The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a new app that in theory is supposed to expedite entry back into the United States when traveling abroad. But does it live up to expectations? My family recently traveled out of the control for a Mexican vacation. As we flew back toward the states, the flight crew was giving information on how to navigate Customs after we arrived at the airport. One of the options was the Mobile Passport Control (MPC), a mobile app that a traveler could download and install on their phone to speed up the process.
As soon as the Boeing 737 was safely on terra firma, I grabbed my phone and quickly found the app. After the install, I went through the process of adding my passport, as well as my wife and daughter’s passports. For those who have used the kiosks at entry-point airports across the United States, you know it will take the picture of each traveler. And who doesn’t look their best after traveling the better part of five hours? The MPC app is no different. So I snapped our selfies as we got off the plane.
I wanted to put the process to the test. So I did not tell my mother-in-law or niece who happened to be traveling with us. They went through the kiosks. Who would get through first? Surely with the app, we’ll have the luggage off the baggage carousel while they are still answering questions with the Customs agent. What I missed was the app did not ask the same re-entry questions for my wife and daughter, only for me. I assumed when I answered, it was for the entire family. Wrong. We can clearly lay that mistake on this weary traveler. What happened next shocked even me.
“If you can’t get the app to work, I’ll have to send you back into the line and through the kiosk,” the gruff Customs agent told me. What? I downloaded this app so I could avoid the line! After a few minutes of clicking every option, I finally found the questions for all family travelers and went through the process. When we were done, I turned around looking for the mother-in-law and niece. My wife informed me they were no longer in line. I asked where did they go. She pointed behind me toward the baggage carousel. Ouch. That hurt.
Our assessment is if you are traveling alone, it’s the ideal app to get through customs. If you’re traveling with family members it might be a roll of the dice. If you have everything set and you get a Customs agent who is tech savvy with the app, you’ll breeze through as well. If you travel frequently, it could very well be an app you should have loaded on your phone. It’s a free app and available for either an Android or Apple device. Either way, good luck… and happy travels!