Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Vietnam with an APEC Business Travel Card
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang, signed Decision No. 9/2023/QD-TTg on April 12, 2023, which lays out the regulations regarding the order, procedures, authority, issuance, and management of APEC business travel cards. Here’s what foreign business travelers in Vietnam need to know.
To date, Vietnam has established strategic and comprehensive partnerships with a total of 25 countries, of which 13 are APEC members. Vietnam also has an active network of free trade agreements (FTAs) with 18 out of the 20 APEC members (the remaining two are Chinese Taipei and Papua New Guinea).
APEC serves as a platform that unites many of Vietnam’s major economic partners. The group accounts for a significant proportion of Vietnam’s trade (75 percent), foreign direct investment (78 percent), official development aid (38 percent), and foreign tourism (79 percent).
Vietnam has benefited greatly from APEC, particularly in terms of trade, investment, and tourism with APEC partners. Seven APEC economies, namely the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong-China, Malaysia, and Singapore, are among the top 10 largest export markets for Vietnam and are also major investors in Vietnam.
Given the current economic landscape, the benefits of policies conducive to foreign business persons visiting Vietnam are clear. To this end, the Vietnamese government is taking steps to make moving within the country easier for APEC members.
Issuing Decision No. 9/2023/QD-TTg on April 12, 2023, which focuses on the APEC business travel card, is just one of those steps but an important step nonetheless.
What is an APEC Business Travel Card?
The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) program simplifies the process of entering APEC economies for short-term business travel. This is accomplished by using an “apply once, information used for multiple purposes” method whereby applicants only need to submit one application for permission to enter all participating economies.
Successful applicants from participating economies are granted a five-year card, which acts as an entry authority to other fully participating economies that have granted pre-clearance. Additionally, the ABTC enables cardholders to expedite immigration processing at major international airports in each economy.
It is important to note that Canada and the United States are transitional members of the ABTC program and do not offer reciprocal entry arrangements but do provide expedited immigration processing at major international airports.
The ABTC gives frequent business travelers:
- Fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at participating airports; and,
- Multiple, short-term entries to precleared APEC economies without having to make a separate visa application to fully participating members.
How to apply for an ABTC?
Applying for an ABTC varies across APEC economies and involves different guidelines, processes, application forms, fees, and applicant screening.
It is worth noting that each APEC economy has its own eligibility criteria for ABTC applicants. Generally, applicants must:
- be business persons who are citizens of participating APEC economies, or permanent residents of Hong Kong with a valid Hong Kong permanent identity card;
- have a clean criminal record;
- hold a valid passport issued by the home economy or Hong Kong; and
- engage in genuine business activities that require frequent short-term travel within the APEC region.
Senior government officials and officials actively engaged in APEC business may also be eligible for an ABTC. Each economy, however, may define “senior government officials” differently, and may also impose additional eligibility criteria. It is the responsibility of each member economy to vet their applicants thoroughly.
Are there any fees for foreign business people to enter Vietnam with ABTC cards?
Per Decision 09/2023/QD-TTg, business people from member economies who participate in the ABTC program will not be required to pay any personnel review fee.
When business people present an ABTC card upon entering Vietnam, they will not be liable for any additional fees related to immigration and residence procedures.
How can foreign business persons get an ABTC to enter Vietnam?
Per Circular 28/2016/TT-BCA, the procedure applied to foreign business people is as follows:
- Foreign business persons seeking ABTCs to enter Vietnam must apply through the appropriate authority in their home economy. If the business person is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, for example, the application must be approved by the relevant Hong Kong authority.
- For ABTCs issued in Vietnam, the Immigration Department is responsible for reviewing and sharing the results of ABTC approvals and issuances with the relevant authority in the applicant’s home economy.
Under what circumstances does the validity of an ABTC card expire for foreign business persons?
Per Decision 09/2023/QD-TTg, the ABTC cards of foreign business people are rendered invalid for entry into Vietnam under the following circumstances:
- The falsification of business credentials to obtain an ABTC card;
- Foreign business people who have been granted ABTCs and have contravened Vietnamese laws and are undergoing disciplinary action; and
- Foreign business people who attempt to enter Vietnam using ABTCs and are denied entry due to their ineligibility as per the provisions of the Law on Foreigners’ Entry, Exit, Transit, and Residence in Vietnam.
How long is a temporary residence certificate granted to a foreign business person entering Vietnam using an ABTC card?
Foreign business people who use an ABTC to enter Vietnam are issued temporary residence certificates by the immigration control unit at the international border gates. The issuance of temporary residence certificates to foreign business people with ABTCs is specified in Decision 09/2023/QD-TTg as follows:
- Foreign business people who enter Vietnam using ABTCs are entitled to temporary residence certificates issued by the immigration control unit at international border gates. These certificates are valid for 90 days for each entry and 30 days less than the passport’s validity.
- In cases where the ABTC card’s validity is less than 90 days, a certificate of temporary residence will be granted for the same period as the card’s validity.
In summary, foreign business people utilizing ABTC cards to enter Vietnam will receive a temporary residence certificate of 90 days for each entry, and for a period of 30 days less than their passport’s validity, as per the aforementioned regulations.
The APEC Business Travel Card has proven to be a game changer for short-term business travel within the APEC region, including Vietnam. With the implementation of Decision No. 9/2023/QD-TTg, Vietnam has taken a significant step towards acknowledging and advancing its regulations on supporting its business partners in APEC.
As one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, Vietnam offers numerous investment opportunities, and with the APEC Business Travel Card, foreign investors can enjoy fast-track immigration processing and other benefits that facilitate short-term business travel.
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