Travelers entering the United States via Chicago’s O’Hare airport have a new option for customs declaration available to them: their phones. Recently, Customs and Border Protection released an app called Mobile Passport Control. Passengers can use the app to submit customs forms and passport information before their flight arrives at the airport, and then, upon arrival, will be permitted to go through an express customs line.
To use the Mobile Passport Control app, travelers create a profile with their passport information. When they reach the United States, they are instructed to take a selfie and answer questions regarding customs declarations. Travelers will use the app to submit the form and receive a receipt with a QR code or bar code. They can then take their phone (with receipt on screen) and passport through the express lane to customs officer for verification.
Three other United States airports offer the Mobile Passport Control service: Seattle, Atlanta, and Miami. The service is expected to continue to expand this spring. Aside from Mobile Passport Control, O’Hare offers four other ways to go through customs: self-serve kiosks, traditional customs lanes, 1-Stop for passengers with just carry-on luggage, and the Global Entry trusted traveler program. Because an estimated 50% of mobile phone owners rely on their phones as their primary internet source, the Mobile Passport Control app is expected to be very effective at reducing airport wait times.
Kiosks and automated passport control were installed in the airport in 2013, and have dramatically reduced the instances of missed connections and lowered wait times for travelers. Wait times were actually cut in half in the first full year of kiosk use, dropping from 30 minutes to 15.
Passengers who wish to use the Mobile Passport Control app are not subject to pre-approval, and can download the app from Google Play or the App Store depending on the manufacturer of their phone. The app’s form does not require WiFi or a cellular connection to be filled out, though it will need a connection to successfully be submitted. The on-screen receipt is good for four hours.