As many as one-third of Australia’s estimated 30,000 travellers who hold an APEC Business Travel Card are set to lose their the cherished plastic pass due to the introduction of tighter eligibility criteria.
The APEC cards allow travel without a visa to almost two dozen countries, with the bonus of a fast-track through immigration queues – sometimes with access to airline crew and diplomatic lanes.
They're issued for three years to people who regularly make short-term visits to 18 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation community. That list includes China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam.
But new applications for the APC Business Travel Card, as well as renewals, must comply with stricter eligibility requirements introduced by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which manages the APEC scheme in Australia.
Australian business news site SmartCompany reports that a Senate hearing in Canberra has been told that “the decision was made suddenly, with no consultation and no communication of the decision from the department to business groups and card holders”, according to the head of border security at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Australian cardholders must now be a "senior executive level business person" in their company: a role which the DIC describes as "someone at the highest levels of organisational management... the three highest management tiers of a large business enterprise, or the two highest tiers in medium-small enterprises."
This means your business card should carry the title of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director, Vice President, Regional Director, Division Head or an equivalent role.
Applicants "must be directly involved in the trade of goods and/or services or the conduct of investment activities when travelling overseas", while the company has to be "well-established and well-credentialed in terms of its international trade and investment activities" and "demonstrate significant economic benefit within the APEC region from its business activities."
That's going to strike out many business travellers who obtained the APEC card mainly as a matter of convenience, despite having little to do with substantial trade and investment in APEC countries.
SmartCompany says the Senate hearing was informed that around one third of pre-existing cardholders would fail to meet the revised criteria, which also includes proof that their company is trading or investing $5 million with APEC nations.