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I'm seriously considering applying for an APEC Business Travel Card, and would like to use it for a Trans-Mongolian Railway journey, entering Russia by air at Irkutsk and China by train at the Mongolian border. (I'm aware that Mongolia is not in APEC and will be applying for a Mongolian visa separately.)

My understanding is that once endorsed, this is supposed to be valid for all business travel in APEC economies regardless of where you enter, but I've also heard mixed feedback about how well the card is recognized, particularly at more obscure points of entry like Zamyn-Üüd/Erenhot. I'm also a little worried about this being viewed more as tourism than business. Any references to official sources or practical experience regarding using the card at land crossings, and/or how to "prove" that this is business travel?

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    Not sure about China, but for Russia you probably should get some documents (like invitation letter or visit program or whatever else you can get) from your business partners, and it would be perfect if you'll have that documents in Russian too, so you can explain what exactly are you going to do. Some references to federal laws (in Russian): ria.ru/tourism_news/20120928/226852867.html and garant.ru/products/ipo/prime/doc/12070105 – VMAtm Feb 20 '18 at 19:09
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    Rules are simple: you need card and passport, and you don't need visa, and you have a priority for passing the border, but I don't know how it will be in practice, as you may face border officer who isn't aware of this card, and you probably lose your time – VMAtm Feb 20 '18 at 19:10
  • But you wouldn't actually be visiting for business, wouldn't you? In that case using the APEC card is technically a violation of the visa rules. – JonathanReez Feb 25 '18 at 14:31
  • @JonathanReez I'm trying to work out if I can add enough business elements to the trip to make it a business trip... but yeah, applying for a regular tourist visa is looking like the safer option. – jpatokal Feb 25 '18 at 19:55
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The closest I can find to an official party line is this VFS Global website that states:

If you are travelling to Russia with NON-BUSINESS purposes such as Tourist or Employment, you have to apply for an appropriate visa even if you have your APEC Card approved for RUS.

The interesting thing is that letters of invitation do not appear to be required if using the ABTC, which makes it unclear how they'd determine this? To be continued...

Note: VFS Global is a 3rd-party visa agency, so they're not an official source of truth, but they "operate the administrative functions" of issuing Russian visas in countries including Singapore.

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