How to skip the airport's US Customs line with your iPhone

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An iPhone app authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection allows users to submit entry information over the internet after landing, allowing them to skip the line at the airport and potentially re-enter the country much faster than usual.

Using the Mobile Passport app from Airside Mobile, U.S. and Canadian citizens with B1 or B2 passports can pre-enter the majority of the data for the standard U.S. Customs screening, including answering the same questions traditionally asked via a paper form at the airport. Completing the screening details on the mobile app grants users access to an expedited line at Customs intended solely for Mobile Passport users.

AppleInsider spoke with a U.S. Customs official at Orlando International Airport on Thursday morning, who said that the conventional line for U.S. entry currently had an estimated 84-minute wait time.

The line for Mobile Passport users, however, had no line whatsoever Thursday morning. The official also said the longest queue they had seen for Mobile Passport users was about five people, at peak arrival times.

With the app, profiles can be configured in-app to streamline an entire family's entry. Initial data entry does not require an Internet connection, though all information entered into the app must be identical to the passport for the traveller.

Following data entry, the same questions asked on the paper form at the airport are asked by the app. After the plane lands, users connect to either a cellular network or Wi-Fi, and submit the entered data. In a few minutes, a barcode is returned to the app that is valid at the Mobile Passport Control desk for up to four hours. All information is encrypted, and shared only with Customs and Border Protection.

There are a few caveats to the process. The Mobile Passport app is not a substitute for the physical passport — it only automates the arrival form completion and submission. Additionally, the Mobile Passport Control express line hasn't been deployed everywhere. Currently, the app can be used at these airports:

  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • Newark International Airport (EWR)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Airports advertised as coming soon are:

  • Raleigh Durham (RDU)
  • Tampa (TPA)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD)

Mobile Passport requires iOS 8 or greater, and occupies 20.4MB of space. No specific iOS device is required.