Citizens of APEC member countries have the option of applying for a special travel document, the APEC Business Travel Card, that gives them immigration privileges during business travel within the community.
The issued cards carry endorsements for individual countries on the reverse that specifies where the cardholder is entitled to preferred treatment (countries have to vet each applicant’s application individually).
The main benefit for Cardholders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) is that they can use fast-track lines when traveling to participating APEC countries and various waivers of visa requirements.
For interested U.S. citizens, it is possible to apply for this card as well if they are Global Entry members in good standing. In fact the U.S. has the easiest approval process of all APEC members as there are pretty much no hard requirements while other countries are quite tough during the application process. Canadian citizens require an active Nexus membership in good standing.
The U.S. is not a full participant of the ABTC scheme and a visa is still required to travel; however card members of other nationalities are eligible to receive preferred appointments for U.S. visa applications. In return U.S. citizens are also ineligible for visa free travel to countries such as China or Vietnam. This renders the card pretty much into an express lane / fast track card for immigration checkpoints.
You can find further information about the U.S. version of the ABTC here. It describes:
APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, is an economic forum whose primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is one of 21 APEC member economies, which include: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam. …
To be eligible for the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card Program, you must meet three criteria:
- you must be a U.S. citizen;
- you must be an existing member in good standing or be approved for membership in a CBP trusted traveler program (SENTRI, NEXUS, or Global Entry) during the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card application process, , meaning they will go through a thorough vetting process including a review of all relevant national security and criminal databases prior to enrollment;
- you must be either a verified business person, or a U.S. government official, who is actively engaged in APEC business. (A “verified business person” engaged in APEC business means a person engaged in the trade of goods, the provision of services or the conduct of investment activities in the APEC region.)
The application fee for the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card is $70. The fee is non-refundable.
Even though the benefits for Canadian and U.S. citizens are limited, the other 19 members have a more useful benefit as the waiver for visa requirements is a valuable tool especially for business travelers. As I mentioned above, each country defines their eligibility criteria individually and my friends who carry the card reported about a vastly different process from country to country.
My Singaporean and Japanese friends said it was easy to receive the card while others from Malaysia and China said it was a disaster to finally get it approved. In certain countries I’d also guess it depends a little on the connections someone has to the government or certain influential figures.
Sometimes Immigration queues can be very long, and having the option of skipping that line is a great benefit, certainly worth the cost of $70 over a couple years. If you consider the savings in time and money for visa processing, the value of the card is a no brainer for anyone who meets the eligibility criteria for the ABTC.