The Business Mobility Group (BMG) was formed in 1997 when the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) made the facilitation of business travel a priority. Since the BMG’s establishment, the group has regularly consulted with the business community.
The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)
The biggest milestone of the BMG’s collaboration with ABAC was the development of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC), which provides businesspeople faster and easier entry to economies of the Asia-Pacific region.
The ABTC scheme improves business growth for senior company or board executives and directors who travel frequently to an APEC economy for business purposes. Many senior government officials also use an ABTC for APEC-related engagements.
By as early as 1999, the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) agreed that the scheme should operate on a permanent basis as of 1 March of that year and it has grown since. Currently there are more than 340,000 active ABTCs across the APEC region.
In 2013, APEC Economic Leaders recognized the increasing need for more efficient flows of goods, services, capital and people. APEC intends to accelerate the region’s physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity, and has made commitments
to this effect for the long term. The BMG was tasked to further the work on travel facilitation which includes enhancing the APEC Business Travel Card scheme.
On 1 September 2015, the validity of the ABTC was extended from three to five years. This significantly improved the user experience for cardholders by reducing the need to apply for a new card as frequently. Further, the extension created additional efficiencies for users and economies through a reduction in processing times, printing and distribution costs.
The virtual ABTC
The BMG has responded to the modernization and digitization of global travel. To ensure that APEC travel is positioned for the future, the BMG endorsed the implementation of a virtual ABTC. This complements initiatives such as advance traveler clearance and the increase of visa-free entry across the world, for example.
The virtual ABTC is an innovative new method for travelling on the ABTC. It brings the existing Scheme into the digital era, providing the much-valued service on cardholder’s smart devices. The virtual ABTC is a more secure, efficient, convenient and user-friendly service. Importantly, it provides real-time updates, so that a cardholder can immediately benefit from using their virtual-ABTC. Travelling on the ABTC will allow for the same streamlined and VIP service existing cardholders have come to enjoy, and in addition will provide an alternative method for producing and presenting their card when entering and exiting an economy.
The virtual ABTC is now available for ABTC cardholders
From 1 March 2021, all member economies can allow entry to virtual ABTC cardholders. Member economies that have transitioned to the virtual platform so far include:
- Australia – 1 March 2021
- Brunei Darussalam – 30 June 2021
- Chile – 30 June 2021
- Indonesia – 30 June 2021
- Mexico – 23 April 2021
- New Zealand – 2 August 2021
- Papua New Guinea – 30 June 2021
- Peru – 28 May 2021
- Philippines – 24 November 2021
- Thailand – 1 May 2021
The introduction of the virtual ABTC does not change current international port of entry processing when cardholders enter an Economy on the ABTC—the cardholder is simply required to present their virtual ABTC on their smart device (just as they
would present the physical card as instructed) either when entering the APEC fast track lane or an Economy.
(Note: Until further notice, Russia and China will NOT accept the virtual ABTC. Therefore applicants from participating APEC economies that only have access to the virtual ABTC will need to apply for additional visas to enter Russia and China.)
For more information, including introduction videos to the virtual ABTC for cardholders and port officials, see the ABTC and Virtual ABTC webpages (link in Resources Section).
Last page update: December 2022
The BMG met at the first and third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1 and SOM3) of 2022 in Thailand. SOM3 was held in a hybrid format with members attending both virtually and in person. This was the first time members were able to meet in person since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current Projects and/or initiatives
- (APEC Funded) Project Proposal - Performance Review Study of the ABTC Scheme (Australia) has been endorsed by BMG members and is currently under review by the APEC Project Management Unit for quality assessment.