A few years ago, on a flight back from some foreign country (hazy, jet-lagged memory here), the airline kept insisting we all download the Mobile Passport app so we wouldn’t have to deal with lines when we got to JFK.
And as we walked to passport control and customs, multiple signs implored us to do the same thing.
As someone who paid for Global Entry, I was confused with yet another system to circumvent the long lines upon re-entering the U.S. that was, well, free. Bored, I tried it, and it worked.
Lifehacker seems to have (re)discovered the app recently, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick primer: It’ll allow U.S. and Canadian citizens to fill out customs form electronically ahead of time instead of standing at a machine when you land. You’ll have to take a photo of yourself, type in some info from your passport and answer the usual series of customs declarations.
Once you submit, you’ll receive an electronic receipt and be able to zip through customs via a separate, shorter line.
Why use Mobile Passport? It’s free, available in 25 airports and three cruise ports and, well, it might save you time. As the official site (via U.S. Customs and Border Protection) notes: “It is great to use both the “Trusted Traveler” programs and the Mobile Passport app so you can choose the shortest line and breeze through Customs on your preferred program. Your results may vary depending on the airport and the time of day.”
Meanwhile, Global Entry is available in more airports and gets you TSA Pre, which is gonna save you check-in time on the front end ... which is probably where you want to cut down on lines anyway.
Also, depending on the airport — and I can vouch for this at JFK — every day seems to bring a different line and different customs headache, so you might as well use any and all systems possible.
Photos: DFW Airport; iTunes store