Using The Mobile Passport App (An Update)

Some time ago we did an article on the new Mobile Passport App. We were so excited about this new approach we immediately got ready to make use of it. At the time we published we had not actually used the app yet. Now it’s over a year latter and we have come through immigration seven times using this app. While it appears that you can make use of the app as “head of household” we both downloaded the app and registered our passports independently and have both used it at entry each time.

Good news and good news! First, in several entries using Mobile Entry it has not worked as intended yet. Talking to the agents they tell us that while they understand what it’s supposed to do mostly it doesn’t seem to provide the information at their station they were told it would but they generally accept that you have a valid entry. That being said every time we enter they examine the code displayed on our phones, take a quick look at our passport and wave us through – welcome to America.

The really good news. The way the system is supposed to work once you are heading towards immigration you follow signs to the Mobile Entry line. Sometimes it is also the same line that includes Global Entry. The big difference is that Mobile Passport is free and Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years. In most cases we have had nobody in line ahead of us when we get to the agent. Once or twice there have been no more than four people ahead of us. Once there, the agents look at our cell phone for a second and wave us through.

What we believe is supposed to happen is the agent uses a scanner to read the bar code off our phones, but that hasn’t happened yet. I doesn’t appear that Customs and Immigration have any plan to discontinue the app and system and so for it’s a big win/win.

Here’s How To Get Started

First you download the Mobile Passport App on your iPhone or Android device, it’s free. Use the App to take your picture and scan your passport and save the information.

Here’s what to do when you arrive back in the U.S. from the Mobile Passport website. Once you are at your port of entry (airport or sea port), connect to wireless or wi-fi and submit your data to CBP. Remember: when you submit, you are confirming under penalty of law that your information is correct. Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours.

No more customs forms!

Next follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan back the barcode on the digital CBP receipt. And that’s it!

The system is currently active at twenty-four U.S. airports and Ft. Lauderale’s, Port Everglades, with more coming.

We have one report that the system is a breeze. That may be because there aren’t that many users yet but hopefully CBP will expand to keep up.


A Final Note: Recently we were in Chile and before we boarded the plane I realized that I had changed phones from an iPhone to an Android and hadn’t loaded the app. Even with the slow 3G at the airport it only took five minutes to download the app, take my picture (it was terrible), scan my passport and register with the system. I would recommend avoiding that panic.


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