Lonely Planet Writer

Mobile app hopes to cut wait times at US customs

Landing at your destination airport is a great feeling, but getting immediately stuck in a line-up for customs and immigration is not.

Smart phones changing the way we travel.
A CBP app aims to help travellers get through customs. Image by William Hook / CC BY-SA 2.0

A new app from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is trying to manage growing volumes of travellers and get through customs faster.

Mobile Passport Control is an authorised app from CPB that can be used on smartphones or tablets with iOS or Android. It allows US citizens and Canadians travelling to the US to use an automated process to head through primary inspection.

Users can download the app, and then create a personal profile with their passport information. After landing, they create a ‘New Trip’ by filling out an electronic declaration form and uploading a selfie. The traveller submits their information through the app and is sent a QR code that is valid for four hours. They then bring their passport and mobile device with the QR code to be scanned by a CBP officer.

It allows travellers to fill out their information while waiting and has the added benefit of allowing them to use a specific processing lane, hopefully getting through faster than those going through the old-fashioned way. However, anyone using the app will need data or Wi-Fi.

According to CBP, this app is the first of its kind and was development by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America.

It can currently be used at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Miami International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is now rolling out at airports around the country.

CBP runs other programs to help travellers through administrative stops, but pre-approved systems like Global Entry, NEXUS and TSA PreCheck require applications from travellers and approval from CBP.