Americans Helping Americans Abroad

Position Papers - 2014

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card

The Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) and the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) represent the interests of millions of Americans living and working abroad, including hundreds of thousands who live in the APEC member economies. We call on the Department of Homeland Security to expedite implementation of the APEC Business Travel Cards Act of 2011.

APEC is an intergovernmental grouping of twenty-one members, referred to as "member economies", which account for approximately 40% of the world's population, approximately 55% of world GDP and about 44% of world trade. Since 1997, APEC member economies have participated in the APEC Business Travel Card ("ABTC") program that allows ABTC holders to use dedicated ABTC lanes at points of entry into member economies. In APEC member economies that require entry visas, the ABTC also functions as a pre-cleared, multiple-entry visa.

A study by APEC's Policy Support Unit found that for the 100,000 cardholders, in the 12 months preceding the survey, cardholders saved 43.3% in time-costs completing visa applications, spent 27.8% less money on fees for visa applications, and saved 54.4% in time-costs completing immigration procedures at airports.

For many years the United States participated in the ABTC program as a transitional member, whereby it offered foreign holders of the ABTC access to airline crew and diplomat immigration lanes at airports. However, US citizens were shut out of this useful program. After years of advocacy by relevant stakeholders, on November 12, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the APEC Business Travel Cards Act of 2011 to authorize issuing the ABTC to US citizens.

However, to date, DHS has yet to implement the ABTC program for US citizens. This is despite the re-balance to Asia and US leadership in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations.

AARO and FAWCO Call on DHS to:

  • Provide substantive updates to Congress, and on the Customs and Border Protection website, about the status of ABTC implementation;
  • Educate travelers about the integration of the ABTC with DHS's Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program for pre-screened U.S. travelers under which the ABTC will be offered as an option when U.S. travelers apply for the Global Entry program.
  • Issue a plan to work with relevant stakeholders to publicize ABTC availability; and
  • Offer Global Entry interviews at US embassies and consulates in APEC member economies (including the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei Office).

Business facilitation with Asia is of critical importance to America and its economy. ABTC implementation will increase the sale of US goods and services in Asia, create better employment opportunities for Americans both domestically and internationally, and free US citizens from the straightjacket of visa and immigration delays which impose time-consuming and expensive costs on business travel. It is time for DHS to finally implement the ABTC.

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