Download This App to Bypass Customs During Your Next International Trip
Not only is it free, it's approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
As the spring travel season gets underway, it’s time to start capitalizing on the hacks that make airport logistics easier on everyone (as well as those that will make your flight more comfortable). And fortunately, there’s now a better way to skip the lines at customs. All it takes is downloading a free app, which you can do while sitting on the tarmac waiting for your flight to pull up to its gate. Your new international travel lifesaver is called Mobile Passport, and according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, it’s the “first app authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for eligible travelers with a smartphone or tablet to submit their passport information.”
Mobile Passport is perfect for anyone who forgot to apply for Global Entry before their big international trip. Global Entry is a fast-track way to skip the line at customs. Instead of standing in line to meet with a customs agent, those with Global Entry simply scan their documents at a kiosk to gain entry back into the U.S. However, in order to qualify, you need to apply online, attend an in-person interview at a local U.S. Global Entry Enrollment Center, and provide fingerprints. While Global Entry is extremely valuable, it’s also a process that requires planning ahead. Mobile Passport, on the other hand, is something you can do on your phone about five minutes before you get to customs.
Essentially, Mobile Passport takes the busywork off the customs agent’s desk in order to expedite the inspection process for travelers coming back into the country.
Here’s what you have to do if you want to skip the lines at customs:
- Download the app. It’s available at the Apple app store, on Google Play, or via Mobile Passport’s website.
- Scan your passport in the app (it will prompt you with instructions).
- Take a photo of yourself, which will also be prompted within the app.
- Answer routine declarations questions that include whether you’re bringing anything back into the U.S. after traveling abroad. Again, this is all within the user-friendly app.
And voilà, the app then spits out a receipt with a QR code that your customs agent can scan. Instead of waiting in line with all the non-Mobile Passport users, you’ll follow signs for a Mobile Passport-only line. It’s like being an airport VIP, and all you had to do was download an app and scan your passport while deplaning.
As with anything wonderful life hack, there are a few restrictions you should be aware of before using Mobile Passport. The app can only be used by U.S. citizens or Canadian visitors for an expedited customs experience. And it’s only for entry back into the U.S.—so you can’t use the app when you arrive in Mexico or Denmark for your next big trip. Finally, Mobile Passport is not yet accepted at every major U.S. airport. It’s at 25 U.S. international airports right now—so you’ll want to make sure your home airport accepts Mobile Passport before downloading the app.