Congress has acted to ease travel hassles for business travelers, earning the praise of the U.S. Travel Association, who commended the passage of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Travel Card (ABTC) Act of 2011 (H.R. 2042). The legislation will authorize Customs and Border Protection to issue qualified U.S. business travelers APEC Business Travel cards, which will improve traveler facilitation, U.S. Travel says.
“During these precarious economic times, anything done to inhibit travel will be a drag on the global economy and impede recovery,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We join our U.S. travel industry partners – and numerous foreign countries – in supporting this bill.”
U.S. cardholders will be able to use designated lanes when arriving in APEC airports, thereby promoting cross-border trade in goods and services and the reducing travel hassle for program participants, U.S. Travel says.
The United States, Russia and Canada are the only APEC economies that have yet to provide travel cards to its security-vetted business travelers.
The following APEC economies currently participate in the APEC Travel Card program: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam, U.S. Travel says.
The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) cuts though the red tape of business travel, APEC says and gives frequent business travelers pre-cleared entry to participating APEC economies.
Card holders enjoy:
• Fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at major airports, and multiple short term entry to these economies for a minimum of 59 days stay each visit (click here for details).
• No need to individually apply for visas or entry permits each time you travel to any of the participating APEC economies as the card is your visa.
• Cards are valid for three years from first issue.
Why the card was developed
APEC says the APEC Business Travel Card was developed in response to the need for business people to gain streamlined entry to the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. This enables business people to explore new business opportunities, attend meetings and conduct trade and investment activities.
There are 21 economies currently participating in the ABTC Scheme: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, PNG, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam. Canada, the Russian Federation and the United States are currently Transitional Members of the scheme, which allow cardholders from all participating economies to use 'fast-track' immigration lanes (currently designated for air-crew) at major international airports.
Cardholders will still need to present valid passports and visas if required by existing United States and/or Canadian law, APEC reports. Expedited visa interview scheduling will be provided to APEC Cardholders at United States embassies and consulates in APEC economies in cases where a visa is required for the Cardholder to travel to the United States.
APEC says applicants must be a business person who:
• Is a passport holder of a participating economy i.e. citizen (or a Hong Kong permanent resident with any valid travel document);
• Travels frequently to conduct trade and investment activities in the APEC region; and
• Has not been convicted of a criminal offence.
Some economies require additional information and may impose additional eligibility criteria.