Last updated: 10:37 AM ET, Wed November 18 2015

$70 Card Could Help Business Travelers Skip Immigration Lines

Business Travel | Josh Lew | November 18, 2015

$70 Card Could Help Business Travelers Skip Immigration Lines

It can be one of the biggest headaches for people traveling abroad: having to wait in long immigration lines.

Sometimes it seems like you end up having to wait no matter what the circumstances are. Perhaps your flight arrives at the same time as five others and there are a thousand people trying to get to the head of the queue at immigration. Or maybe yours is the only flight, but there are only two immigration windows open...

A special pass for business travelers

Business travelers from the U.S. and Canada who want to whisk past the immigration scrum can apply for a special card that will grant them almost instant access to 20 APEC countries. This is not a magic pass (and it is completely legal); it is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card. 

Helpfully shortened with the acronym ABTC, the card is available only to business people. A business person is defined as someone “who is engaged in the trade of goods, the provision of services or the conduct of investment activities. It specifically does not include the business person’s dependent spouse and children; persons who wish to engage in paid employment or a working holiday; professional athletes, news correspondents, entertainers, musicians, artists or persons engaged in similar occupations.” 

Tourists need not apply

Card applicants from the U.S. must be part of a pre-clearance program such as Global Entry or Nexus. These programs have application or membership costs that are separate from the $70 fee that applicants have to pay for the ABTC card. 

Even with these added costs, the ABTC card can seem like an attractive option. Unfortunately, there is also a time commitment. Would-be immigration-line skippers first have to submit an online application. They are then required to schedule a face-to-face interview before they can be approved.

This is in addition to the background check and interview needed to be approved for a pre-clearance program. When you weigh the time needed for the interviews and the cost of applying for the ABTC, you have to travel quite frequently to make this a worthwhile undertaking. If you are not visiting Asia for business several times per year, going through the application process might not be worth the time and money. 

Covering most of the Asia Pacific

For business travelers who DO move between the U.S. and Asia frequently, it is a good deal, especially since many of these international road warriors are probably already members of a pre-clearance program like Nexus. Another perk of the ABTC is that no visa is required to enter any of the participating countries. 

The countries that cardholders can enter are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam. Russia recently began participating as well. 

Non-business travelers will still be stuck in the immigration line. Because of the cost and time that it takes to apply for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card, however, even those who travel overseas a couple of times per year won’t end up really benefitting from this card. 


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