- Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
- A year ago, I left New York to travel around the world as Business Insider’s international correspondent. Over that time, I’ve visited over 20 countries, taken dozens of flights, and stayed in nearly 100 hotels.
- A lot of travel bloggers recommend Global Entry, a US government program for approving “trusted travelers” to gain quicker access through customs after international travel. It requires a $100 application fee and a screening process.
- Instead, I use Mobile Passport, a free app officially authorized by US Customs and Border Protection that lets you complete customs forms on your phone.
- Like Global Entry, Mobile Passport users have their own separate line at major US airports, getting you out of long customs lines but without the hassle of the screening process or the $100 application fee.
Traveling for a living can be exhausting. Fortunately, I’ve found a variety of tools and apps that ease the drudgery of travel and make the experience more fun.
Many frequent international travelers swear by Global Entry, a US government program administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Global Entry provides expedited customs screenings for “pre-approved, low risk” travelers entering the US after traveling abroad.
In order to get Global Entry, you have to pay a $100 application fee, submit an online application, and schedule a screening interview and fingerprinting at an enrollment center.
When returning from an international trip to a major US airport, you can check in at a designated Global Entry kiosk without filling out paperwork. From there, you can print a slip, and go through customs faster than the people waiting in processing lines.
With so much happening before I embarked on my trip around the world last March as Business Insider’s international correspondent, I didn’t feel like adding another hassle to my plate.
I’m glad I didn’t. I haven’t missed Global Entry at all thanks to a free, easy alternative I discovered that is just as fast: Mobile Passport.
Mobile Passport is a free app officially authorized by CBP that lets you upload your passport and fill out customs forms on your phone. So long as you are entering the US at one of the participating 25 airports or 3 cruise ports, you can use Mobile Passport to skip the lines sans-Global Entry.
In order to use Mobile Passport, you download the app and create a profile with your passport. When you arrive at the airport, use the app to fill out the usual customs forms and take a selfie (or better yet, do it while the plane is taxiing). When you get to the CBP checkpoint, follow the signs to the Mobile Passport line; like Global Entry, Mobile Passport has its own dedicated queue. In some airports, the lines are combined.
Either way, there is usually little or no line, because all CBP officers have to do is scan the QR code on your Mobile Passport app and, voila, you’re home free. In the year I’ve been using the app, I’ve never had to wait more than a minute or two.
When I compare Mobile Passport’s seamless process with the sometimes arduous screening process of Global Entry – some travelers report having to wait months for a screening appointment – and the $100 application fee, skipping Global Entry feels like a no-brainer.
The one benefit Global Entry has over Mobile Passport is that it includes TSA Precheck, which provides expedited passage through security at many US airports. If you spend a lot of time in US airports, it could be worth it for the security line.
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- I found out the hard way that one of the best strategies to save money on flights can end up costing you big time
- The single best piece of advice I can give you for any trip you take
- I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries, and here are the dumbest mistakes I made on the road that I’ll never make again