The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) is a multiple journey visa that grants cardholders the privilege of visa-free entry and expedited immigration clearance through designated ABTC lanes in participating Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies.
There are currently 21 economies participating in the ABTC scheme. A total of 18 nations are considered full participants of the scheme, granting streamlined travel to ABTC holders. These include:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Chinese Taipei
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
In addition to the above, there are currently 3 countries that have been accepted as transitional members of the scheme, including:
- The Russian Federation
- The United States of America
Transitional nations allow cardholders from all participating economies to use “fast-track” immigration lanes that are typically assigned to aircrew at major international airports. However, these countries have yet to grant ABTC to their own citizens.
Canada, to date, is still working towards issuing cards to its own citizens. Russia is making final preparations before launching the card to its citizens. Meanwhile, the U.S. has passed legislation to grant ABTC to citizens; however, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is still in the process of commencing card issuance.*
ABTC cardholders traveling to transitional member countries will still be subjected to existing immigration clearance applicable to all travellers. Cardholders travelling to the US and Canada will still need to present valid visas if required by existing US and/or Canadian law. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, has lifted the visa requirements for ABTC holders.
*NOTE: The passing of the “APEC Business Travel Cards Act of 2011” will not change the procedures for foreigners entering the United States. The U.S. immigration law does not recognize the ABTC as an entry visa, and travellers from other APEC countries will still need to obtain the required visas.
Benefits for ABTC Cardholders
The goal of the ABTC scheme is to facilitate the movement of business people between the participating economies, cutting through red tape and granting pre-cleared entry to member economies.
The scheme is primarily intended to provide streamlined entry to APEC economies for frequent business travellers. Under the ABTC scheme, cardholders enjoy the ease and flexibility of exploring new business opportunities, attending meetings, as well as conducting trade and various investment activities in APEC nations.
In a nutshell, the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) provides the following privileges to cardholders:
- Fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at major international airports
- Multiple short-term entry to participating economies for a period of 60-90 days stay per visit
- Visa-free entry to participating APEC economies (i.e. the ABTC card serves as the visa), excluding transitional members
Each APEC Business Travel card is valid for 3 years, or up to the validity of the passport, whichever is shorter.
NOTE: The ABTC is not meant to replace the passport as a travel document. Cardholders will still need a valid passport to travel.
The following are eligible to apply for the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Scheme in Singapore:
- Singapore Citizens with a valid Singapore passport
- Bona fide business persons (i.e. those who represent economically-active business entities)
- Members of professional bodies (e.g. doctors, lawyers, artists)
- Public officers from Ministries, Government departments, economic agencies and statutory boards who need to travel in their official capacity
- Individuals who travel frequently to conduct trade and investment activities in the APEC region
- Individuals who have not been convicted of a criminal offence
In general, an individual must be a passport holder of a participating economy (i.e. citizen) in order to qualify for an APEC Business Travel Card. Note that some countries may require additional information and may impose additional eligibility criteria.
Singapore Permanent Residents and foreigners will have to apply for the ABTC from their home economies. For example, a Malaysian who is a Singapore PR will have to apply for the ABTC from the Malaysian card-issuing authorities.
In Singapore, ABTC applications must be submitted to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). The documents required are as follows:
- VISA or Mastercard credit/debit card (for online payment)
- Digital photo image file of applicant with the following specifications:
- JPEG format (‘jpg’ extension)
- Preferred dimension of 400 x 514 pixels
- File size should be no more than 60 kb
- Scanned signature image file
- Supporting document (to prove eligibility), where applicable
- SingPass ID
- Valid Singapore Passport
All applications must be lodged online through the ICA website.
Processing time may take at least 3 months. Some cases may take longer, up to 1 year, due to the pre-clearance from the APEC economies.