Fast and efficient travel for business people within the APEC region contributes to APEC's goal of free and open trade and investment. To this end APEC has created an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). The ABTC allows business travelers pre-cleared, facilitated short-term entry to participating member economies.
The ABTC removes the need to individually apply for visas or entry permits, saving valuable time, and allows multiple entries into participating economies during the three years the card is valid. Card holders also benefit from faster immigration processing on arrival via access to fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at major airports in participating economies.
The ABTC also helps to enhance border integrity and security in participating economies by providing benefits to border agencies as it increases the number of low risk travelers since each applicant is checked against 'watch lists' of other participating economies. Therefore, it carries savings not only for business people but for governments, too..
The APEC Business Mobility Group website provides information about airport arrangements for card holders and the possible length of stay in each economy. Eligibility requirements, information on how to apply and contact details for immigration authorities in participating economies is also provided.
APEC Member Economies fully participating in the scheme include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
Mexico is part operational at this stage but it is swiftly moving towards full participation in the scheme. Since February 2007 special APEC lanes at major airports were created . In October 2007 Mexico commenced processing foreign applicants from other economies.In January 2008 they satrted pre-clearing applications. It has been estimated that Mexico could be issuing cards to Mexicans by the second semester for 2008.
In September 2007, the United States became a "transitional member" of the ABTC scheme, with the aim of becoming a full participant within a three-year period. The U.S. currently recognizes the ABTC for expedited visa interview scheduling at U.S. embassies and consulates, and facilitates immigration processing through airline crew lanes upon arrival at U.S. international airports. Cardholders from non-Visa Waiver Program countries still need to present valid passports and obtain U.S. visas as required by United States law. U.S. passport holders are not yet eligible to apply for the ABTC.
Since the creation of the scheme, in 1997, data indicates that the growth rate has continued to accelerate steadily. In 2007 the increase in applications received by the participating economies was more than 100% on a year-on-year basis. By March 2008, the active number of cards was more than 34,000, with the highest share reported by Australia (nearly 40% of the total amount issued).
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