🐧 Life hack to travel visa-free in Asia Pacific

APEC Business Travel Card, benefits, ROI, how to apply
May 21, 2023

If you travel for business in Asia, then you absolutely need to read about this magic card. 🪄

Today in 10 minutes or less, you’ll learn:

  • 💳 What is the APEC Business Travel Card
  • 💯 Why it’s a game-changer
  • 💼 Who is eligible and ROI
  • ✅ How to apply for 9 countries

💳 APEC Business Travel Card 101

💼 What is the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)?

In 1997, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC) launched the ABTC program to enable easier travel for business people around the Asia Pacific region.

❤️ Benefits

  • Visa-free entry for most member countries
  • Longer stays for up to 90 days
  • Designated express lane at immigration
  • Valid for up to 5 years

In short, the greatest freakin’ list of business travel benefits in the world. 🤯

🪝What’s the catch?

ABTC can only be used for business travel.

So don’t get caught using it for tourism or visiting your Tinder date across the border. 😏 

🌏 Who is eligible for the ABTC?

First off, I want to clarify that ABTC is not some exclusive mega rich people club. Most ABTC holders I know are normal professionals that happen to travel a lot for work.

That said, only passport holders of participating countries can benefit. Here’s the participating countries:

Australia, Brunei, Chile, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam

Canada and the US are transitional members, so they only partially participate in the ABTC program.

💸 How much does it cost to apply for the ABTC?

Under $200 USD, varies by country

⏲️ How long does it take to get the ABTC?

2-3 months, sometimes longer depending on your home country and which countries you seek clearance for

📈 What’s the ROI?

Let’s take an Australian passport holder who travels to Jakarta, Indonesia for work.

  • She takes round-trip flights 2x/month
  • Each single-entry visa is $35 USD
  • 1 year return (money) = 2 flights × 10 months * $35 = $700 USD
  • 1 year return (time) = 1 hour standing in queue x 20 flights = 20 hours/year
  • 5 year return (sum) = ($700 + 20 hours) * 5 years = $3,500 + 100 hours
  • Cost = $135 USD ($200 AUD), renew after 5 years

ROI

  • Return = $3,500 + 100 hours
  • Cost = $135
  • ROI = 25x (not even accounting for time spent)

That’s a juicy ROI. Total no-brainer.

✅ How do I apply for the ABTC?

OK now that you’re convinced, here’s how you can get an ABTC.

Each participating country has their own ABTC application requirements. They all require citizenship.*

For example, Singapore requires:

  • Passport of a Singapore citizen
  • Passport photos
  • Scanned signature image
  • Scanned letter of authorization from business
  • Scanned copy of business certificate (if a foreign business)

*Caveat: Only citizens from the 19 fully participating countries are eligible. Citizens from 2 transitional countries (US, Canada) are also eligible for partial benefits (expedited immigration).

Get the full table of ABTC requirements & links to apply (for 13 countries):

🙌 Are you interested in applying for the ABTC?

I would love to help.

I obtained my US ABTC and have close friends that received an ABTC for their countries.

DM me if you’d like me to help guide you through the application process.

📚️ Further reading

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🌐 Beyond your borders

🇸🇬 Singapore Airlines sees highest profit in 76 years, paying 8 month bonuses (BI)

🇯🇵 Japan aims to relax startup visa eligibility (Nikkei)

🇭🇰 Hong Kong extends fast track work visas to 4x more job types (SCMP)

🇦🇺 $5.5M USD needed to be in top 1% wealthiest of Australia, ~11x higher than in Malaysia (KF)

🇺🇸 Tech workers lose billions of stock value, struggle with big-ticket expenses (WSJ)

🇺🇸 Elon Musk calls remote work “morally wrong,” but ~20% of office space sit empty (Entrepreneur)


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Dexter Zhuang

Dexter is the founder of Money Abroad, a website and newsletter on building wealth for global professionals. Over the last 10 years, he's been a product leader, product manager, consultant and coach at companies like Dropbox, Xendit, and growth-stage startups across the US, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. His work has been featured in global publications like Business Insider, CBS, US News & World Report, and Tech in Asia. He graduated from Dartmouth College.

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