Here’s How To Avoid Long Lines At Customs

Many of us have experienced long lines at the United States immigration and customs station when re-entering the country after an international flight. Going through the hassle and waiting in the lines seems inevitable, especially with the world in the state that it is in. But, in the age of smartphones, there is actually a way to bypass those long lines in some U.S. airports – by using an app.

While it is not a secret, not many flyers know they can take advantage of this downloadable, free app that is available to both Android and iPhone users through their respective app stores. The app, called the Mobile Passport, enables users to enter their travel and passport information and electronically submit it, thereby generating a receipt to show agents at the immigration and customs checkpoints.  And, there really is no hidden catch.

In 2014, the free Mobile Passport app was launched by the Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) jointly with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  

Currently, use of Mobile Passport is limited to United States citizens with a U.S. passport and Canadian citizens holding a Canadian passport. The five airports that are part of program as of now are as follows: Atlanta (ATL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), Chicago (ORD), and San Francisco (SFO). The project’s plan is to have at least 20 airports recognizing and accepting the app in the very near future.

Once you have downloaded the app to your phone, the process is as follows: land in the U.S. at one of the participating airports; exit the “airplane mode” on your phone; open the app; follow the listed instructions; and obtain your immigrations and customs clearance. As part of the process, you must enter your full name, date of birth, gender and country of citizenship.

You must also select your arrival airport and airline; take a selfie (no joke); answer some customs-related declaration questions; and submit the form via the app. You will then receive an “electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code,” which automatically expires four hours after it is issued. You then bring both your smartphone and passport to a customs agent and receive a warm welcome back to the States.

Who knew?!