The APEC Business Travel Card or APEC Card is an international document available to citizens of the member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation for business travel to 18 countries of the region. The APEC Card facilitates short-term business travel and enables you to avoid queues and short waits for customs control on international flights.
Applicants for the Business Travel Card are required to apply once to the Asian and Pacific Ministries of Foreign Affairs in order to receive a five-year permit for short-term business travel of up to 2 or 3 months.
What is the APEC
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation was established as a joint multilateral economic and trade forum. It is the only international intergovernmental organization in the world that promotes the reduction of barriers to trade and investment without requiring participants to accept legal obligations.
The main goals of the APEC forum are:
- optimization of customs control and logistics;
- globalization of import and export processes;
- exchange of entrepreneurial experience.
The idea of an association was first announced publicly by former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, during a speech in Seoul on January 31, 1989. Ten months later, 12 Asia-Pacific countries met in Canberra, Australia, to establish a trade and economic association. Among the founders were Japan, Australia, Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States.
The member countries of APEC
The forum consists of 21 states, including Russia. The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) represents Russia in the Asia-Pacific organization. Intermediaries between entrepreneurs and the Foreign Ministries of the participating countries are the All-Russian public organization of small and medium business «Opora Russia», the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the RSPP.
List of APEC countries and the corresponding maximum possible period of stay in a state with a business card per trip:
- Australia – up to 3 months;
- Brunei – up to 3 months;
- Vietnam – up to 3 months;
- Hong Kong – up to 3 months with E-channel border crossing (automatic passenger processing system with fast-track border control);
- Indonesia – up to 2 months;
- China – up to 2 months;
- Malaysia – up to 2 months;
- Mexico – up to 3 months;
- New Zealand – up to 3 months;
- Papua New Guinea – up to 2 months;
- Peru – up to 3 months;
- Singapore – up to 2 months with E-channel border crossing;
- Taiwan – up to 3 months;
- Thailand – up to 3 months;
- Philippines – up to 59 days;
- Chile – up to 3 months;
- South Korea – up to 3 months;
- Japan – up to 2 months.
Crossing the border in the return direction before the end of the permitted period of stay resets the permissible period of stay to zero. Therefore, to stay in a member state longer than the term indicated in the permit, many leave the state and immediately re-enter.
Canada and the United States are transit states of the association. This means that a visa is required to travel to these states, and the APEC card merely simplifies customs control when crossing the US or Canadian borders in the «green corridor». The list of airports participating in the APEC Business Travel Card program is regularly updated on the official website of the Asia Pacific Forum. The transitional members of the agreement provide foreigners with expedited immigration processing at international airports and guarantee an appointment for a fast-track interview for a business visa out of the general queue.
What is APEC Business Travel Card
The card is issued in the form of a standard-sized plastic ID card, which contains information about the holder and the characteristics of the permit. On the front side are: place of issue, name, gender, date of birth. There is also a photo and signature of the card holder, the number and date of issue of the document. On the reverse side the country of issue, a list of visa-free countries and number of foreign passport of the holder is also marked.
The card allows you to travel freely to 18 countries and quickly cross the borders of 21 countries. Registration of a Business Travel Card in Russia is based on the Russian government decree of October 2, 2009 N 773 «On participation of the Russian Federation in the system of cards for business and official trips to member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum».
Advantages of the APEC Business Card
The benefits of owning a Business Travel Card (BTC) can be fully enjoyed by entrepreneurs and top managers, who have to make frequent trips abroad due to the nature of their business. The card provides its owner with several preferences at the same time, which allow not only to simplify the conduct of business, but also to have the opportunity to travel for tourist purposes at any time.
- Saving time. One of the purposes of the card is to save time for entrepreneurs in 18 countries, as it eliminates the procedure of regularly obtaining visas. Thanks to the card entrepreneurs solve business problems more quickly, as they get the opportunity to go on a business trip or to a business meeting without having to wait for a visa. Thus, the business owner saves 2-4 weeks on travel arrangements.
- Financial benefit. The card is provided for 5 years, which reduces the cost of regular visa issuance for frequent border crossings.
- Simplified passport control. Cardholders are expedited through the diplomatic corridor, outside of the general queue.
- Travel without additional documents. No separate invitation or permit is needed for the cardholder to legally enter a country that is a member of a trade and economic union.
