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When Global Entry first launched, it was a revolutionary way for frequent international travelers to quickly get through immigration upon returning to the US. As the program continued to grow, we watched as many credit cards, like the Platinum Card from American Express and the new Chase Sapphire Reserve, offered credits to cover the Global Entry fee — for those who choose to purchase Global Entry outright, however, the service sets you back $100 every five years.
Earlier this month, US Customs and Border Protection released its new Mobile Passport app, which could completely change the game by giving travelers a unique QR code.
On a recent trip to New York from Auckland (AKL) via Sydney (SYD), I decided to test it out. Even though I already have Global Entry, which is usually a go-to method when returning to the US, the Mobile Passport option seemed like it was worth a try — and it’s free for everyone to use. As of right now, it’s only available at 18 airports across the country — ATL, BWI, BOS, ORD, DEN, FLL, MIA, MSP, JFK, EWR, MCO, RDU, SFO, SJC, SEA, TPA and IAD, with plans to open soon in IAH and HOU.
How It Works
First, enter basic personal information like your passport number, your name as it appears on your passport and the issue and expiration dates. Then, take a selfie (straight-on of your face with no hat or sunglasses), which will be saved to your profile. One of the nicest perks of the service is that you can create profiles for members of your family, so you can easily select each family member who’s traveling with you, and they’ll all receive their own QR code to go through immigration.
You’ll then be prompted with a few basic questions about your trip, which are the same general questions you’d find on the US CBP’s immigration form. They’re all pretty basic and you just need to check the “Yes” or “No” box provided in order to be redirected to the next question.
While the first two steps, which are essentially prep work, can be completed while you’re still abroad, the next have to be done after you’ve landed in the US. Once you’ve arrived, simply click the “Submit Now” option to receive your unique QR code.
Once that QR code is generated, you have four hours to go through immigration. There are no other forms to fill out and no additional paperwork (besides your passport) is needed.
You’ll also create and enter a unique PIN number so your information is safe and secure in case your phone falls into the wrong hands — each time you open the app to view the QR code, you’ll be prompted to enter this PIN number as a security measure.
Using Mobile Passport
My experience using Mobile Passport couldn’t have been easier. I arrived at SFO with my profile already created and the questions about my trip already answered. I was also prompted to select the airport I’d be arriving in and the airline I’d be flying with, which, in this case, was Qantas.
As soon as I was able to turn my cellular data back on at SFO, I checked the “Submit Now” option and was immediately given my QR code.
As I walked from the arrival gate to immigration, I noticed signs advertising Mobile Passport on the walls throughout the long hallway — presumably to spread the word because it’s so new.
As I reached the end of the hallway, I spotted all the usual signs for US citizens, permanent residents and those with other passports. Within the lane for US citizens, there were signs indicating a separate line for Mobile Passport users — and I was the only person in it.
While I zipped right up to the designated Mobile Passport agent, I glanced over at the Global Entry lane and noticed there were at least 10 people in line to use the machines. I asked the agent about the new service and he told me that not many people had been using it but that it was a great option. I couldn’t agree more.
After scanning my QR code at the agent’s desk, I handed over my passport and he asked me some basic questions — what the purpose of my trip was, if I was bringing back any food or if I was declaring anything. After answering no to his questions, I was given a laminated Exit Card with a large C on it.
I then picked up my baggage from the carousel and headed for customs. Once again, I scanned my QR code, handed the agent my Exit Card and was on my way. There were no additional steps or issues and I quickly headed to the domestic terminal to catch my connecting flight back to New York.
The new Mobile Passport technology is definitely worth checking out on your trip next back to the US. Although it’s new, it’s a viable option for the future and could potentially become competitive with Global Entry — plus, it’s completely free to use. I’m looking forward to using Mobile Passport again on my next trip back to the States.
Have you used Mobile Passport before? What was your experience like?
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.