Does a U.S. APEC Business Travel Card Allow Visa-Free Travel to China?

APEC Business Travel CardThanks, Jonathan in Shenyang, for sending in the following question: “Does a U.S. APEC Business Travel Card allow visa-free travel to China?” A true travel geek question.

The short answer is that U.S. citizen card holders can’t enter China visa-free but can get VIP treatment in airport immigration lines.

The APEC Business Travel Card is meant to “facilitate travel for U.S. citizens engaged in verified business in the APEC region,” according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, is an international economic forum with 21 member countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

The U.S. APEC Business Travel Card will enable access to a dedicated fast-track lane for expedited immigration processing at participating foreign APEC member airports listed here.  U.S. APEC Business Travel Card holders may also use the Global Entry kiosks at participating airports upon their U.S. return.

But the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card can’t be used in lieu of a visa to enter an APEC member country. Other countries’ APEC cards can be used in lieu of visas. But the U.S. has decided not to participate in the visa reciprocity part of the program because the government is unwilling to waive visa interviews.

If you’re a road warrior intent on breezing through immigration inspection rather than waiting in line with all the other poor saps, then consider applying. The Wall Street Journal’s Expat blog says some 10,000 cards have been issued so far. To be eligible for a U.S. APEC Business Travel Card, you must meet three criteria:

  • you must be a U.S. citizen;
  • you must be an existing member in good standing or be approved for membership in a CBP trusted traveler program (SENTRI, NEXUS, or Global Entry) during the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card application process, meaning they will go through a thorough vetting process including a review of all relevant national security and criminal databases prior to enrollment; and
  • you must be either a verified business person (or certain U.S. government officials).

A “verified business person” engaged in APEC business means a person engaged in the trade of goods, the provision of services or the conduct of investment activities in the APEC region. Professional athletes, news correspondents, entertainers, musicians, artists or persons engaged in similar occupations are not considered to be verified business travelers engaged in business in the APEC region when they are traveling in such a capacity. The card can’t be used for vacation travel.

The card is valid for 3 years, or until the expiration date of your passport, whichever is earlier.

The application fee for the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card is $70. This fee is in addition to the fee for the selected CBP Trusted Traveler Program. Apply on the Global Online Enrollment System, or GOES, website, This is the same website that is used to apply for CBP’s trusted traveler programs. Check the box in GOES for the U.S. APEC Business Travel Card. Then schedule a visit to any CBP trusted traveler enrollment center (in the U.S. or Singapore) for an interview (if you are not already a CBP trusted traveler) and for electronic signature collection. However, if you are already a CBP trusted traveler, visit any CBP trusted traveler enrollment center for signature collection without an appointment.


  1. Expats who want to take care of the CBP interview during an upcoming visit to the US should book their appointments well in advance. Ahead of my last visit, I was unable to get appointments in any of the cities I visited, and had to spend an entire day driving to/from Orlando (while visiting family in Tallahassee). I’m glad I did it, though, as the card regularly saves me time at the Guangzhou train station; I’ve also used it at Taoyuan airport in Taiwan.

  2. Agree with Fred. I had to drive to Tucson from Phoenix, but the interview was very short…after they figured how to process it. Most only do Global Entry and not APEC. LA, Long Beach, and San Diego had 2+months wait time.

  3. having just done my interview at SFO, be sure to tell them at the office you are there for an APEC interview. There was an approximately 2 hour wait for walk ins for the regular global entry, but they ushered me right in for the APEC one and it took about 5 minutes. Was a very nice surprise. Cheers and happy traveling 🙂

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