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There’s a Better Option Than Global Entry. And It’s Free

Global entry might seem like the golden ticket for breezing through airport customs, but there is a much better (and free) alternative you should know about.

Wondering if Global Entry is worth renewing or signing up for this year now that travel is back? With the backlog of applicants and summer travel anticipated to break global records this year, you might want to re-think enrollment. But there’s still a quicker, and did we mention F-R-E-E option right on your phone? Here is why I don’t use Global Entry anymore.

Since 2008, Global Entry has been the premier Trusted Traveler Program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There are now over a million enrolled in Global Entry, which creates more competition for the kiosks at the airport and potential delays in renewal. Automatic renewal is not guaranteed, and some applicants may require another interview.

In 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing and enrollment centers were closed for six months, and the closures created a massive backlog of applications and delays in interviews and renewals. The closest available interview appointment in Los Angeles at the time of publication is roughly one year. New applicants, therefore, can’t depend on fully qualifying for Global Entry without waiting for the entire approval process, which includes an interview. While there are several travel hacks to expedite interviews using lesser-known appointment centers with conditional approval, most travelers find these schemes impractical. So new applicants will likely not get total Global Entry enrollment until mid-2023.

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The travel community widely acknowledged and discussed that the golden ticket through the Global Entry kiosks is a flawed system. There have been reports of kiosks closures, system glitches, and enormous lines for those Global Entry travelers re-entering the United States. With the rush of the summer travel season upon us, these problems continue in major airports.

Why You Need to Download Mobile Passport

The Mobile Passport Control App (MPC), also formerly known as Mobile Passport, is still a surprisingly underrated travel hack that I have been using since it debuted in 2014. The MPC app is free, officially sanctioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, does not require an interview, and gives many of the same benefits of Global Entry when re-entering the United States. Those already enrolled in Global Entry should also be able to use this app when there are Global Entry delays. Also, up to 12 family members can use the app together.

Currently, Mobile Passport Control is available for use at 31 airports in the USA and four seaports of entry, including my home airport Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and major hubs like New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Miami International Airport (MIA). Although it does not give you TSA Pre-Check like Global Entry often does, signing up for TSA Pre-Check on its own might be more time-efficient. While TSA Pre-Check has no bearing on re-entering the United States, it is a vital part of the Trusted Traveler Program for domestic travel.

Why I Don’t Use Global Entry Anymore

In my experience, I breeze through passport control in the United States within minutes simply by using the MPC app. MPC users have their dedicated line, which is frequently shorter than any other line due to the lack of people using the app. Also, MPC users can use the Global Entry line as well. During the pandemic, this was my experience when staff shortages caused passport control lines consolidation at airports. Upon touching down, I open up the app, follow the instructions, and then get into the dedicated MPC or Mobile Passport lanes at passport control.

Since so many travel credit cards cover the cost of Global Entry, the only issue with signing up for the program is time. You might receive your conditional approval quickly, but the interview process may take 18 months due to staffing and budget issues. Mobile Passport Control is worth trying during the waiting period. If you don’t have Global Entry, the MPC app is a must-have to save time when re-entering the United States. Since MPC is so easy to use and saves me time at the airport, it has rendered Global Entry practically obsolete.

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