Noticed a shorter line or two the last time you came back to the US and wondered why some folks were able to short-circuit the winding backed-up-to-the-wall conga-line of people waiting to show their passport to the unsmiling CBP
Not just for VIPs, those shorter-than-yours lines are for people who either have a GlobalEntry membership or a Mobile Passport app on their smartphone (at some airports both lines are the same, at others they’re separate lines).
With Global Entry you’ll undergo a background check and provide your fingerprint(s), pay your fee, and wait to be approved.
With Mobile Passport, you’ll install the app on your smartphone (which you can get for free via Google Play or the Apple App Store), fill in a few details such as your passport number, snap a selfie that gets stored in your profile, and then fill in your return trip details when you are landing (you can fill in the details anytime but need a QR code that they’ll only send you when you’ve landed). Once you’ve received the QR code you have 4 hours to use it to get through Customs.
After returning from a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico recently I wound up with a very short time to get through Customs & Border Control before my connecting flight was due to leave….and facing a very long line that could have taken me well over an hour to get through…..but I noticed that there was a Mobile Pass line with no one in it and remembered that I had the app on my iPhone…..I quickly submitted my trip details, got the QR code, and sped through CBP arriving at my gate with just minutes to spare before they closed the door. Whew!
How do they stack up?
- Pros: It’s free. And it’s stupidly easy to use.
- Cons: Doesn’t work at all airports yet. Check the list on their site or via the app to be sure before you travel.
- Pros: It works at all US Airports.
- Cons: Costs $100 for 5 years. Lines are often longer than MobilePass lines, except where they share a line. You still have to scan your passport at a kiosk, but that doesn’t take much longer than scanning a QR code on your phone.
BUT…..keep in mind that as more folks start using Mobile Pass, those lines may exceed the lines for Global Entry – so this benefit may be only temporary. AND it’s not available to use at all airports yet (but they are rapidly adding more airports daily).