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NerdWallet: The Essentials of the Mobile Passport App


Mobile Passport Control, or MPC, expedites the customs and immigration process for U.S. and Canadian citizens at U.S. border entry checkpoints. By using the MPC app, people can avoid filling out paper customs declaration forms and bypass customs and immigration kiosks at U.S. airports and cruise terminals.

Once known as the free Mobile Passport app operated by Airside Mobile, that has been discontinued in favor of the Mobile Passport Control app now run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. The app is free, does not require preapproval and is available from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Mobile Passport doesn’t replace a traditional passport, but it does expedite the required documentation needed. You show your phone’s QR code generated through the app along with your passport.

Who can use the Mobile Passport app?

Mobile Passport Control is an app for U.S. citizens with a valid passport as well as Canadian B-1/B-2 citizens visitors. The app is free to download without the need for an application process. You don’t need a background check, interview or preapproval.

The MPC app does not provide entry to Trusted Traveler Programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. However, if you have Global Entry, you can also use the MPC app if you prefer.

The Mobile Passport Control app is simple to use. Once your plane lands or cruise arrives, you complete the online form. If you have just landed, you can enter the required information while taxiing to the gate.

It’s best if the app is downloaded before your flight. Then, users connect to wireless internet or a data signal. Next, they will be prompted to enter personal details like passport number, birthday, name, gender and citizenship.

The encrypted Mobile Passport Control app uses a pin or touch/face ID via the settings on a mobile device. It will require taking a photo and completing the questions on the form.

The app transmits this encrypted data to Customs and Border Protection so that when you scan the QR code at the immigration counter or your passport is swiped, your answers automatically appear. This saves time and paper.

A growing number of airports and cruise ports have access to Mobile Passport Control. So travelers can save time because they have already submitted their declaration form via the app and can go directly to an immigration booth.

Some airports have individual lines that speed MPC users to the front instead of making them wait. Others blend users into one line, which can be disappointing when lines are long. When there is a dedicated lane for MPC users, it can be almost as fast (or faster) than Global Entry lines.

While CBP personnel may ask additional questions, the processing can be much faster than the general arrival lanes.

Where can you use the MPC app?

Mobile Passport Control is available at 46 locations, which includes 33 U.S. international airports, nine pre-clearance locations and four cruise ports.

Can I add family members?

Yes, the MPC app allows you to build profiles for as many as 12 people, and for those who live in the same household, profiles can be submitted in one transaction.

What if I paid for the premium version of the old Mobile Passport app?

Previous Mobile Passport users were able to pay for a premium version that stored personal details like passport number, expiration date and a personal photo.

While the new MPC app is free, those who paid for a premium Mobile Passport plus version can continue to access the stored data until their original subscription expires. Those who paid an automatic renewal fee are no longer charged this from the app store.

The bottom line about Mobile Passport

International travelers returning to the U.S. will find the MPC app to be a great alternative to Global Entry, which has an extra cost and takes time to apply for before being approved. For that reason, it may not make sense for infrequent travelers.

Instead, the Mobile Passport Control app — and the shorter line in many locations — becomes the better option for those who want maximum convenience.

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