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Should you pay for Global Entry or use Mobile Passport Control for free?

by on Mon June 27, 2016 • 4 Comments
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There’s a new way to skip long passport checkpoint lines that’s totally free and doesn’t require advance planning. It’s called Mobile Passport Control, and it’s a lot more than just Global Entry ‘light’ without the $100 fee.

Here’s how it stacks up.

Mobile Passport Control (Free)

Mobile Passport Control is a free app approved by US Customs and Border Protection that gives you access to priority passport and customs control lanes at nearly 15 participating airports in the U.S, so you can skip the long lines every time and stop fumbling for a pen to fill out forms.

It’s completely free and unlike Global Entry, there is no interview process or pre-registration required. You can even use it if you’ve just landed in the U.S.

Just download it and get started – there’s no planning needed, so it’s great for procrastinators.

mobilepassportscreenshot

Using it is simple

  • Download the Mobile Passport Control app from the Apple or Google Play store (it’s even okay to do this in the immigration hall)
  • Create a profile with your passport information
  • Enter information about your trip and take a ‘selfie’ photo with your phone while flying back, or when you land in the U.S.
  • Upload the information once you land in the U.S.
  • Go straight to the special Mobile Passport Control line and scan your receipt with the Border Control officer to clear immigration
  • After you’ve picked up your bags, go to the Mobile Passport Control line and scan your phone again with the Customs agent to clear Customs and exit the Arrivals facility

Benefits

  • It’s 100% free
  • You get to use dedicated, faster lanes for passport control and customs
  • There’s no interview or advance registration needed
  • You don’t need to fill out paper forms
  • Your whole family can use it – anyone with a U.S. or Canadian passport is instantly eligible

Drawbacks

  • There’s no access to Pre Check security lines – you have to register and pay for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for that privilege
  • For now, it’s at fewer airports than Global Entry (though they are some of the very busiest)
  • Some airports have staff working the lines to get passengers to download the app en masse for the first time, which can create long lines for the Mobile Passport Control line
  • Like all mobile apps, it can be buggy at times

Where To Use It

Mobile Passport Control is now available in the following airports, which cover some of the busiest international arrivals points in the country:

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago O’Hare
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York JFK
  • Newark
  • Orlando
  • Raleigh Durham
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Seattle

It’s going to expand to more airports later in the year, so keep an eye out to see if it is coming to your airport. Washington-Dulles, Tampa, and Raleigh are next in line. Boston, Los Angeles and Houston are probably the most glaring exceptions at this point.

Global Entry ($100 for 5 years)

Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection program lets you use priority immigration and customs lanes if you’ve been pre-screened as a low-risk traveler. If you are approved for Global Entry, you’ll also have access to TSA Pre-Check security lanes, even when you’re not on an international trip. It costs $100 to apply, but once approved it’s valid for 5 years.

Then, you can use special Global Entry automated kiosks at participating airports, which give you priority over passengers without Global Entry, and you get to use dedicated lanes for customs inspection that let you skip the wait.

Global Entry

Getting Global Entry isn’t a simple exercise. You’re stuck with a long application form, setting up an interview appointment (with waits in the weeks or months), and paying a fee.

The application will ask questions such as your personal information, citizenship and driver’s license information, address and employment history for the past five years, travel history for the past five years, and questions regarding any past criminal offenses.

If your initial application is approved, you will be invited to go for an interview where they will go over your application, take your photograph, and fingerprint you. The interview can take a while to schedule with some airports not having available appointments on the order of months. Your interview appointment itself will only last about 15 minutes.

Benefits

  • Priority immigration and customs lanes
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries with reciprocal agreements, including the UK, Germany, and Mexico (though most require separate enrollment)
  • Available at most U.S. international arrival facilities
  • TSA PreCheck Eligibility
  • If you’re a non-U.S. passport holders from an eligible country, you can enroll

Drawbacks

  • Cumbersome application process
  • $100 application fee
  • Everyone in your party must be enrolled in Global Entry if you want to use the priority lanes

Where To Use It

Global Entry kiosks are set up at nearly all U.S. arrival points (there’s a full list here).

Which is better?

There’s no downside to trying Mobile Passport Control. It’s free and doesn’t require any advance registration.

But if you travel frequently and want TSA Pre Check access, bundling Global Entry (or its sister for faster Canadian access, NEXUS) is a decent deal.

Global Entry costs just $15 more than standalone TSA Pre Check, but gives you the option of expedited international arrivals. And it lets you take advantage of current and future reciprocal expedited arrival programs for trusted travelers in other countries.

Getting around the Global Entry fee

Global Entry does have a $100 application fee that is not refunded if your application is not approved. There are a few credit cards that waive this fee as a card benefit. They include:

Authorized users on The Platinum Card from American Express also receive the fee waiver, but authorized users on the Citi Prestige do not. All cards will waive the Global Entry application fee once every five years, which is how long Global Entry is valid if you are approved.

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4 thoughts on Should you pay for Global Entry or use Mobile Passport Control for free?

  1. Glenn

    I have been using Global Entry (GE) for years, but have my first chance to use Mobile Passport (MP) on an upcoming CDG-JFK on a Delta flight. My question is – which one should I use? From what I read, it seems with MP you have to go to a special MP lane and interview with a CBP agent but with GE, you just do the kiosk and show the receipt to a CPB agent in a different special GE lane. Is it just a matter of seeing which line is shorter? And if you start the MP and then at arrival see the GE line is shorter, can you just ignore the MP and use GE? Or does initiating the MP at arrival make the GE unavailable for that flight?

    Any suggestions welcome!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Glenn – Safest bet is to see if one line is much shorter before submitting. If it’s MP, then press the upload button once you see the line situation.

      Reply
  2. Jeff Bannard

    In your article comparing Global Entry to the Mobile Passport Control app, you mistakenly identify SENTRI for Canadians – actually it is NEXUS. SENTRI is expedited travel with Mexico.

    Reply

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