President Signs APEC Business Travel Card Act; APEC Launches Travel Facilitation Initiative

On the eve of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Leaders meetings in Honolulu last weekend, President Obama signed the APEC Business Travel Card Act. The Act calls for the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of State to establish the “APEC Business Travel Program” to issue APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTCs) to eligible US citizen business leaders and senior US government officials engaged in APEC business.  It calls for the program to be integrated with other international registered traveler program such as Global Entry. The Secretary may impose a fee recovering the costs of implementing the program. 

ABTCs would allow US citizens fast-track visa interviews and entry and exit using designated APEC lanes at major airports in participating APEC economies.   Perhaps this could help to increase the number of Global Entry enrollees.

The Act does not change the visa or clearance process for citizens of other APEC countries. Currently, holders of ABTCs are eligible for expedited scheduling for visa interviews at US Consulates and use of crew lines to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection at major US airports.

At the Leaders Meeting, APEC launched a new “APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative”.  The initiative is a multi-year plan to make travel in the region easier, faster, and more secure. At this point, there are no details on what is being considered. They also will focus on simplifying customs requirements and documentation.

The 21 participating APEC economies are:  Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

White House Fact Sheet on APEC Travel Facilitation

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/12/fact-sheet-apec-travel-facilitation

APEC information on Business Travel Card

http://www.businessmobility.org/key/abtc.html