What is an Apec Business Travel Card?
The Apec Business Travel Card (ABTC) is a travel document designed to make travel for business persons of APEC participating countries easier.
Business owners, managers, and investors who frequently travel for work across APEC countries can enjoy certain immigration/customs privileges by holding an Apec Business Travel Card.
The primary benefits are firstly not having to wait in the regular queue for immigration and customs at the airport and secondly, in some cases, not even having to get a visa to visit an APEC country. It is estimated that currently there are about 500,000 active ABTC cards.
Which countries participate in the Apec Business Travel Card scheme?
The countries that are participating in the Apec Business Travel Card scheme are:
There are two transitional members that are participating in this program as well:
These transitional members share some of the benefits of the Apec Business Travel Card scheme. For instance, the American and Canadian ABTC cardholders can use expedited immigration when visiting APEC participating economies (and returning home as well).
However, they cannot avail the benefit of visa-free travel to those countries. In the same way, cardholders from other APEC economies will also not be able to conduct business travel to the US or Canada without a visa.
In the US, the CBP or the Customs and Border Protection is the government agency that handles the application process for the Apec Business Travel Card.
As you can tell, most of the countries listed above are from the Asia Pacific region.
APEC stands for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, an association founded in 1989 with the goal of promoting trade and economic development of the Asia Pacific region.
Countries like the US, Canada, and Russia are also part of the Apec Business Travel Card scheme because of their significant involvement in the Asia Pacific region.
Details about the Apec Business Travel Card
Frequent business travelers who need to take short-term visits to participating economies, as mentioned above, to fulfill their business commitments can normally get a 5-year ABTC card. The ABTC card is almost the size of a credit card.
The card includes important information such as the cardholder’s name, date of birth, sex, home economy/country, expiry date, signature, and passport number. No country or national symbols are present on the card.
The ABTC card is to be used in conjunction with the passport. One can enjoy expedited border crossing, expedited US visa interview scheduling, and in some cases, visa-free travel as well. The costs of applying for an Apec Business Travel Card vary from country to country.
In certain cases, it is possible for a person of a third party country, who also happens to be a permanent resident of an APEC country, to apply for an ABTC card. For example, an American who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong can apply for an ABTC through Hong Kong’s immigration office.
The application process
In order to apply for an ABTC card, you need to be a citizen of an APEC country and hold a valid passport. You also need to demonstrate that you need to travel (or have been traveling) for business-related matters to the APEC region. A clean criminal record is also a necessity.
While each participating country has its own criteria for the application process, the application has to be submitted by the applicant in his/her home country.
Only a single application is needed and the applicant need not apply separately to all APEC countries of interest. That’s right, the applicant submits his/her application to his/her own country and not to the country that he/she desires to travel to.
Once the home country approves the application, it then forwards the information to the various APEC economies that participate in the program. Each country subsequently gives its pre-clearance once its requirements are deemed to have been met.
Since multiple countries are involved, the entire process can take three or four months. The names of all the countries who have given clearance are printed at the back of the ABTC card.
If time requirements are short, then the applicant can choose to proceed with the issuance of the card with pre-clearances of only a few countries. The applicant can choose to waive off the remaining countries, but the catch is that he/she cannot travel to those countries on the ABTC card.
Things to be careful about
There are some limitations as to how long an ABTC card holder can stay on a business trip.
The limits range from 59 days to 90 days depending on the APEC country that is being visited and the governmental agreement between the cardholder’s home country and the country of visit.
ABTC cardholders also need to be careful about which port of entry they use to enter an APEC country.
Not all airports are authorized to handle ABTC entries and only specific cities will honor the ABTC. However, most major airports of an APEC country will be equipped to honor ABTC immigration and customs procedures.
Renewal of the Apec Business Travel Card
There is no clear way to renew an expired ABTC card. The only way to proceed is to apply for a new one and pay the application fees again.
The fresh application is as good as one that is being made for the very first time.
This might sound tedious but it makes sense because each participating APEC economy has to re-approve an applicant’s application based on prevalent immigration laws and the applicant’s personal information, both of which can change with time.
If a passport of an ABTC cardholder expires, then a new card has to be issued from the cardholder country’s immigration bureau.
The new card has to reflect the passport number of the renewed passport. If the passport gets stolen, then the cardholder must immediately inform his/her country’s immigration bureau and then follow the process as directed.
Trusted Travelers Program
The Trusted Travelers Program is a collection of beneficial immigration programs that allow American, Canadian, and Mexican citizens expedited immigration and customs clearance at airports in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
It is related to the ABTC card in that the citizens of these three countries need to first register for an appropriate Trusted Travelers Program and get Global Entry pre-clearance. Once they obtain this clearance, they can then apply for an ABTC.
The Apec Business Travel Card is a must for people who frequently travel to the Asia-Pacific region and wish to have a mobile lifestyle.
The process of applying for an ABTC card isn’t all that tedious and it gives you excellent benefits in terms of visas and immigration. We recommend that you worked with an experienced professional when making the application for your ABTC card. That way, the entire process runs through smoothly.