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Flying internationally? Here’s what you need to know about the Mobile Passport app CBP MPC

Aug. 23, 2022
4 min read
person holds mobile passport card
Flying internationally? Here’s what you need to know about the Mobile Passport app CBP MPC
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Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information.

I’m a big fan of Mobile Passport and have been a loyal user for many years. It’s my entry expediting program of choice when I arrive back in the U.S. from overseas and want to avoid long lines at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

By late September, eligible U.S. citizens and Canadian citizen visitors will be able to use Mobile Passport at 38 airport and seaport locations. CBP is expanding Mobile Passport for travelers to use at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), followed by Vancouver International Airport (YVR) next month, according to a press release issued by CBP on Aug. 23.

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It's also available at two of the three New York City airports near my home — John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), the latter of which I frequent most.

At both JFK and EWR, Mobile Passport funnels me into the Diplomats line, providing the equivalent of VIP service, for free. I was concerned and disappointed when it seemed the service was being phased out in the past few months. However, it turns out it's just the app to use Mobile Passport that changed.

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When I arrived at EWR from Heathrow Airport (LHR) in late April, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still use Mobile Passport despite one big difference: The app name and appearance changed.

The old version of the Mobile Passport app home page. (Screenshot from Mobile Passport app)

Although not all details about the program are clear right now, CBP confirmed that the CBP MPC app has replaced the Mobile Passport app.

New Mobile Passport Control App home screen. (Screenshot from CBP MPC)

According to a representative from Airside, the developer of the original Mobile Passport app, the blue and white airport pilot icon in both the Apple and Google Play app stores is now just a placeholder. When you click it, you’ll be directed to the CBP MPC app, which stands for Customs Border Protection Mobile Passport Control.

Long acronym short, this is still Mobile Passport, but now operated directly by CBP instead of Airside, a change effective Feb. 1, 2022.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Mobile Passport, it’s a free service that speeds up entry at selected ports and airports around the country. At its most basic level, it generates a digital version of the required customs form to complete on your phone.

Related: Travelers are reporting issues with using Mobile Passport at certain airports

The new app will work the same as the previous version, according to CBP.

First, travelers download the CBP MPC app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store (do this when you have Wi-Fi).

Then, once they land in the US, “travelers will select their arrival airport or seaport and terminal, take a self-photo, and answer a series of CBP inspection-related questions,” per CBP. “Once the traveler submits their transaction through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. Travelers then bring their physical passport and mobile device with their digital QR-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States.”

Unlike Global Entry, which costs $100 for a five-year membership, Mobile Passport is free and does not require travelers to apply or get approved (a process that can take up to 730 days, according to the CBP).

One noticeable difference between the new CBP version and the original Mobile Passport is that there is no paid, upgraded version. Previously, the Airside model had offered a paid version that stored your information so you didn’t have to reload it each time (as you did with the unpaid basic offering).

My current experience with the CBP MPC is that it indicates that my information (and that of my husband and son, whom I also added to my app) is stored for future use.

Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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