A guest post by John @laptoptravel
Global Entry has been touted as the ultimate credentials for international travelers to have. After all, it does speed up re-entry into the United States through expedited kiosks and lines in most major airports. I am not against that program but I have been using another program that has worked really well for me over the past year and a half; Mobile Passport.
Mobile Passport, which is Authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and sponsored by North America’s Airports Council International (ACI), is a free mobile application developed by travel app developer Airside Mobile to enable U.S. and Canadian passport holders with Android devices, iPhones and iPads to dispense with filling out paper customs declarations forms while travelling internationally through certain airports. Currently the following U.S. airports support Mobile Passport with dedicated expedited lanes; Airports: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Francisco, San Jose, CA, and Seattle. The first mobile app of its kind, Mobile Passport could eventually serve as a customs-only alternative to Global Entry expedited airport security status.
Smartphones and Tablets
Eligible travelers with a smartphone or tablet can download the Mobile Passport Control app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Travelers will be prompted to create a profile via the app with their passport information. The profile includes the traveler’s name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship. Upon landing in the United States, travelers will complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, taking a self-photo, and answering a series of customs declaration questions. Once the traveler submits their customs declaration form through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued. Travelers then bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States.
This app is Free! There are no costs associated with getting it or using it. That makes it a great deal, especially as the US Customs and Border Patrol continue to expand its use into more U.S. airports. Eventually it will be at all major airports making my travel (and yours) potentially much easier on re-entry.
Companions and Family Travel
The app is perfect for passport holders who are traveling together. One Mobile Passport record can cover records for up to four people traveling in the same party. This is a huge time-saver.
The Mobile Passport Control (MPC) pilot launched in August 2014 for eligible travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is now available to passengers arriving at eight U.S. airports. MPC is expected to expand to more airports later this spring and CBP has committed to expand the program to the 20 airports with the highest volumes of international travelers by the end of 2016.
Upon returning from your international trip, the app’s New Trip section accesses your profile info and allows you to fill out a digital customs declaration form.
Each time you return from an international trip, you’ll need to access Wi-Fi either in the air or upon landing at the airport in order to fill out the app’s “New Trip” section, which requires you to enter your flight info and answer customs declaration questions.
Each time you fill out a customs form for a trip, you’ll be given a digital receipt that must be scanned at an express passport lane.
How to Use It
Using the passport app is a simple five step process:
Step 1: Create a profile with your passport information, name, gender, birthday and citizenship information.
Step 2: When your plane lands, go to the “New Trip” section. Select your airport and airline. Then, take a selfie and answer the standard customs declaration questions.
Step 3: Hit the “Submit” button. You’ll receive a receipt with a QR code.
Step 4: Bring your phone and your passport to a customs officer. There’s a special “fast lane” for people who are using the app to go through customs.
Step 5: Do what the CBP officer tells you to. Even with the app, they may need to ask more questions or to check your bags.
My Personal Experiences with Mobile Passport
From my own practical experience I used this app on a recent Mileage Run back from Lima, Peru and also from Mexico. Prior to departing from Lima I had met and spent a great deal of time talking with two American couples who were interested in my travels and blog. As we were exiting the plane in Atlanta they told me “you’ve been through this before; we’re just stick with you and you can show us what lines to go through.” I asked them if they had Mobile Passport but none of them had ever heard of this app. I politely told them they would have to go through the ‘normal’ channels and that I would be going through the expedited Mobile Passport lines. Upon arrival in Atlanta my re-entry into the United States was rather smooth and quick. I simply held up my Mobile Passport entry page and flashed it along as I headed for the dedicated lanes.
Eventually, I made it to all the waiting lines that are separated by those straps which makes lanes (like at an amusement park.) I saw a lane that said “Diplomatic Passports and Mobile Passport.” My newly-made friends were still tagging with me. As I approached that lane (which had no one in it) the Border Patrol officer in the airport waived me off like “you cannot enter here” but I waived my Mobile Passport and she said “Oh yes, please this way.” As the only person in the lane I was in and out as fast as my feet could walk. I found myself through the entire process in less than five minutes and seemed to be the first one through from our plane.
I was then able to make way to my connecting flight to JFK. In fact, since I made up so much time re-entering the United States I made use of Delta’s Same-Day Change rule and hopped on an earlier flight to New York, which allowed me to take an even earlier flight from there on to Los Angeles.
Returning from Costa Rica (as part of an Elite Mileage Run) just a few weeks prior, I queued up the Mobile Passport app as soon as our wheels touched the runway in Atlanta. I was able to walk right through Customs and Border Patrol with no wait at all.
In both cases, I looked back and saw nearly the entire contents of aircraft’s passengers behind me in these queues. I am loving Mobile Passport.
Isn’t technology wonderful? Have you used the new passport control app? Let us know in the comments! I hope you find this guest post today on RenéPoints blog helpful for your travels! – John @laptoptravel