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Nothing is worse than standing in a long immigration line when you are tired after a long flight.  The good news is that you do have some options to make the process entering the United States faster. Both Mobile Passport and Global Entry are popular ways to speed up the time it takes you to get through immigration.   

The question is which one is the right choice for you? Let’s take a closer look and compare Mobile Passport vs Global Entry.

Mobile Passport is an app designed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows passengers to complete immigration forms on their smartphone or tablet and then use a shorter line when they arrive in the United States.

Who can use Mobile Passport Control?

Currently, it is only available for US Citizens and visitors from Canada.  They are looking at expanding it to US Residents in the future.

mobile passport app

Mobile Passport is a simple app you can access on your phone

Where can you use Mobile Passport?

As of January 15, 2019, you can use the Mobile Passport Control app when you enter the US at 25 airports and 3 cruise ports.  They are working on expanding the program, so check here for the most up to date look at airports and ports that participate.

How much does Mobile Passport Control Cost?

The Mobile Passport App used to be 100% free.  You can still use the Mobile Passport app for free, but now if you want the app to store your passport information then it costs $15 per year.  Depending on your budget and how many international trips you take, it may or may not be worth paying the $15 or it may make sense to spend a little more and get Global Entry.  Of course, if you want to save money, just re-enter your passport information each trip.

 

How do you use Mobile Passport?

First, you need to download the app (click here) to your smartphone or tablet.  Then, you should complete your profile on the app.  This will include adding a photograph of your passport.  If applicable, you can create profiles for your family members that will travel with you.  You can complete this step before you travel. Information on the app is encrypted and shared only with US Customs and Border Protection.

Once you land, you answer the standard entry questions inside the app.  Once you have data on your phone or can connect to wi-fi, submit your data to US Customs and Border Protection. Be sure to double check your answers before submitting. Within a few seconds, you will receive a receipt with a barcode that is valid for four hours.

When you get to the immigration hall look for the designated mobile passport line.  Then show your passport to the customs officer and scan the barcode.

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through special kiosks when they arrive in the United States.

Who can use Global Entry?

You have to go through an application process to join the Global Entry program.  This process includes an online questionnaire and an in-person interview at one of the participating airports.  

US Citizens, US Permanent Residents, citizens of Argentina, India, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexican nationals are eligible to apply to join the program.  Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.  Individuals under the age of 18 need their parent or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the program.

How does the Global Entry application process work?

There are two steps to the application process – the online questionnaire and the in-person interview.  The online questionnaire is straight-forward and easy but may take a little time to complete. They ask you about your employment history and a list of every country you’ve visited in the last five years.

What is the Global Entry interview like?

You do not need to stress about the interview.  The hardest part will be scheduling it. You will need to do the interview in person at an airport.  When I had my interview at Newark Airport, they mainly asked me about some of the stamps in my passport. Make sure you bring your passport or resident card, one other form of ID (eg. drivers license), and a printout of your approval email. They will take your fingerprints (so that you can use kiosks in the future) and a photo.  Remember you are not supposed to smile in the photograph!

When can you use Global Entry?

Global Entry is available at over 70 airports.  There are a few airports internationally that allow you to use Global Entry.  Check the current list of participating list of airports here.

Some other countries have similar programs that you can join (if you meet certain requirements) which will help speed up your arrival process in those countries.  Read about my experience with the UK Registered Traveller program and find out if it is worth the investment.

How much does Global Entry cost?

Global Entry membership costs $100 every 5 years.  You pay when you make the application and the fee is not refundable if you are denied.  This fee also includes TSA Precheck membership which would cost $85 if you were to purchase it separately.  TSA Precheck lets you go through a special security line at select airport locations. Also, note that not all airlines participate in TSA Precheck. When you use the TSA Precheck line, you don’t have to remove your electronics or your shoes.

There is one way you can get the benefits of Global Entry for less.  U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens, Canadian lawful permanent residents and Mexican nationals who are members of Mexico’s trusted traveller program, Viajero Confiable, are eligible to apply to the Nexus program and get the same benefits as Global Entry.  The catch is that there are very few enrollment centers and they are mostly along the Canadian border.  After completing the application form, you will need to visit one of the enrollment centers in person for the interview.  The Nexus application fee is $50 but it is non-refundable if your application is denied.  Like Global Entry, you need to renew every five years.

