Mobile Passport is a lesser-known benefit that travelers can use to speed up the customs process upon arrival in the U.S. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when deciding on Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry, and I will walk you through those in this post.
I’ll start with an overview of the Mobile Passport program (you can find an Overview of Global Entry here). I’ll then go into the pros and cons of each program to inform your decision on which is best for you.
Overview of Mobile Passport
Mobile Passport is a program offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), available to both U.S. and
Canadian citizens. This program allows electronic submission of the traditionally paper customs forms to CBP. There is no requirement for pre-approval in this program as there is for Global Entry, the user simply has to download the app. This program is currently available for use at the following U.S. airports:
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Baltimore (BWI)
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Houston (IAH + HOU)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- Minneapolis (MSP)
- New York (JFK)
- Newark (EWR)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Raleigh Durham (RDU)
- Sacramento (SMF)
- San Diego (SAN)
- San José (SJC)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Tampa (TPA)
- Washington Dulles (IAD)
***This program will also be at the Pittsburgh (PIT) airport soon! For the most current updates on where the program is offered, see the Mobile Passport website.
Additionally, this program is available at the Fort Lauderdale Port Everglades (PEV) Cruise Port.
How to Use Mobile Passport
It’s a good rule of thumb to download the app before you depart on the last leg of your journey to the U.S. You are now ready to add your profile to the app – be sure to have your passport(s) ready for this :). Note, you can add profiles for you whole family in the app too! After your profiles are established, you will be asked the standard 5 questions usually found on the paper customs form. Be sure to review all your information for accuracy at this point!
Once you arrive at your port of entry, you are now ready to submit your information to CBP. Just make sure you have an internet connection to do this! After submission, you receive a confirmation code that is valid for four hours. When you get to the customs lines, you will go through a special Mobile Passport line. Here you’ll show the CBP officer the confirmation code and then be on your way!
Pros and Cons of Mobile Passport
- This program is free for everyone!
- This program is not very widely adopted at this point, so the Mobile Passport lines are always short. I’ve traveled with Global Entry while friends/family have traveled with Mobile Passport, and we have always cleared customs in about the same timeframe
- There is no need to go through an application or interview process to participate
- You can add information for you whole family in your profile
- The program is expanding, but there are some limitations on availability across the nations airports
- There is no offer of TSA Pre-Check with Mobile Passport
- As adoption increases, the time to clear customs will increase as well
- This program is not available to international customers outside of Canadian citizens
Overview of Global Entry
Global Entry is another program offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers. This involves and application an interview process, as well as a fee. It is offered more broadly though, as detailed in the points below.
How to Get Global Entry
To sign up for Global Entry, you must complete an application on the Trusted Traveler Program site. Once your application is complete, you will schedule your interview and fingerprints at an approved site. The process typically takes about 2 weeks – 1.5 months to complete.
For a complete view of the program, including eligibility requirements, please see my post on How to Apply for Global Entry.
Pros and Cons of Global Entry
- Includes added benefit of TSA Pre-Check, which speeds up boarding for the majority of U.S. airlines when flying domestically
- This program is available at over 60 U.S. airports, vs. ~20 for Mobile Passport
- In addition to clearing the initial customs lane more quickly, Global Entry customers also have a special line for existing after picking up their luggage
- Global Entry comes with additional land and marine ports of entry through the NEXUS program
- This program is available to citizens of several countries outside of the U.S.
- The program costs $100 for every 5 years. BUT as mentioned in my post on How to Apply for Global Entry, you can get it for free with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve
- There is an application and interview process that you must go through, and not all states have Enrollment Centers available
- If you have a family, it can be costly as each member requires his/her own membership
Global Entry vs. Mobile Passport | Which is Faster?
Speed is very important when considering both options as it is the main reason why you’d consider either one. From my personal experience, the time to get through customs is pretty much the same for both options.
For two brief case studies, I’ve tested this with my sister when coming back from Iceland and with my parents when coming back from London. In both instances my family members used Mobile Passport and I used Global Entry. In the first example I got through the line about 5 minutes ahead of my sister. In the second, my parents actually beat me through the line!
The main driver between the speed of either option is how long the line for Mobile Passport is. The good news is that many people don’t use Mobile Passport, so long lines appear to be very far off :).
Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry | Which Should You Choose?
As you can see there are a number of pros / cons to either program. The choice between Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry is really up to you. I personally use Global Entry as I love the added benefit of TSA Pre-Check, but you can’t beat the fact that Mobile Passport is 100% free. I hope this content has given you all the information you need to make an informed decision!
Are you enrolled in either program? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Want more travel tips? Check out these posts:
- 4 Steps to Applying for a US Passport for the First Time
- How to Apply for Global Entry | Pro Travel Tips
- Best Travel Tools | Booking Tours with Get Your Guide
- Mobile Passport vs. Global Entry: Which is Best?
- My Favorite Ways to Document Travel Memories