The APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Travel Card (ABTC)

Meurrens LawImmigration Trends

In June 2014, the Government of Canada announced that Canadians could now participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (“APEC“) Business Travel Card (“ABTC“) program.   I applied for and quickly obtained one.  Indeed, when I went for my interview I was told by the United States Customs and Border Patrol officer that I was one of the first people to be interviewed.    From what I can tell it appears that very few Canadians have applied for the ABTC.

Indeed, when I mention the very existence of the ABTC most people appear unaware that it even exists.  This is unfortunate.  If you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and you’ve ever sat in frustration at the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver waiting for your visa that will only be valid for a few months, or stood in line gaping at the size of the crowds at the ShenZhen-Hong Kong border crossing, then the ABTC is for you.

The ABTC can basically be thought of as NEXUS for East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and a few other countries on the Pacific Rim.  The ABTC allows multiple short-term entries into participating countries, and speeds border processing by providing expedited entry using designated APEC lines at major airports throughout countries in Australia & Oceania, Asia, North America, and South America that border the Pacific Ocean.

Canada, like the United States, is a transitional member in the ABTC.  This means that ABTC cardholders from countries whose citizens require Temporary Resident Visas (“TRVs“) to visit Canada must still obtain TRVs before they visit Canada.

ABTC Members

The countries that currently participate in the ABTC are:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Darussalam
  • Chile
  • China
  • Hong Kong (China)
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Russia

More information on the specific rules each country has for ABTC card holders can be found on APEC’s Business Mobility Group website.

How to Apply

Canadian citizens must be NEXUS members to apply for the ABTC.  They can apply through the U.S. Global Online Enrollment System.  The application processing fee is $75.00, and the card is valid for three years or the duration of your passport and/or your NEXUS card, whichever expires sooner.  From a cost perspective, it is not that much more than a single-entry visa to China.

More detailed application procedures can be found in the Canada Border Services Agency’s Custom Notice 14-012 – Implementation of the Canadian Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card Pilot, sections 13-16.