US announces business travel card visa scheme for Asia-Pacific countries

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Business leaders welcomed new legislation signed by US President Obama and the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic cooperation (APEC) to enable the introduction of the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme to make travel across the Asia-Pacific region easier, faster, and more secure.

President Obama signed the bill which will allow issuance of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) to eligible US travelers. The new law increases the mobility of those who apply for the card by expediting visa interviews and faster processing times at immigration checkpoints in APEC economies throughout the region.

"I just signed a piece of legislation that was voted on unanimously out of Congress that essentially sets up an APEC business gold card," President Obama announced. "Everybody here appreciates it because they're not going to have to wait in line as long at the airport."

President Obama described the scheme as an "APEC business gold card" which facilitates business travel in the Asia-Pacific region by allowing cardholders to receive expedited scheduling of visa interviews and access to fast-track immigration lanes at airports in APEC's 21 economies.

The scheme was originally created by APEC in1997 to help promote new business opportunities, attend meetings and conduct trade and investment activities. APEC members include New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, China, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand.

"During these precarious economic times, anything done to inhibit travel will be a drag on the global economy and impede recovery," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "We join our U.S. travel industry partners – and numerous foreign countries – in supporting this bill."

The card allows multiple short-term entries and is valid for three years before it has to be renewed. There is currently no target date set for the implementation of the card.

APEC describes eligible applicants as a business person who:

  • Is a passport holder of a participating economy,
  • Travels frequently to conduct trade and investment activities in the APEC region; and
  • Has not been convicted of a criminal offence
Some economies require additional information and may impose additional eligibility criteria.

"Access to the APEC Business Travel Card will save US business people valuable time and money as they travel throughout the area," said Deb Henretta, chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council. She welcomed the law which "will help US citizens take advantage of business and trade opportunities in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region."

The continued improvement of the ABTC scheme means even more benefits for business travellers in the Asia-Pacific.

Additionally, President Obama announced that the US is making progress on bilateral Trusted Traveler cooperation arrangements with the Republic of Korea and Singapore. The arrangements will provide time-saving benefits for Americans traveling to APEC economies by allowing pre-screened citizens to clear immigration and customs expeditiously using automated kiosks when traveling between the United States and these countries.

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