Mobile Passport Control is the new kid on the block everyone is trying to find out more about. It’s a new program launched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to help expedite the entry process into the United States. Meanwhile, Global Entry is a more established program with an intensive application process that requires an interview and $100 fee but also comes with more benefits. Here’a a look at the two programs and some factors to help you decide which is the better program for you.
Mobile Passport Control
Launched in the fall of 2014, Mobile Passport Control is an app, developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnerships with CBP, that you can download to use in order to expedite your entry into the US. It’s available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
It’s an extremely simple process to use and it goes like this:
- Download the app. Travelers can download the app as late as their arrival to the US (when you finally obtain service again), so there’s no rush to download the app.
- Create your profile. Once it’s downloaded, travelers will be prompted to create a profile with their passport information, which will also include their name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship.
- Create a “new trip.” Upon landing in the United States, travelers will complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, taking a selfie photo, and answering a series of custom declaration questions. Like Global Entry, this eliminates the need to fill out the Customs declaration paperwork issued on the plane.
- Obtain your QR Code. Once the traveler submits (uploads) their customs declaration form through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued.
- Show digital bar code. Travelers then follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. There, they will bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States.
- The app is FREE and there’s no interview or application/interview process involved in using it.
As you can see, it’s a very simply process. However, you’ll want to do some research to see if your local airport has MPC capabilities. MPC is currently available in the following cities:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Houston (IAH and HOU)
- New York (JFK and EWR)
- Raleigh Durham
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Washington Dulles
Global Entry is a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. This means that you are required to submit a detailed application containing background information, such as where you have lived, worked, and traveled. And most importantly, you must disclose if you have any type of criminal history.
You’ll then need to schedule an interview and once you’ve passed the interview stage, you’ll be given access to the program for five years at which point you can renew your membership.
If you enroll in the program, you automatically are given TSA Pre-Check, which will allow you expedited access through security when flying on most domestic airlines and even some international airlines, such as Singapore Airlines.
Global Entry is not free and costs $100. However, many credit cards offer $100 credits for Global Entry to cover the costs including the Platinum Card from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of a few other countries are eligible for Global Entry membership. Global Entry is also available to:
- Citizens of United Kingdom
- Citizens of Germany
- Citizens of the Netherlands
- Citizens of Panama
- Citizens of South Korea
- Mexican nationals
Global Entry works very similarly to MPC, except you verify your information at the Global Entry kiosk after you’ve scanned your passport. You then typically go through a checkpoint with a CBP who likely will allow you to pass with almost no interaction (versus MPC where you might still be subject to some questions).
After you make your way through immigration, many airports also have designated lines for Global entry users to get expedited through customs (where your baggage might be inspected), so in many instances, Global Entry is 2X the time saver.
- MPC is free while Global Entry costs $100
The price factor is something a lot of people will obviously want to consider. If you rarely ever travel outside of the country, you may find it hard to justify paying $100 for this perk, especially if you don’t have a credit card that will credit you. But don’t forget Global Entry membership is good for five years, so it’s like paying $20 per year which I think it is well worth it considering how long the lines can be at times.
- MPC does not require a interview process
The biggest hurdle to getting Global Entry isn’t the price for many people, but going through the interview process.
There aren’t a lot of interview locations like there are for TSA Pre-Check and the waiting times for the interviews can be very long (sometimes months long). In addition, Global Entry requires you to have a squeaky clean criminal record, so people who may have slipped up with a misdemeanor a few years ago may not be able to clear the background check. For those reasons, MPC can be a much more practical option.
- Global Entry is much more widespread
Global Entry is the more established program and because of that it’s presence is much more widespread. MPC is growing quickly, however, and is already in many of the biggest cities and can even be found in some secondary airports (e.g., IAH and HOU).
- Global Entry is available to more foreigners
U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can use Mobile Passport Control. However, as stated above, Global entry is available to citizens of several different nations.
- Global Entry comes with TSA Pre-Check
TSA Pre-Check normally costs $75 but is included in the price of Global Entry. This is a nice benefit that makes getting through security much quicker and less stressful. MPC does not come with this perk and its benefits are limited strictly to gaining entry into the US.
- MPC can be used for families
The MPC app allows for families of four to submit a single customs declaration form. While family members can each obtain Global Entry individually, MPC allows you to quickly submit up to four family members. Plus, since it’s free, it’s likely better suited for larger families.
In addition, MPC is more practical for mixed-groups who don’t all have Global Entry, since you can still all access expedited entry.
- The lines could be shorter for either program
I’ve had a tremendous experience with Global Entry lines being short and quick but that’s not always the case. There are even reports showing that Global Entry lines have been longer than the MPC lines during certain times. This may not be the case for long as MPC rises in popularity but for now it would be a good idea to have MPC even on-deck even if you already have Global Entry so you could decide to enter into the shortest line at the time of your arrival.
- MPC likely will not have an exclusive line for customs
This is a big determining factor to me, as I’ve been able to avoid very long customs lines as a result of Global Entry. Airports differ in how they handle customs lines, but if your airport has a designated Global Entry line and then a separate line for “everybody else” (like at IAH), chances are you’ll benefit more with Global Entry and could save a lot of time exiting an airport. For this reason alone, I’d probably stick with Global Entry.
Global Entry is probably better suited for those travelers who will frequently utilize the benefit and/or want to do whatever they can to avoid long lines at airports (since TSA Pre-Check is included and you often get to skip long customs lines). Mobile Passport Control, on the other hand, is likely better suited for the casual traveler who doesn’t want to shell out $100 or go through the interview process of Global Entry. However, I’d recommend everyone to download the Mobile Passport Control app and consider using it, since you never know when the lines might be even shorter than those found for Global Entry.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.