Some airport lines, you simply can’t avoid — in a women’s restroom after a long flight, for example, or at Starbucks at 6 a.m. on a Monday. So, when the opportunity presents itself to pay a little extra to save some time, is the added cost worth the convenience?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers entry into the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. The $100 fee and application process grant membership for five years. However, unlike with airline zone boarding or some other travel considerations, where the entire traveling party may be granted access together, each family member and traveling companion must be issued individual Global Entry designation.

How does it work?

Members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for verification and complete the customs declaration. After a receipt is issued, members may exit to baggage claim. The alternative? Waiting in long lines at Customs after a long, exhausting flight.

How do I apply?

All applicants pay a $100 non-refundable application fee before undergoing a rigorous background check and in-person interview. With the cost and initial hassle, it’s worth considering how many times you’ll likely travel abroad during the five-year period before applying.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as citizens of a few other countries, are eligible for membership. Travelers must create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account and schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. There is no minimum age requirement, so even children must undergo the application process. If you’re the only member of your traveling party with Global Entry, your spouse, children or other co-travelers will not be able to use the Global Entry kiosk. 

So, is it worth it?

Returning home from an international trip can be exhausting. In addition to getting you home faster, Global Entry allows you to participate in TSA PreCheck, a program for expedited security screening at U.S. airports. If you don’t know the benefits of that program, check out our blog post. Global Entry members also have access to expedited entry in other countries such as Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

For some travelers, Global Entry can be a big time-saver and definitely worth the investment of time and money.