles International Airport (IAD), Washington, D.C.
  • Denver International Airport (DEN), Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Fort Lauderdale
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Atlanta
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH), Houston
  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Houston
  • Kansas City International Airport (MCI), Kansas City
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Miami
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), Minneapolis
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Newark
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK), Oakland
  • 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
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF), Sacramento
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN), San Diego
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Jose
  • Luis Muñoz Marín San Juan Airport (SJU), San Juan
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), Salt Lake City
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Seattle
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa

Cruise Ports with Mobile Passport

  • Port Everglades Cruise Port (USPEF), Fort Lauderdale
  • Miami Seaport (USMIA), Miami
  • Port of Palm Beach (USPBC), West Palm Beach
  • Port of San Juan (PRSJU), San Juan

Using Mobile Passport for family travel

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 includes privacy protection barriers in place to keep your document details safe. There is also the option to delete your details (instead of storing them within the app) after each trip. The QR code transmitted to U.S. CBP when you complete the form expires four hours after it is created.

Udi Onyile contributed reporting. This article was originally published on April 5, 2019; it was updated on July 11, 2022 with additional information.

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

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.
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