How Mobile Passport actually slowed down our entry into the country

May 4, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Colin, who ended up stuck in line because he tried to use two different expedited security programs at once:

Returning from Sydney (SYD) into Los Angeles (LAX), even though my wife and I have Global Entry, I thought I’d be smart and make a Mobile Passport submission. That way we could hedge our bets and use whichever entry method had the shorter line. After deplaning and arriving at immigration, we came across the Global Entry area first and since there was no line proceeded to the kiosks. But after scanning our passports the kiosks refused to process us. We tried several times and each time it failed. The error message was something like “You are attempting to enter the country too soon after your previous entry.” After talking to an agent there it turns out making a Mobile Passport submission and receiving a QR code blocks your Global Entry for several hours.

So we had to leave the Global Entry area and use Mobile Passport instead. Fortunately that area was very close by and also had no lines so we were soon through immigration. But that’s not the end of the story. After collecting our luggage from the carousel, we proceeded to customs and tried to use the priority lane for Global Entry users. However, since we didn’t have the printout from the Global Entry kiosk we were refused entry. Fortunately I had our Global Entry ID cards with me and after showing these we were allowed through the Global Entry lane to clear customs.

So, the moral of the story is, if you have Global Entry and want to be able to use it, don’t make a Mobile Passport submission.

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It’s difficult when you think you’re getting ahead of the curve only to have it backfire and work against you, but when you break down what happened it makes perfect sense. Global Entry and Mobile Passport, two different forms of expedited customs, help process you back into the country. Your submission, whether it’s the paper receipt you get at a Global Entry kiosk or the QR code you get from Mobile Passport, is your ticket back into the U.S. and you can only have one.

While Global Entry is gaining in popularity as more and more credit cards offer it as a benefit, in my experience the lines are pretty reasonable, though if you’re the last one off a jumbo jet landing at LAX during peak rush hour it can get busy. You can still follow Colin’s advice and check out which line is shorter, just don’t submit your Mobile Passport entry until you’ve committed to go that route. You can load the app on your phone and enter all of your info, and wait until you’re actually in line to hit submit.

Related: Why you can’t use Mobile Passport and Global Entry at the same time

If you’re new to Global Entry, keep in mind that due to the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has closed enrollment centers for its Trusted Traveler programs until at least June 1. Further, the DHS has suspended Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler program applications for New York state residents. If you’re affected by the ban, it’s even more important to have Mobile Passport as a way to expedite entry into the U.S.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories; due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images.

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