At the 18th Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF), that took place in Gurgaon, India, on Wednesday 31st October 2012, Australia put forward the proposal for the establishment of an IOR-ARC business travel card for IOR-ARC members with the view to facilitate inter-regional trade by providing business travelers easy access to the IOR-ARC countries to enhance the participation in their respective economies. This project therefore has as its main objective the enhancement of business and trade facilitation between the IOR-ARC Member States.
This proposal is being considered due to the need expressed by business people to gain streamlined business visitor entry to the economies of the IOR-ARC region for more expandable business opportunities in order to conduct trade and investment activities, to name but a few.
In practical terms, it is envisaged that a business person could obtain an “IOR-ARC travel card” which identifies the IOR-ARC Member States for which it could grant the person a visa “pre-clearance”. The card may however have a validity period and could follow the same application procedures as a business visa application.
Fast and efficient travel for business people within the Indian Ocean Rim region will contribute to the promotion of trade facilitation and investment promotion. To this end, the introduction of the IOR-ARC business travel card is an appropriate scheme with numerous benefits for the business people such as:
- Fast-track entry and exit and multiple short term entry at major IOR-ARC airports; and,
- There will be no need to individually apply for visas or entry permits each time the businessman is travelling to any of the participating IOR-ARC Member States thus contributing to immigration time savings and reduction in travel costs.
The Feasibility Study on the IOR-ARC Business Travel Card Proposal entails discussions on the necessary modalities to be agreed and will involve the governments of all member countries. A baseline study of the business needs of the IOR-ARC Member States, the current visa-related difficulties faced by the business travelers and the demand for the business travel card within the IOR region are some of the major components to be investigated during the study. This study however remains at the initial stage of discussion with the opportunity for some member countries to consider undertaking a pilot study on the issue to gauge its viability.