New APEC Business Travel Cards to be valid for longer

Fast and efficient travel for business people within the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) region contributes to APEC’s goal of free and open trade and investment.

A number of the contributors to Miles Down Under travel regularly to conduct investment activities across the region, and find their APEC Business Travel Cards (or ABTC for short) to be invaluable in facilitating international mobility and trade.

At the most recent APEC Business Mobility Group, all 21 member economies agreed to implement the extension of validity of the APEC Business Travel Card from three to five years, effective 1 September 2015. The move follows an in principle agreement reached by the APEC Business Mobility Group in Beijing last year.

APEC logo

 

The move means that all new applications lodged from 1 September 2015 will be granted an APEC card valid for five years.

Once an application is fully accepted by all APEC member economies, the APEC Business Travel Card provides cardholders with visa-free access for periods of between 60 and 90 days to a number of countries including the PRC, Indonesia and Russia. It must be said that clearance from the latter does not seem to be very forthcoming at the moment. Note that this visa free access does not extend to transitional members, Canada and the United States.

APEC card

Sample APEC card (Photo courtesy Hong Kong Immigration Department)

Cardholders also theoretically benefit from faster immigration processing on arrival in all APEC member economies. However, in practice this is less than ideal. For example in the United States, the APEC cardholder lane being shared air crew is problematic. At Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Terminal, we have often found that we’re in a line behind dozens of air crew and have found some of these air crew very aggressive in trying to evict APEC cardholders from what they perceive to be ‘their line’.

We’ve also found ourselves held up at customs, for which the APEC scheme does not provide for expedited clearance. Furthermore, arriving into New York JFK’s terminal four last year, there was no APEC lane at immigration and CBP staff claimed to have never heard of the APEC card.

While there is always room for improvement in global schemes, we are pleased that the APEC member economies have agreed to extend the validity of new cards to 5 years.

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