U.S. citizens will soon be eligible for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Cards that facilitate business travel and offer expedited entry into member countries. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published an interim final rule establishing American participation in the APEC Business Travel Card program.

The cards provide access to fast-track immigration lanes at participating airports in APEC countries. However, according to DHS, “it is not expected that foreign APEC members will recognize the U.S. APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTCs) in lieu of a visa.” Therefore, U.S. ABTC holders may still be required to obtain visas (where applicable) to visit foreign APEC member states.

Beginning June 12, 2014, U.S. citizens may apply online in the GOES system. Applicants must already be enrolled in one of the three enumerated U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs and remain enrolled for the entire duration of the APEC card. The three programs are: Global Entry, NEXUS, or Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI).

APEC cards are granted to qualifying frequent, short-term business travelers. Applicants must be bona fide business persons engaged in the trade of goods, the provision of services or the conduct of investment activities in the APEC region. Persons traveling to engage in paid employment or working holidays in an APEC country are not eligible for the cards. Professional athletes, news correspondents, musicians, artists and others engaged in similar occupations do not qualify, nor do spouses or children of the cardholder.

Applicants must also schedule an appointment with a CBP enrollment center to provide an electronic signature that will appear on the APEC card. Enrollment centers are located in the U.S., but some U.S. embassies in APEC countries will schedule events to collect signatures of U.S.-citizen applicants.

DHS has set a $70 fee for the APEC cards, which are valid for three years or until the expiration of the cardholder’s passport, whichever is sooner.

DHS will not issue any new U.S. APEC Business Travel Cards or renew any cards after Sept. 30, 2018. All U.S. APEC Business Travel Cards will expire by Sept. 29, 2021, unless the law is amended to extend the program.

President Barack Obama signed the APEC Business Travel Cards Act of 2011 on Nov. 12, 2011. APEC is made up of 21 member states, including the U.S. and Canada, who are transitional members.

BAL Comment: The availability of APEC cards to U.S. citizens will greatly ease travel and expedite entry procedures for frequent business travelers to the region. However, U.S. cardholders should check travel requirements for the APEC destination country before traveling to determine if visas are still required.

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