Waiting in line for U.S. customs when you return stateside from an international flight can be excruciating. There’s a good reason people shell out for programs like TSA Precheck and Global Entry in an effort to speed up the process.
But if you’re planning to travel internationally and don’t have Global Entry, there’s another, totally free tool you can use to whisk yourself to the front of the line and out of the airport that much sooner—the Mobile Passport app.
It should be noted that this isn’t currently an option at every single U.S. airport. Per the Mobile Passport page in the iTunes Store, you can currently use the app at the following airports:
- Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
- Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI)
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
- Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- 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)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
- Portland International Airport (PDX)
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
- Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
- San Diego International Airport (SAN)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- San José International Airport (SJC)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Tampa International Airport (TPA)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- William P. Hobby International Airport (HOU)
You can also use Mobile Passport at a few different cruise ship ports, if you happen to be traveling by sea.
As for the Lifehacker staff, when we got back to JFK (which is chronically understaffed and had a hellacious customs line), I headed off to the Global Entry lane, which contained exactly zero other people. (If you already have Global Entry, using Mobile Passport isn’t really necessary, since you’re already going to be sorted into a shorter line. Though per Mobile Passport’s website, “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.”) As for Joel, he got through customs via the Mobile Passport lane, coming out the other side only a minute or two behind me—without having had to sign up and pay money for a special program ahead of time.
For Beth’s connecting flight from Miami to Pittsburgh, Mobile Passport proved essential. “Our plane from Costa Rica was delayed on the tarmac coming in, so I used that time to install the app and answer the questions,” she said. “When I got to Passport Control, I was able to walk past the big lines and the kiosks and follow the signs that said ‘Diplomats and Mobile Passport.’ There were only about ten people in line in front of me. My flight was on the other side of the airport and I had to go through security too, so if I had been in that line any longer, I wouldn’t have made it.”