APEC Business Travel Card Scheme

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Ⅰ. Brief Introduction

Since the establishment of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1989, in order to strengthen their internal cooperation, and promote the free movement of business people, the state leaders from Philippines, South Korea and Australia initiated the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme (hereinafter referred to as the scheme)at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting held in Philippines in November 1996, which the ABTC participating economies provide multilateral long-term visas and expedited clearance through designated ABTC lanes. In early 1997, the scheme was implemented.

The ABTC is a multiple journey visa where cardholders enjoy visa-free entry for 3 years. The applicants can enter the ABTC participating economies with ABTC and a valid passport at any time within 3 years and each can stay 2-3 months (different standards in different member economies). The ABTC participating economies set up expedited clearance through designated ABTC lanes, so the cardholders can enjoy the convenience of the speedy customs clearance.

There are 20 member economies currently joining the scheme except Russia, consisting of the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru, Thailand, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, the United States and Canada. The United States and Canada are the transitional members of the scheme, so they don't accept the ABTC applications for other economies and don't issue the card for its citizens. They just facilitate visa applications and entry and exit clearance for the cardholders from other participating economies.

APEC BUSINESS TRAVEL CARD OPERATING FRAMEWORK is the fundamental document for the scheme, which stipulates the operating approach for the scheme. Except Hong Kong, the participating economies only accept its own citizens or the regional applicants (Taiwan). Hong Kong applicant should have a Hong Kong permanent resident status, not limited to nationality. In addition, the applicant should not have been convicted of a criminal offence.

The application procedure for the APEC Business Travel Card is that the applicants apply for the ABTC in their respective economies, and then the respective economies will submit the relevant information to other participating economies for approval after its own approval for the applicants. After approved by other participating economies, the respective economies will grant the APEC Business Travel Card for the applicants. The applicants can not enjoy the visa-free entry to the economy if he or she would not be granted by the economy.

The APEC Business Travel Card contains your photograph and signature on the front side for secure identity recognition. The reverse side of the APEC Business Travel Card contains your passport number and the three letter code of each economy that your APEC Business Travel Card is valid for travel to. Cardholders will still need to present ABTC and valid passports when he or she enter into the relevant economies.

Ⅱ. China Joined APEC Business Travel Card Scheme

In October 2001, on behalf of the Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that China joined the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme. Personnel exchanges between Mainland, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei still follow the original approach and are not applicable to the ABTC.

In February 2002, Vice Foreign Minister Li Jinzhang and the Business Group Director signed the exchange of notes and promised to comply with the APEC Business Travel Card Operating Framework, which formally implemented all the procedures for China joining the scheme.

The Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the only power organization to approve and issue ABTC. In December, 2003, the Department of Consular Affairs began to accept applications for APEC Business Travel Card. In March, 2004, it began to issue ABTC for Chinese applicants. Up to September 2008, it has accepted 1,161 applicants and issued 944 APEC Business Travel Card. 

Ⅲ.Relevant Economies' Policies for the ABTC

1. The Arrangement for Cardholders to Apply for U.S. Visas and Enter into the U.S.

In 2007, APEC created a transitional membership category that allowed the U.S. to join the scheme even though it does not meet all the criteria of the ABTC. The U.S. joined the ABTC Scheme as a transitional member in September 2007. The U.S. currently recognizes the ABTC to some extent and facilitate the U.S. visa application for cardholders. The cardholders just need to apply for appointment in the U.S. embassies and consulates by fax without making an appointment through Shanghai Visa Call Center, and the application will be given priority to deal with. The U.S. also announced that cardholders can enter into the U.S. through the speedy clearance lanes and the U.S. airports will set up relevant signs.

2. ABTC Cardholders Can Enjoy Speedy Clearance to Mexico

The APEC member economy Mexico announced that since March 15, 2007, the ABTC cardholders can enjoy the speedy customs clearance in Mexico City, Cancun and other 9 airports through diplomatic and crew channels, but it needs to get a visa in advance. In addition, the Mexico embassies and consulates will give priority to the visa applications for cardholders.

3. APEC Business Card holders Can Enjoy Speedy Clearance to Canada

Since January 1, 2008, APEC Business Travel Card cardholders can enter into the country through expedited clearance in 8 international airports in Canada, but cardholders still need to get a Canadian visa in advance. The 8 International Airports are as follows. 
        Vancouver International Airport
  Toronto Pearson International Airport (Terminal 1 and 2)
  Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport
  Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
  Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport
  Calgary International Airport
  Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
  Edmonton International Airport

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