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The 101: Global Entry vs. Mobile Passport Control


First there was Global Entry, and now there is Mobile Passport Control. Thanks to these two programs, entering the United States is easier than ever.

A little 101:

  • Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited entry into the U.S. If you’re a member of this program, you’ve undergone an extensive background check and interview to gain pre-clearance, and expedited entry, into the U.S. To learn more about the program, and how to apply, click here.

  • Mobile Passport Control is a new program, also by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that allows U.S. Citizens and Canadian visitors to use a new Mobile Passport Control app to expedite entry into the U.S. To learn more, click here.

I recently tested the new Mobile Passport Control system while entering the U.S. in Houston, after our trip to Costa Rica last fall. The program is free to use, and pre-approval is not required.

Here’s how it works and what I learned:

  • First things first, download the Mobile Passport Control app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app looks like the graphic icon at the top of this post.

  • Create a user profile by uploading a photo of your Passport and other personal details.

  • There are currently only 24 points of entry into the U.S. (airports/sea ports) set-up with the staff and equipment to utilize this program, so check to make sure your point of entry into the U.S. is on this list before attempting to use.

  • Upon landing in the US create a “New Trip” within the app. When you create a “New Trip” you’ll share details of your arrival, take a self-photo, and answer inspection-related questions.

  • After you successfully create a “New Trip” you’ll have an encrypted QR code stored in the app that you’ll show, along with your Passport, to the Immigration Officer as you enter the U.S.

  • When you enter the U.S. Immigration area, look for signs pointing you to the “Mobile Passport Control” line, which is often the same line used by Global Entry pass holders.

Global Entry vs. Mobile Passport Control

  • If you frequently travel outside the U.S. it’s probably best to have Global Entry so you aren’t limited to the 24 points of entry currently set-up to receive guests via Mobile Passport Control.

  • If you frequently enter the US through the same entry point, and that entry point is on the list, save yourself the time and money required to secure Global Entry and just use Mobile Passport Control.

If your first point of entry into the U.S. is not your home city, and you have a connection to make, it’s important to move through U.S. Immigration and Customs as quickly as possible so you can catch your next flight. Utilizing these two programs will (quickly) get you on your way home!

Cheers to safe, and speedy, travels!

Living Big Founder + Chief Adventurer and Travel Designer