APEC Business Travel Card, abbreviated to an ABTC, mean a kind of document issued by competent authorities of countries or territories participating in the Scheme on APEC business travel card to their business people in order to facilitate their travels to conduct business cooperation, commercial, investment or service activities; to participate in conferences and seminars; or for other economic purposes in countries and territories within APEC participating in the Scheme. ABTC holders, when entering or departing from countries or territories stated in their ABTC, need not obtain visas of such countries or territories.
The ABTC shall be valid for entry and exit only when they are produced by their holders together with valid passports without applying for a visa, no need to follow the immigration procedures and multiple entry and exit in the country / region participating in ABTC program, including: Australia, Brunei, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Upon each entry or exit, ABTC holders shall be issued by participating countries or territories certificates of permitted stay for a duration provided for by such countries or territories, usually up to 60-90 days at a time, for example: the duration of stay with ABTC in Australia is 90 days, Hong Kong is 60 days, Singapore is 60 days, Japan is 90 days …
The ABTC shall be valid for five years since the date of issue and shall not be extended; In case of expiration, the new one shall be issued.
As such, is it difficult to apply for ABTC and what are the common obstacles when making an application for ABTC for Vietnamese businessmen who are working at enterprises legally established in Ho Chi Minh City?
Firstly, regarding the subjects to whom ABTCs are granted, according to the provisions of Clause 3, Article 1 of Decision No. 54/2015/QD-TTg, Vietnamese businessmen are working at enterprises legally established under Vietnamese law. They will be able to apply for the ABTC, namely the owners of private enterprises, Chairman of the Board of Members, members of the Board of Members, President of the Board of Directors, members of Board of Directors, general directors or directors of companies; President of the Board of Directors, members of Board of Directors, directors or general directors of cooperatives or joint cooperatives; Chief accountants, managers from enterprises; heads of enterprises’ branches and other similar titles.
Secondly, regarding the conditions for Vietnamese businessmen to be granted ABTCs, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee previously issued Decision No. 05/2014/QD-UBND providing for the composition of documents and conditions for applying for permission to use the ABTC in Ho Chi Minh City. Currently, this Decision has been abolished under Decision No. 41/2016/QD-UBND and expires on October 19th, 2016. However, up to now, the People’s Committee has not issued any Decision on conditions and guidelines for the ABTC dossier. This leads to difficulties in applying for this procedure. Therefore, at present, there are still two perspectives of views between the competent state agencies receiving and submitting the dossier to the People’s Committee for consideration and permission to use the ABTC.
- Currently, there has not been any regulation on conditions for applying for the ABTC, Therefore, the conditions under Decision 05/2014/ D-UBND will still be applied to consider and allow the use of ABTC cards as follows.
- Have popular passports remaining unexpired for at least three years since the submission of request for issuance of ABTC;
- Currently work in businesses as prescribed in Article 2 hereof and involved in activities of cooperation, trading, investment and services with partners from APEC economies participating in ABTC;
- Work in businesses under employment contracts, receive decision on appointment and take part in social insurance according to the law provisions;
- As a person from 18 years of age with his/her civil acts not restricted or lost;
- As owners, limited partners or work under employment contracts (Unlimited term contracts) for at least 12 months before the submission of request for issuance of ABTC;
- Have regular demands for short business trips to APEC economies for contracting or carrying out business undertakings;
- Work in businesses with revenues at least VND 10 billion/year or total import, export quota equivalent to VND 10 billion in a most recent year.
- Currently, Decision 05/2014/QD-UBND has expired. Therefore, if an enterprise wishes to apply for an ABTC which only need to submit a written request to the People’s Committee and the receiving agencies assigned by the People’s Committee. These agencies will summarize the request of the enterprise, and the opinions of the relevant agencies to submit to the People’s Committee for consideration, decision which may not impose any requirements or conditions on entrepreneurs and businesses.
Thirdly, regarding the procedures and difficulties in carrying out the procedures for applying for the ABTC. Currently, the work of receiving and advising the permission of Vietnamese businessmen to use the ABTC in Ho Chi Minh City is carried out by Department of Planning and Investment, Southern Urban Zone Management Board, Processing, Exporting And Industrial Zone Management Boards, High-Tech Park Management Boards, Northwestern Urban Area Management Boards and Thu Thiem New Urban Area Investment and Construction Project Management Boards in coordination with agencies such as the Department of Industry and Trade, City Police, Social Insurance, Department of Taxation, Customs Department, Department of Labor – Invalids and Social Affairs, and other related departments, agencies closely review the law observance situation of enterprises and individuals applying for the ABTC, report the results to the People’s Committee for consideration and decision.
Therefore, businesses need to pay attention to abide by laws on business, investment, trade, tax, customs, labor and social insurance as well as the provisions on the use of the ABTC, specifically, City Police will require Vietnamese businessmen to submit the curriculum vitae and certificate of enterprise registration of the company which Vietnamese businessmen are working, the Social Insurance, Department of Taxation, Customs Department will check and require businesses to comply with the relevant laws …
For the procedures, there must be two phases in order to be granted the ABTC:
- Stage 1: Obtain the written consent of City People’s Committee for ABTC use. Enterprises will submit 02 sets of dossiers as prescribed to the receiving agency, the processing time is within 10 working days from the date of receiving the complete dossiers. If the dossier is not eligible as prescribed, it will be returned to the business after 07 working days. However, in reality this time will be extended longer than prescribed. Depending on the compliance with the law of the enterprise which Vietnamese businessmen are working and the receiving agency must send an official letter to seek opinions of relevant departments and agencies, after receiving the consent of all these agencies, the receiving agency will synthesize and submit to the People’s Committee for consideration and decision.
- Stage 2: Apply for ABTC. Enterprises will submit 01 sets of documents as prescribed at the Immigration Department – Ministry of Public Security. According to the regulation, the processing time is within 21 working days from the date of receipt of a complete dossier. However, this time depends on the response of the member countries participating in the APEC issuance program, so it may take longer than the law.
If you have any questions or require any additional information, please contact Apolat Legal – An International Law Firm in Viet Nam.
This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.