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Why you can't use both Mobile Passport and Global Entry at the same time

Dec. 26, 2019
4 min read
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Why you can't use both Mobile Passport and Global Entry at the same time
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated with additional information. This post was originally published on Sep. 13, 2019. 

Here at TPG, we're big fans of any tools that make travel more efficient. Whether that's Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, Mobile Passport or CLEAR, programs that expedite the security and immigration processes are essentials in our book.

If you're a frequent traveler, you're probably a member of more than one of these programs. But many travelers may not know that you can't use both Mobile Passport and Global Entry — Mobile Passport effectively "cancels" your Global Entry if you try to utilize both programs over the course of a single trip.

Related: Which credit cards offer free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

TPG Lounge member John H. said his brother was flagged upon re-entry into the U.S. by way of Chicago O'Hare (ORD). "He was flying back with a group after a week in Mexico," John told TPG. "The Global Entry kiosk at ORD said, 'You've left the country too recently,' and directed him to speak with a [Customs and Border Protection] CBP agent. None of the other travelers had Global Entry, so they all activated Mobile Passport."

John's brother, who did have Global Entry, didn't realize that using Mobile Passport would interfere with his ability to use Global Entry for re-entry. As a result, he ended up having to go all the way through the regular customs line.

As a quick refresher, Global Entry is a federal initiative that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry when they enter the U.S. at participating airports. To qualify for the five-year Global Entry program, you need to complete an online application, pass an in-person interview and pay a $100 fee. Upon approval, you can skip the regular customs line and make your way to the accelerated Global Entry line instead, where a kiosk prompts you to scan your fingerprints, have your photo taken and answer a few quick questions about your trip before collecting a printed receipt you then hand over to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

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Related: Here's what you can and cannot bring through customs around the world

Mobile Passport, on the other hand, is free and can be used at 26 airports (and three sea ports). Eligible travelers can download the Mobile Passport app to generate a digital version of the required customs form instead of filling it out by hand. Then, a CBP officer scans the QR code on your Mobile Passport digital receipt, and you'll be on your merry way. Mobile Passport requires users to submit the passport form every time they enter the country.

The two programs can be mutually redundant, and offer "either-or" convenience from a traveler's perspective: If the Global Entry line is long, it might be quicker to use Mobile Passport. If the regular immigration line is longer, go with Global Entry. But as a general rule, Global Entry is easier and more convenient: If you have it, there's really no reason to use Mobile Passport unless you're traveling with people who don't have Global Entry, as was the case with John's brother and his travel companions.

TPG has advised readers that "there’s little reason not to get Mobile Passport" — especially for infrequent international travelers who don't feel the need to drop $100 on Global Entry.

But these days, Mobile Passport has begun limiting full access to freemium users. While the basic paperless functionality is still available, users now have to pay $15 per year in order to use their smartphone camera to scan and store passport information. At the same time, more credit cards than ever now offer a $100 statement credit toward Global Entry and TSA PreCheck as part of their perks.

If you're interested in tricks to get past immigration as quickly as possible, take a tip from TPG reader Meryn H: "I have Global Entry, and I always prep the Mobile Passport app with all information all the way up until the final submit button," she told TPG. "I don’t submit [the data] until I check which line is shorter: Global Entry or Mobile Passport. That way, I can choose which one to use without getting an error. Works like a charm!"

Featured image by Getty Images