If you’re willing to part with $100, undergo a background check and submit to a brief interview, you can get a card that entitles you to five years of streamlined movement through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection system.
Global Entry allows you to bypass what are frequently long lines at Customs upon arrival in the United States. The pass does not exempt holders from standard regulations, and you could still be spot-checked. But for most situations, the move through these lines is much faster with Global Entry.
Global Entry costs $15 when you consider that five years of membership in TSA’s Pre-Check program is $85, and you get both with the Global Entry fee. But some budget travelers might say that since they don’t travel internationally all that often (and maybe only take one or two domestic flights per year), these products are a waste of money.
Ready for a free U.S. Customs loophole?
In the interest of keeping those lines moving, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol offers a free program called Mobile Passport Control. This system, which started in 2016, allows U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors to go to the coveted express lane at 24 of the nation’s busiest customs facilities.
All you’ll need is a mobile phone and the ability to download the Mobile Passport app from either Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Once installed, you simply fill out and store your profile (including a selfie you take with your phone’s camera) and then complete an entry form for each individual trip. The app produces a Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code that is presented to a customs officer along with a valid passport.
If you travel with other family members, the account created in the app can accommodate up to 12 additional profiles. All information is transmitted between your phone and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol via secure encryption protocols.
Although you don’t push “submit the form” until after landing in the United States, it’s possible to fill out much of the information while still en-route or even before departure.
In addition to saving money on the Global Entry membership, Mobile Passport Control might be more convenient in some facilities. On several occasions, I’ve had trouble using the frequently used and abused machines in the so-called express line. On one re-entry, it took four or five tries to get the machine to function properly.
Your mobile phone signal is the only limiting factor with MPC, and travelers such as The Points Guy have been pleased with the efficiency.
I still like the convenience of TSA Pre-Check, but when my Global Entry card expires in a few years, I might save the $15 and use MPC.