A bit of an introduction to our adventures with Customs and Immigration. Before a few years ago, when returning to the United States, there weren’t a lot of choices, so we would fill out our custom form, pick a line (always the slowest moving) and wait for our turn with an agent. Rarely did things go quickly. Today there are a number of travel options for speeding up those processes dealing with the government.
- TSA Pre-Clearance – Costs $85 and gets you through airport security with a faster screening.
- Global Entry – Costs $100 and gives you a fast-pass through immigration and includes TSA-Pre.
- Nexus– Costs $50 and allows Americans and Canadians fast immigration checks at airports and boarder crossings.
- Sentri – Costs $122.50, is similar to Nexus and includes Mexicans.
A couple of years ago we discovered Mobile Passport and added the app to our phones and it really did get us quickly through immigration. Over a year ago we decided that we would apply for Global Entry since in 2020 we would be leaving and re-entering the country at least five times and would be flying with a number of airlines that did not normally provide us with TSA Pre-Clear.
Well, 2020 didn’t work out as planned and we haven’t left the country yet. In addition my wife got Global Entry and and I’m still waiting to be allowed an interview.
When my wife went in for her Homeland Security interview we spent some time talking with agents and came away with some good suggestions. The agents recommendation was to get the Mobile Passport app even if you have Global Entry. While it doesn’t provide for TSA-Pre it often gets you through immigration faster than even Global Entry and at $15 a year it’s well worth it for frequent international travelers. One comment they had was often the system on their side doesn’t work, they still just wave Mobile Passport people through.
Did you know there’s an App for that?
While we were excited some time ago with the self-service kiosks that were being installed at a number of locations. After a few times through that system we realized this wasn’t the answer to our prayers. It just didn’t happen that fast. You had to scan your passport and everyone had to do it – not just the head of household. You had to get your picture taken by the kiosk than respond to CBP inspection questions and submit biographic information, whatever that was. After that you were given a printout strip and than you went and stood in line again anyway.
While traveling we have come to realize that some other countries have figured out how to get people thru the process. Our favorite is Australia – scan your passport at a kiosk, tick off a couple answers and show the receipt to the nice person as you exit. Maybe the online visa Australia makes you get helps them with the process though? Somehow going thru our CPB process doesn’t make me feel any safer coming into the U.S. than entering Australia
The Real Solution
Starting two years ago we started using the U.S. CBP approved App Mobile Passport. First you have to download the Mobile Passport App on your iPhone or Android device, it’s free. Use the App to scan your passport and save the information to the system.
Here’s what to do when you arrive back in the U.S. using the Mobile Passport website. Once you are at your port of entry (airport or sea port), open the app and connect to wireless or wi-fi, fill out the information and click to 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.
Next follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and they scan the barcode on the digital CBP receipt. And that’s it!
The system is currently active at twenty-four U.S. airports and three cruise ports with more planned.
After the first year we had to pay a $15 annual subscription fee in order for the Mobile Passport to continue to store your passport information but we now consider that a small price to pay.