- Long-term stay in an APEC member state. The term of stay in each state of the Asia-Pacific Forum is from 60 days (59 in the Philippines), so the cardholder has enough time to solve all business questions and take a rest.
- Reliability of the card. Unlike a regular multivisa, the Business Travel Card cannot be revoked because it is not the property of other states.
Who can apply for the card
Despite the fact that the permit document is analogous to a diplomatic passport for business owners and top managers of companies, not only representatives of executive positions can obtain it. If an applicant works for an enterprise registered with the RUIE or is recommended by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or Opora Russia, he or she has the right to apply for a business card.
The main requirements for applicants when applying for an APEC card in the Russian Federation:
- RF citizenship;
- no criminal record;
- 20 years old;
- an international passport valid for five years or more.
The APEC card is available to:
- employees of the companies recommended by RSPP, Chamber of Commerce and «Opora Russia», whose activities are associated with frequent trips to APEC countries;
- sole proprietors who make business trips to APEC member economies;
- Russian state or federal employees, whose activity is associated with Russia’s participation in APEC.
Each member country of the forum is responsible for checking its candidates and may set additional eligibility criteria for foreigners.
You can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an APEC card only by submitting to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (or the relevant intermediary organization of another country) the necessary documents:
- a request for assistance from an accredited intermediary in processing the card;
- application for a business travel card;
- certificate of no criminal record;
- company record card with information about company activities;
- questionnaire for available visits to Australia (optional);
- copies of all pages of your passport;
- copies of pages from your internal passport;
- two photos 6*4 cm.
How to get an APEC card: step-by-step instructions
In order to obtain a visa card, an applicant needs to apply to an accredited institution («Opora Russia», Chamber of Commerce or RSPP), which is authorized to recommend a candidate and submit their documents to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from where a request is sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of each member state of the forum. Please visit the official website of each intermediary organization to learn more about the procedure and the list of documents required. Approval of the applicant’s candidacy at the level of the Asia-Pacific organization gives grounds for granting him/her a card.
To apply for an APEC Business Travel Card, the applicant goes through several steps:
- Preparing the documents. To make an APEC card, the applicant must fill out questionnaires and application forms. It is also necessary to take a certificate of no criminal record from the Multifunctional Center of State and Municipal Services after an electronic request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- Submitting an application. An entrepreneur should not submit the completed application form to the Consulate, as with ordinary visas, but to an intermediary accredited agency to receive a letter of recommendation and forward the documents to the Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
- Obtaining an APEC card. After approval by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the application is forwarded to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of all APEC member economies. Positive responses from the consular departments of these countries will enable the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a business card to the applicant.
Time frames and whether it is possible to speed up the issuance of the card
The time for processing documents is usually 3-6 months starting from the date of the dossier submission. In case of force-majeure, such as, for example, coronavirus pandemic, this period may be extended up to 12 months. The processing period is occasionally delayed, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation or another economic forum country requires additional information about the applicant.
It is extremely difficult to obtain an APEC card on your own within a short period of time due to the high demand for its processing, queues in the officials’ offices, and lack of knowledge of the nuances of the procedure. Applying to knowledgeable lawyers will help speed up and greatly simplify the process of preparing documents. Specialists in immigration and corporate law will advise on completing the mandatory forms and help to quickly obtain a positive decision on the issuance of the APEC Business Travel Card.
APEC card feedback
Each year about 300 Russians receive a card that gives them visa-free entry into the territories of the states where the trade and economic forum agreements are applied. According to the analytical data of the official APEC website, the Business Travel Card program reduces the cost of travel between countries of the forum by 38% for cardholders, businesses save 27% on the payment of application fees for their employees and 52% on the payment of fees for immigration processing.
As feedback from Russian citizens shows, getting the document on your own is time-consuming and requires repeated visits to the offices of government officials. In the end, everyone who has tried to do APEC has noted that the cost of processing, taking into account the time spent, is higher than the price of the card with the assistance of private legal consulting groups.
As for the experience of using the card, most of its owners speak positively of the Business Travel Card in terms of fast customs clearance and the ability to make more trips. As a rule, entrepreneurs do not use the visa-free possibilities of all marked countries, but visit the most important countries for business (2 or 3).
Cardholders, based on their own practice, recommend that in the applications not all APEC countries, but only those that are important for regular travel. Thus, it is possible to shorten the time for issuing the document without waiting for answers from the Foreign Ministries of all states.