NEW YORK – U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) today introduced legislation to permanently reauthorize the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card (ABTC) program, which provides access to fast-track immigration lanes at airports for travelers who conduct verified business in the APEC region. APEC, a forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries including the U.S., created the ABTC program in 1997, and the U.S. started issuing cards to eligible Americans in 2014 after Congress passed the APEC Business Travel Cards Act in 2011. Under that law, the authority to issue these travel cards to Americans is set to expire on September 30, 2018 – meaning that no new cards can be issued after that date, and all cards will expire by 2021, after which Americans will no longer be able to travel throughout the region as easily as business travelers from other APEC countries. H.R. 2805, the APEC Business Travel Cards Reauthorization Act, would permanently extend that authority, while maintaining the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to revoke or suspend an individual’s card for security reasons at any time. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this year.
Nearly 30,000 U.S. citizens currently hold cards through the ABTC program, including more than 2,300 cardholders in New York and more than 1,000 in Washington. Several organizations in New York have announced their support for the legislation, including NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization; the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC); the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; and the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association.
“This is a successful program that operates at no cost to taxpayers and makes New York businesses more competitive in the global economy,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “Allowing ABT Cards to expire would be a mistake that puts American business travelers at a disadvantage, and our legislation reflects a common-sense, bipartisan commitment to reauthorize the program permanently. I’m glad that this is a bipartisan effort and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this bill forward in the House.”
Congressman Donovan said, “New York is a hub for a variety of industries and businesses that rely not just on domestic sales, but on foreign marketplaces as well. The APEC Business Travel Card helps Americans travel faster and more efficiently throughout the Asia-Pacific region, allowing them to spend more time on business, and less time in airport lines. We must ensure that our business leaders have the resources they need to compete in an increasingly globalized economy, which is why I’m proud to support the permanent extension of this program.”
“The APEC Business Travel Card program works for Washington state, which has deep economic ties with nations in the Asia-Pacific,” said Rep. Larsen, Co-Chair of the U.S.-China Working Group. “For years, I have fought hard to push for reauthorization of this program. The APEC Business Travel Cards Reauthorization Act would permanently promote engagement between the United States and the Asia-Pacific by maintaining an important tool for business travelers in Washington and throughout the United States. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this much-needed legislation passed.”
“Increased trade and engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region is critical for American businesses and workers,” said Rep. Reichert. “The APEC Business Travel Card has given our businesses improved access to this region and an opportunity to build relationships with important trading partners. I am glad to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this program permanent, to strengthen our partnerships in the region and lead to the creation of good-paying jobs in Washington and the United States.”
“The APEC Business Travel Card has helped hundreds of Hawaii residents travel and conduct business with ease across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” said Senator Hirono. “We cannot allow this successful program to expire, which is why I am proud to introduce this bill to provide business travelers certainty and further enhance our country’s engagement with the nations of the Asia-Pacific.”
Background on the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) program:
The ABTC program allows business travelers and government officials with business in APEC countries to access fast-track processing lanes at APEC airports, which saves an estimated 43 minutes per trip, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB). The program runs entirely on user fees and costs nothing to taxpayers. Applicants must pay a $70 fee, must be U.S. citizens, and must pre-enroll in a U.S. trusted traveler program like Global Entry. Eligible applicants must be a “verified business person” engaged in APEC business – i.e., engaged in the trade of goods, provision of services, or conduct of investment activities in the APEC region – or a U.S. government official engaged in government activities in the APEC region. Rep. Rice’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the program would maintain the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to revoke or suspend an individual’s card for security reasons at any time.
Other organizations supporting the effort to reauthorize the ABTC program include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Global Business Travel Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, National Center for APEC, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, and the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
The full text of the legislation is available here.