I know it sounds cliche, but I’m going to say it anyway: it’s a glorious time to be alive! However, this is a travel blog and I *am* a frequent flyer after all, so let’s back up a sec and put put a travel-related twist on it: It’s a glorious time to be a frequent flyer!
This is especially true since there is so much great technology out there now which makes traveling through airports so much easier compared to the olden days (you know, like 10 years ago).
With that being said, let’s just jump into this with a comparison of my two favorite tech-based travel tools: Mobile Passport vs Global Entry. I’ll give you a rundown of what each of them are, how they are different from one another, and then I’ll let you know which one is my favorite (and why).
What is Mobile Passport?
Mobile Passport is a phone-based app (available for both iOS and Android) that you use to pre-fill your arrival information before going though passport control after arriving at a US airport from abroad. It’s available for US citizens and Canadian visitors, and it’s completely free to download and use.
As a Mobile Passport app user, you will have access to dedicated (much shorter) lines at passport control, and the entire process is generally much faster than it would be using the normal queue like everyone else.
The process of using the Mobile Passport app goes like this:
- Download the app, and create a profile using your passport information.
- Upon arrival in the US from an international destination, fill in your flight and travel information in the “new trip” section.
- You will be prompted to take a selfie (yay!), and answer some basic questions.
- Submit the information and proceed to the dedicated lanes to wait for the next available CBP officer.
- Optional: look smug knowing that you just saved yourself a ton of valuable time.
What is Global Entry?
Warning: this is the part of the whole Mobile Passport vs Global Entry comparison where things start getting a little muddy. Why? Well, what I’m about to write is likely going to make you even more confused about which expedited passport control option is right for you. Global Entry sounds an awful like Mobile Passport IMHO – but there are key differences. Let’s start first with a brief overview, followed by a brief rundown of what the process of using Global Entry is like.
Global Entry is an expedited pre-clearance program for pre-approved (low risk) travelers entering the United States from abroad. There is an application process involved, as well as a fee which covers 5 years of enrollment.
The process of using Global Entry goes like this:
- Fill out an application online.
- Wait to be called for an interview (usually held at your nearest major airport). This waiting process can take weeks to months depending on how backlogged they are.
- Pay the fee (good for 5 years).
- Once you pass the application and interview process, you will be given a “Known Traveler” ID, which you must include on you airline reservations from that point forward (as long as you want the perks of Global Entry).
- Upon Arrival at a US airport from abroad, proceed directly to the dedicated Global Entry kiosks, answer a series of questions, and have your picture taken.
- Submit the information, and present your receipt to the next available CBP officer.
- Just as it is with using the Mobile Passport app, looking smug for saving yourself tons of time is perfectly acceptable.
While it’s still necessary to use the kiosks upon arrival in the US, the lines are usually much shorter than the general queue and the time savings are huge.
Mobile Passport vs Global Entry: the nitty gritty
Don’t worry. If you’re even more confused about the Mobile Passport app and Global Entry now (more than ever), this is the part of the comparison where it’ll start to make a little more sense. From here on out, my goal is to guide you towards picking which expedited passport control is right for you!
Here are the biggest differences between Mobile Passport and Global Entry:
- Mobile Passport is free. Global Entry is not. At the time of this writing, the fee for a 5 year membership of Global Entry is $100.
- There is no app associated with Global Entry. Your information is automatically included with your airline ticket (assuming you entered your Known Traveler ID at the time of booking).
- You can bypass the kiosks completely using Mobile Passport.
- There is an application process for Global Entry (which could take weeks – or even months).
- Due to the above-mentioned application process, the requirements are far more strict. Basically, you need a squeaky-clean record. Want to know more? You can read all the details here.
- Mobile passport is only eligible for US citizens and Canadian visitors. Global Entry is available for citizens of the US, Mexico, Germany, and Panama. Korean Smart Entry members and citizens of the Netherlands enrolled in FLUX/Privium may also apply.
Why would you choose Mobile Passport over Global Entry (and vise versa)?
- Global Entry comes with TSA PreCheck – which is a huge perk if you travel frequently within the US.
- Mobile Passport is completely free and you get nearly the same benefits of using Global Entry (minus the TSA PreCheck part).
- Did I mention that Mobile Passport is free? Ha! I suspect this will be the one perk that will sway most everybody, so I figured it was worth mentioning again.
- You get “head of the line” privileges with Global Entry. In other words, if you arrive at an airport where kiosks are in place (but not operational), you are eligible to be moved to the head of the line upon an officers discretion. Be prepared for tons of dirty looks from the masses however!
- There’s no waiting involved to begin using the Mobile Passport app. Just download and go – no application process involved.
- Mobile Passport is still new and relatively unknown, which means that the lines are short and the entire process is fast. For now. Once it catches on (and it will), Global Entry will have the advantage of being the fastest way through passport control once again.
Mobile passport vs Global Entry FAQs
- Both Mobile Passport and Global Entry still require you to present your passport to a CBP officer upon arrival in the US (just as you normally would). There is no getting around this step!
- Both programs are NOT intended as replacements for your passport. You are still required to present a valid passport to enter the United States.
- You cannot bring family members with you through the queue if they are not a member of either of these programs.
So…which one do I prefer?
Unfortunately, I never even had the opportunity compare Mobile Passport vs Global Entry before going with the latter a short while back. I went through the application process and paid my fee for GE just before Mobile Passport became a thing, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d certainly have a lot to think about.
However, when it comes right down to it, Global Entry is the better option for me right now PRIMARILY because it comes with TSA PreCheck. I travel a lot, and having the ability to bypass long security lines without having to take off my belt and shoes every time is a huge plus.
Some of the other reasons for my choice:
- As soon as the Mobile Passport option becomes more popular (and it will given it’s advantages), it’s not going to be the fastest way thorough passport control anymore. Too many people will be using it and clogging up the process IMHO.
- Since TSA PreCheck is a necessity for me, I’m going to have to pay for it one way or another. The cost is $85 and it’s valid for 5 years. Conversely, Global Entry costs $100, it’s valid for 5 years, and it comes with TSA PreCheck. It behooves me to pay a just a little more and get a ton of other useful benefits!
What about using both Mobile Passport AND Global Entry? Is that possible?
Yes, it’s perfectly okay to have and use both programs – at least I assume it is since I’ve never heard anything which suggests otherwise. You can’t use both for a single entry however, so you’re going to have to pick one or the other each time you enter the US.
The best option is to wait until you reach the queue for passport control and to pick the option that will get you through the quickest (based on how long the queues are for Global Entry vs the dedicated lanes for Mobile Passport users).
Do you have any other tips for using either of these two programs? I’d love to read them in the comment section below!