by Jonathan Spira
Mobile Passport, available on both Apple iOS and Android platforms, is a relatively new app, introduced just a little over a year ago.
The app works by supplying arriving international travelers with a QR code after having them fill out an app-based copy of an electronic customs declaration form.
In some respects, it sounds strikingly similar to Global Entry, but it may be faster to clear passport control than Global Entry given that the latter requires travelers to stop at a dedicated kiosk that sometimes doesn’t work quite as well or as fast as it should, while the app can be used while the user is still on the aircraft.
On a recent flight to the United States from London, I decided to forego Global Entry and try the app out.
Here are my findings.
Setup is straightforward. After downloading the app, simply enter personal information including your name as it appears on your passport, passport number, your date of birth, sex, country of citizenship, the passport expiration date and the issuing authority for the passport. Then, take a selfie that should look more or less like a passport photo.
The app allows families traveling together to add additional users: all that is required is the same information as for the first traveler. These users can also set up their own apps if traveling separately.
USING MOBILE PASSPORT
Once the setup is complete, all that is required is to answer several basic questions that are no different than those in the standard customs declaration form. Begin by indicating your method of arrival (airplane or ship), select which travelers are traveling, select the port of entry from a list that includes 24 airports including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Boston Logan International, Denver International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, Miami International, Chicago O’Hare International, San Diego International, Seattle-Tacoma International, and Tampa International.
Answer the final certifying question and click submit and the app will generate a receipt that displays a QR code that you will scan upon exiting the passport control area. There is a dedicated line for Mobile Passport users at passport control. As more airports adopt the so-called “modified egress” program, which is a change in U.S. Customs and Border Protection exit controls, and allow most passengers to collect their baggage and leave the Federal Inspection Area (unless stopped by a CBP officer after clearing passport control) the program’s popularity is sure to rise.
In my case, I completed the customs declaration about two hours before landing using the aircraft’s in-flight Wi-Fi to generate the receipt, proceeded to the dedicated Mobile Passport line at Terminal 8 at JFK where there was only one person ahead of me, and was curbside in minutes. Unlike with Global Entry, where I find that I have to struggle to get the machine to read my fingerprints or passport much of the time, this was truly effortless.
Best of all, it’s a free service although many credit card issuers do offer reimbursement for the $100 Global Entry fee.