Global Entry and Mobile Passport Demystified

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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection “Trusted Traveler” programs and the Mobile Passport app are different, but they complement each other. I encourage travelers to consider both options when traveling abroad, as both could help you get home more quickly, and isn’t that the goal after a long flight?

GLOBAL ENTRY

Global Entry is a voluntary program that allows pre-approved, low-risk international travelers to receive expedited clearance upon arrival into the United States. Global Entry members self-process themselves when they arrive in the United States using a designated kiosk.

APPLICATION PROCESS

  • Both passport and permanent residency names have to be identical.
  • Apply online at https://ttp.dhs.gov/ . The application fee is $100 per applicant.
  • An email notification that your application is being processed will be sent to you.
  • Schedule an interview at your local airport within 30 days of receiving the email.
  • Complete an in-person interview with a CBP officer at an enrollment center. During the meeting, they will take your picture and your fingerprints. The interview process takes less than 10 minutes.
  • You will receive a Known Traveler Number at the end of your interview, which is active immediately. Be sure to enter this number into your airline reservation every time you book, otherwise you won’t have TSA PreCheck on your boarding pass.
  • Global Entry is valid for five years. 

BENEFITS OF GLOBAL ENTRY:

  • An expedited airport security line, avoiding long lines when returning to the U.S. after an international flight. All you do is scan your passport, fingerprints, and make a customs declaration. You’ll get a unique printout and be on your way, usually in less than five minutes. 
  • No need to take your laptop or carry-on fluids out of your bags.
  • No need to take off your shoes, belt, or jacket.
  • TSA Pre-check is included with approval for Global Entry.
  • Several travel rewards cards offer a statement credit to cover the fee. 
  • Considering it also includes TSA precheck for domestic travel, it is cost-effective, costing $20 /year.

PRO TIP:

Once conditional approval is received for Global Entry, there is a 30-day requirement to schedule an appointment. It is essential to do this, or your application will be discarded.

MOBILE PASSPORT

If you don’t want to pay for Global Entry, the $100 US program for approving “trusted travelers” for faster customs entry, use Mobile Passport. The Mobile Passport is a free app authorized by CBP that enables you to upload your passport and customs declaration information by your mobile device instead of the traditional paper form. It does not require a background check like the Global Entry program. 

HOW TO USE

  • Make sure your passport is valid for international travel.
  • Download the Mobile Passport app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
  • Before arriving at the airport, create a profile with your passport information.
  • Answer 5 brief questions about your trip.
  • Review the information about your travel that is showing in the app and check it for accuracy.
  • When at the airport, submit your information to Customs and Border Protection

BENEFITS OF MOBILE PASSPORT

  • You no longer need to fill out arrival forms on the plane or while in line.
  • Mobile Passport allows travelers to go right to passport review and move through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint with ease.
  • Usually, there is little to no line because the CBP officers only scan the Q.R. code on your Mobile Passport app. You have already submitted all the information.
  • 12 additional profiles for family members can be created on the same app so you can go through customs together.
  • Mobile Passport is available to U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors arriving at 27 major U.S. international airports and four seaports.

PRO TIP:

For a nominal fee of $14.99 a year, the app can store passport and personal information securely so you can use the same information on multiple trips.

WHEN TO USE THEM

If you have no use for TSA PreCheck and rarely travel internationally, Mobile Passport may be good enough. If you travel often, then Global Entry is worth the effort to get. If both programs are available, then there’s little reason not to enroll in both. This way, you can choose the shortest line when you arrive at the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint.

 WHEN TO USE GLOBAL ENTRY

Global Entry is available at 43 domestic airports and 15 international destinations.

Global Entry is more challenging to get approved for, but the extra steps in signing up do get you the added benefit of TSA PreCheck to help you pass through security at the beginning of your trip.

Global Entry also uses a kiosk system that takes care of your declarations, identification match, and even your passport check without having to wait in line to talk to a person. 

WHEN TO USE MOBILE PASSPORT

Mobile Passport is a sort of “Global Entry Lite.” Think of it as a backup plan rather than a first choice for getting through immigration quickly.

Mobile Passport has the added advantage of being free or a nominal fee of $14.95 a year per family. If you don’t want to spend the money or go through the extensive application process for Global Entry, Mobile Passport provides an excellent alternative that makes returning to the U.S. a bit more pleasant.

Mobile Passport is available at 20 airports. If your chosen airport doesn’t support the program, then Global Entry is the way to go.

Mobile Passport also lets you create separate profiles for your family members on the same, so it’s convenient when you travel together as you can pass through customs as a family unit.

PRO TIP:

Be sure not to use these programs interchangeably for the same inspections process. Don’t submit the information on your mobile passport app and then decide to go through Global Entry. They will turn you away. I would advise you to fill in the information and wait to see the lines before you hit submit.

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