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Speed Through Customs With Mobile Passport

App can get you processed faster after international travel

People walk into a customs check at an airport

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

En español | Most American travelers would welcome anything that could ease their way through customs quickly after a long international flight home. Enter Mobile Passport, the first app authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows U.S. and Canadian citizens to bypass the regular winding lines at customs for faster processing.

The free app speeds your reentry, in part by allowing you to answer most of the customs questions before you even get to the customs officer, says Mobile Passport Control CEO Hans Miller. “Think of it like having a customs kiosk in your pocket,” he adds. You don’t need to be preapproved or interviewed (as you do with a service like TSA PreCheck) before using it. You do still need to have a valid physical passport on hand.

The service is available at 27 major U.S. airports — covering about 85 percent of international air travel coming into the country — and four seaports of entry.

How to use Mobile Passport Control, step by step:

  1. Download the Mobile Passport app to your IOS or Android device.
  2. Upload your passport information, snap a selfie, and answer the usual questions regarding countries visited and items to declare. If you’re traveling with your family, you can add the passport information for up to 12 family members on one app profile.
  3. Submit all of that info digitally — while your cruise ship is docking or plane is taxiing — and Mobile Passport will send you an electronic receipt with a scannable bar code.
  4. After you disembark, head to the Mobile Passport Control express lane.
  5. Scan your bar code and present your physical passport to the CBP officer for a quick inspection.

A $15-a-year premium version of the app allows you to save your passport information so you don’t need to enter it each time you reenter the country.

Mobile Passport promises not to store, sell or in any way monetize your data. “Your information is not saved anywhere,” Miller says. “We can’t see it. We don’t have access to it. There’s no master key or back door. It’s only on your device, and you’re the only one who can unlock it. It’s really secure.”

About 7 million people have downloaded the app so far, according to Miller, and the company is working on expanding to more U.S. international airports, as well as to preclearance airports in Canada.

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