The Australian government yesterday (November 1) introduced new eligibility criteria for applying for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card, making it possible for more business people including those in SMEs to apply.
The APEC card can be acquired through a single application. Once obtained, it is valid for three years and allows the holder to enter and stay for two or three months in 18 of the APEC member economies without a visa. It also offers fast-track immigration at the airport.
“The ABTC is an important tool, as it saves business people the time and effort involved in applying for individual visas or entry permits each time they wish to travel for business,” said immigration minister Chris Bowen in a statement issued yesterday.
Participating countries and territories are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, Mainland China, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Peru, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Previously, following criticism that too many Australian travellers were getting the card, the Australian government put up numerous barriers to obtaining it. It stipulated that only the top three tiers of management in businesses with over certain turnover could apply.
But after a consultation process, the government announced it would revise the eligibility criteria for application, making it possible for more businesses to apply, in two stages.
Stage one commenced in November 2011. This made certain types of business, such as those on the Forbes Global 2000 list and those given funding under the Austrade Export Market Development Grants program, eligible to apply for the card without requiring certification from an approved body.
Stage two began yesterday (November 1). This makes it possible for other types of companies to gain eligibility to apply for cards by having their businesses certified by an “approved body” such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
“ACCI will be an ‘approved body’ under the scheme and will provide certifying services that a business entity, or Australian Peak Body, is genuinely engaged in international trade and investment within the APEC region,” said Bryan Clark, director of trade and international affairs at the chamber.
Clark said the government was also looking at the feasibility of introducing a similar card for travel in countries of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
For more information, visit www.immi.gov.au/skilled/business/apec/