A few years ago, I finally applied for (and received) global entry. It was difficult to get the appointment at Boston’s Logan Airport though, and so I didn’t get the global entry for my kids. I just didn’t want them to have to miss school for their appointments.
As you may know, global entry is required for any family member that is looking to use the global entry line, even children. So, for once or twice a year international family trips, I figured that we would have to go through the regular US customs line.
Luckily, during one of my semi-regular trips to Logan, I saw a sign for the Mobile Passport App. This app, developed by Airside Mobile, is a great way to get through customs quickly, but it is only available for use at certain US Customs and Border Protection locations. Mobile Passport is a great alternative to global entry, especially for families who only occasionally travel internationally, and is one of the best-kept secrets for saving time at the airport.
Review: Using the Mobile Passport App
While the app is free to download, a premium version was offered beginning in 2019. Mobile Passport Plus is available at $14.99 per year and includes much of the functionality that was initially free with the app. While there is still a free version available, it won’t have some of the features that made it so easy to use.
The free version of the app lets you go through the Mobile Passport lines, but will no longer store your passport information or offer the document scanner. There will also be ads on the free version.
The paid version stores your passport information. You’ll be able to use the document scanner to make it easier to input your passport profile information. The paid version is also ad-free.
As a previous use of the free app, I decided to upgrade to the new premium version. When I opened the app, I was given the opportunity to upgrade (in order to store the information that was already uploaded), or to proceed with the free version and delete the saved information.
Where Can You Use the Mobile Passport App?
Right now (as of 2/2020), it can be used at 27 US Airports and 3 ports. The airport locations are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago (O’Hare), Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, Houston, Houston Hobby, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York (JFK Int’l Airport), LAX, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington Dulles.
It can also be used at the following cruise ports: San Juan Seaport, Port Everglades Seaport, Palm Beach Seaport, and Miami Seaport. There are an increasing number of mobile passport airports, so check back if yours isn’t currently on the list.
How Do You Use the Mobile Passport App?
For our first use, I downloaded the Mobile Passport App to my mobile device well before my trip to Greece. It’s free on the app store. Once you download it, you can set up profiles for each person in your family. That process was so easy – I was able to scan the barcode on each passport, and then just validated the information.
It was all correct as scanned, but you do need to check it. Then, you have to snap a picture of each person. If you have the premium version of the app, this information is saved.
Unless something changes, it’s not something you should need to do each time you travel, assuming you have the premium version of the app. With the free version, you’ll need to input this information every time you travel.
Once you are ready to return to the United States, you will need to go into the app and fill out a few questions about your trip. This replaces the paper customs declaration form that you are given on the plane, which is a nice benefit.
I always hated searching for a pen and needing to fill out that form while I was on the plane. When you have WiFi or cellular data access, you’ll need to submit the information, once you confirm it.
You have four hours from when you submit it to actually go through US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), so you’ll want to make sure you do it when you have landed or about to land. Just like with the form, you are confirming that this information is accurate under penalty of law.
I found it easy to fill out the information, and I submitted it as I was waiting for the cabin door to open on my flight. After I submitted, I got a QR code receipt for each member of my family.
Upon deplaning the flight, we entered the terminal and looked for the mobile passport app signage. There is some construction in this area at Logan, so it took a little while to figure out where we needed to go.
We were able to bypass the kiosks and go directly into the line to talk to the agents. This definitely saved us a lot of time, since most people on our flight had to wait for the kiosks.
When we met with the CBP officer, I provided him with the bar codes and our passports (note that the mobile passport app does NOT replace your US physical passport – you still need to have those).
While we did save time in line, we still had to wait for our luggage at the carousel. It didn’t take too long to come out, but we did get through Customs and Border Protection so quickly that our luggage hadn’t made it from the plane to the carousel yet.
I definitely think the Mobile Passport App is a great way to save time at the airport if you don’t have global entry. If you don’t travel internationally on a frequent basis, and you typically fly through an airport that uses the app, it’s a nice option.
The fact that it’s low-cost and easy to use makes it worth trying. Keep in mind that there are some restrictions for who can use it, and mobile passport users may always be selected for additional questioning.
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Frequently asked questions about the Mobile Passport App
It totally depends on how often you will use the app. With the free version, you’ll need to input your information every time you travel (this used to be offered at no cost with the app), while your information will be stored with the paid version.
If it’s just you traveling, it may be a better option to get Global Entry, because you’ll have TSA PreCheck as well. Or, stick with the free version, since you can pretty easily upload your own information each time.
No. While you will get TSA PreCheck with Global Entry, you won’t have that service with the app (either the paid or free version). The only way to get TSA PreCheck is to go through the regular channels (TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, etc).
Yes. You can either input everyone’s information during each trip for the free version, or store the information in the premium version.
The QR code that is generated will be good for four hours, so it’s best to submit once you have landed. If you have the premium service, the fee will cover you for a year, and then you’ll be automatically billed for the renewal.
Yes, you’ll still need to travel with, and show, your physical, valid, unexpired passports.
Have you used the Mobile Passport App?