The New, Free Passport App That Lets You Skip The Customs Line

A sign points passengers to the mobile passport control window set up for international travelers arriving at Miami International Airport on March 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Looking to hold onto that travel high when you return from an epic vacation abroad? That international customs line probably snaps you right back into humdrum reality pretty quickly. According to new research from the Global Gateway Alliance, wait times in customs lines at JFK, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Miami all had average lengths of 20 minutes or more, and boasted maximum wait times of more than 50 minutes.

That’s enough time to miss connecting flights in some cases and lose your patience in most. Before, the only way to skip lines was to pay a $100 application fee for Global Entry, and then wait for it to be processed before you could enjoy the ease of breezing through customs. But now, a new government technology will get you through even faster than the Global Entry group — for free.

The Mobile Passport Control app (free for Android and iPhone) is the first app authorized by the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection to expedite the traveler’s entry process back into the U.S. After launching in February, the number of U.S. airports that Mobile Passport entry is available in is growing, with a new batch of airports announced this month. Currently, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle-Tacoma, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Jose, Newark, JFK, Orlando, Denver, and Minneapolis-St. Paul accept Mobile Passport entry, with more airports expected to adopt the new tech soon. 

The app streamlines the customs process by saving your basic traveler profile — like passport info, birthdate, and a photo ID — so you don’t have to fill out those inconvenient customs forms on your flight. The app is also privacy-protected with a user-PIN entry login so your info stays safe.

Your info is saved to your profile, so when you travel, the only thing you have to do answer a few arrival and departure questions from your recent trip, and the app will automatically send you an entry receipt. The e-receipt will allow you to skip the frustratingly long lines, the Automated Passport Control (APC) booths, and even the Global Entry elite — for free. Just show your passport and the receipt to the customs officer (you'll breeze through a different lane than those for APC and Global Entry), scan the app after collecting your luggage, and be on your way an hour faster than everyone else.