US PRESIDENT Barack Obama and the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic cooperation (APEC) forum launched earlier this month a new APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative that will progressively expedite the flow of business passengers within Asia-Pacific.
In a first step, Obama signed legislation allowing US travellers to apply for the APEC Business Travel Card. Cardholders will receive expedited scheduling of visa interviews, and will be able to avail of multiple short-term entry visas and fast-track immigration lanes at airports in APEC economies, during the three years the card is valid.
The US will also be implementing a Trusted Traveller arrangement with South Korea in January next year, and is working to establish a similar partnership with Singapore in the near future.
These Trusted Traveller arrangements allow eligible, pre-screened nationals to clear immigration and customs expeditiously using automated kiosks when travelling between the US and these countries.
Economies under the APEC grouping include: Australia, Brunei, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Russia and Canada are transitional APEC members, while Mexico is part operational and moving towards full participation in the programme.