Some high-end credit cards (like Chase Sapphire Reserve) will reimburse you for the cost of Global Entry, but they may not reimburse you for Nexus.  Check the terms for your credit card to see what it covers.

How do I use Global Entry?

Once you have your Global Entry membership, you no longer need to fill out the customs form when you arrive in the US.  When your plane lands, head to immigration and look for the Global Entry kiosks.

At the kiosk, you will answer the standard immigration questions, submit your fingerprints, and take a picture.  I always have a hard time knowing when the picture is going to be taken, so I am never looking at the camera. In some cases, since I am short (5’3”) it also only captures the top of my head.  Don’t worry this has never caused any problems.

The machine will print out a receipt and then you take that to the immigration officer along with your passport.  Sometimes there may be a short line for Global Entry, but it should move fast.

Comparison Between Mobile Passport Control and Global Entry

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two programs.

 

 Mobile Passport AppGlobal Entry
Who Can Use It?US Citizens and visitors from CanadaThose who have passed the application process. US Citizens, US Permanent Residents, citizens of Argentina, India, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexican nationals can apply. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS
Where You Can Use It?25 airports and 3 cruise portsOver 70 airports including some internationally
How Much Does It Cost?$0 or $15 a year if you want the app to store your passport information.$100 application fee per person is non-refundable, this covers 5 years in the program, renewals are $100. You may be able to get the benefits of Global Entry through the Nexus Program for $50, but you need to be able to attend an in person interview at one of the enrollment centers.
Additional Benefits?You can easily create profiles for family members you travel with in the app.
No application process, so you can use it as soon as you download the app.
Includes TSA Precheck

Verdict: Global Entry or Mobile Passport Control?

Both Global Entry and Mobile Passport Control will save you time.  If you don’t mind re-entering your passport information, there is a big difference in the cost ($100 vs $0) and it can add up if you need it for multiple members in your family.  If you are on a budget, mobile passport can save you money if you don’t have it store your information. 

It also probably doesn’t make sense to pay for Global Entry or the Mobile Passport app to save your information if you aren’t a frequent international traveler.  If you are a frequent traveler and don’t want to deal with the hassle of re-entering your information, then the cost difference between the two programs is small.

Global Entry does have one big advantage which may be worth paying for – it includes TSA Precheck.  This probably saves you more time than Global Entry because it gets you through security faster for domestic as well as international flights.  TSA Precheck can be purchased separately for $85.  If you are debating between the paid version of Mobile Passport and Global Entry,  I think it makes sense to get Global Entry so that you can have TSA Precheck.

 

When deciding between using Mobile Passport Control and Global Entry you should also look at the list of airports where you can use the programs.  Then think about your likely travel plans and habits. If your main airport is on the Global Entry list but not on the Mobile Passport list then it might make it worth paying the extra money for Global Entry.  Conversely, if the places you travel to aren’t on the Global Entry list it doesn’t make sense to join the program. Keep in mind, they are expanding both programs, but it is hard to know how long that will take or which airports will be added next.

The other point that may make your decision is the eligibility factors for each program.  If you are an American citizen you can join either program, but if you are a US resident, then your only option is Global Entry.  The same goes for citizens of some countries who can apply to Global Entry but are currently not allowed to use Mobile Passport.

My Thoughts on Global Entry and Mobile Passport

I joined the Global Entry program soon after it started.  It has helped me save time, especially with TSA check. When Mobile Passport Control option has was first introduced, I didn’t think there is as much value to having the Global Entry membership because the Mobile Passport app was a free alternative. 

Now that the Mobile Passport app charges you $15 per year to store your information it is almost the same price as Global Entry and it doesn’t include TSA Precheck.  Of course, if you don’t travel much, it’s probably best to just use the free version of the Mobile Passport app and then re-enter your passport information each trip.  Luckily, I have a credit card that will reimburse me for the cost of Global Entry.

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Global Entry vs Mobile Passport Control App? Have you ever used either program? Which one would you choose?.  

-Anisa

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Expert Tips for Choosing between Mobile Passport and Global Entry

  • Mobile Passport is free if you re-enter your passport information for each trip, so that’s the best opton if you are on a tight budget.
  • Look at the airports and ports that participate in each program.  Global Entry is available at more locations.
  • Your nationality may dictate which programs you are eligible to join.