Australian passports are travel documents issued to Australian citizens under the Australian Passports Act 2005 by the Australian Passport Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), both in Australia and overseas, which enable the passport bearer to travel internationally. Australian citizens are allowed to hold passports from other countries. Since 1988 over a million Australian passports have been issued annually, and it reached 1.4 million in 2007, and increasing towards a projected 3 million annually by 2021.
The front cover of a contemporary Australian ePassport (with chip
|First issued||1901 (first version)|
1984 (machine-readable passport)
24 October 2005 (biometric passport)
June 2014 (current version)
|Valid in||All countries|
|Expiration||10 years for adults 16+|
10 or 5 years for adults aged 75+
5 years for children under 16
10-year passport : A$298
Adult 75+ (optional)
5-year passport: A$150
Child (Under 16):
5-year passport: A$150
Since 24 October 2005 Australia has issued only biometric passports, called ePassports, which have an embedded microchip that contains the same personal information that is on the colour photo page of the passport, including a digitised photograph. As all previous passports have now expired, all Australian passports are now biometric. SmartGates have been installed in Australian airports to allow Australian ePassport holders and ePassport holders of several other countries to clear immigration controls more rapidly, and facial recognition technology has been installed at immigration gates.
Before 1901, Australia consisted of six separate British colonies. Passport usage was not common, and if required British or other national passports were used. In 1901, the six colonies joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia, although Australians retained British nationality. It was only in 1912 that the first Federal passport regulations were introduced, and the passports issued by the Australian government still bore the words "British Passport" on the cover until 1967. During World War I, the monitoring and identifying of those crossing international borders was regarded as critical to the security of Australia and its allies, and the War Precautions Act 1914 required all persons over 16 years of age, on leaving Australia, to possess some passport.
Australian nationality came into existence on 26 January 1949 when the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into force, and Australian passports began to distinguish between Australian citizens and other British subjects. British subjects, who were not Australian citizens, continued to be entitled to an Australian passport. The term "British subject" had a particular meaning in Australian nationality law. The term encompassed all citizens of countries included in the list contained in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. The list of countries was based on, but was not identical with, those countries (and their colonies) which were members of the Commonwealth from time to time. The list was amended from time to time as various former colonies became independent countries, but the list in the Act was not necessarily up-to-date as far as to constitute exactly a list of countries in the Commonwealth at any given time. This definition of "British subject" meant that, for the purposes of Australian nationality law, citizens of countries which had become republics, such as India, were classified as "British subjects". The words "British Passport" were removed from the covers of Australian passports in 1967.
In 1981, the Commonwealth, Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments set up the Stewart Royal Commission to inquire into various drug trafficking and related criminal activities, but which spent much of its time examining how criminals were using and abusing the passport system for criminal purposes. The Commission published its final report in 1983, making recommendations on how to prevent such abuses, most of which were acted upon by the federal government. The report's recommendations included that applicants for a passport attend a Passport Office and that mailed applications cease; that passports be issued only to citizens, so that British subjects would cease to be entitled to a passport; that birth certificates not be accepted as a sufficient proof of identity; that passports cease to be issued through travel or other agents; and that all persons who change their name, whether by choice, marriage or adoption, be required to register the change with State Registrars of births, deaths and marriages. The legal category of British subject was abolished in 1984 by the Australian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1984, and Australian passports began to be issued exclusively to Australian citizens, though existing passports held by non-citizen British subjects continued to be valid until each expired.
In 1980, large bound book registers were replaced by a computerised processing and registration system, called the Passport Issue and Control System (PICS). Since 1984, to speed up processing of incoming and outgoing passengers and data entry, Australia has been issuing passports with machine readable lines, to ICAO Document 9303 standard. Since 24 October 2005, Australia has issued only biometric passports, called ePassports, which have an embedded RFID microchip that contains the same personal information that is on the colour photo page of the passport, including a digitised photograph. Australia was only the fourth country in the world (after Malaysia, Thailand and Sweden) to introduce biometric passports. All Australian passports are now biometric, all pre-2006 passports having now expired. SmartGates have been installed in Australian airports to allow Australian ePassport holders, and ePassport holders of several other countries, to clear immigration controls more rapidly, and facial recognition technology has been installed at immigration gates to capture and save a biometric profile of passport holders as well as to compare against the immigration database and watchlist. Australia does not use fingerprinting of incoming passengers, as is done by some other countries.
Summary of passport series
- In 1917, 'X' series passports issued.
- In 1937, 'A' series passports issued. Passport cover included the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and the words 'British Passport Commonwealth of Australia'.
- In 1949, after Australian nationality was created, passports began to distinguish between Australian citizens and other British subjects. The passports contained manually inserted photos with wet seals and raised embossed seals over the photo as security features. Two types of passport were issued:
- 'B' series passports – issued (within Australia only) to British subjects who were not Australian citizens.
- 'C' series passports – issued to Australian citizens.
- In 1950, 'E' series passport replaces 'B' and 'C' series.
- In 1964, 'G' series passport introduced, with the St Edward's Crown at the top of the cover, the word 'Australia' followed by the Australian Coat of Arms, and the words 'British Passport' at the bottom.
- In 1967, the words 'British Passport' removed from passports but retain the Crown. The word 'Australia' appears below the Crown, followed by the Australian Coat of Arms and the word 'Passport'.
- In 1975, responsibility for Australian passport functions were transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs (since 1987, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), from the then Department of Labor and Immigration.
- Before 1983, a married person's passport application had to be authorised by their spouse.
- In 1983, the Department partnered with Australia Post to enable the issue of Australian passports at most Australia Post outlets.
- In 1984, 'T' series passport introduced, with Crown emblem removed from cover. These were the first to have a laminate built into the document.
- In 1986, single identity passports introduced, so that children could no longer be included on a parent's passport.
- In 1988, 'H' and 'J' series passports issued with Bicentennial logo. And until 1988, a woman could apply for and receive a passport in her married name, before she was actually married.
- In 1994, digitised colour printing of photograph and signature on the glue side of the laminate introduced.
- In 1995, 'L' series passports introduced, with kangaroo motif security laminate. The personal data pages initially included a photograph and a cut out piece of paper with the holder's signature under a sheet of adhesive laminate.
- From approximately 1998, the personal data page for 'L' series passports colour laser printed under a sheet of adhesive laminate.
- From 27 November 2003, 'M' series passport issued, which included enhanced security features. The personal data page printed by ink-jet onto the adhesive surface of the security laminate, the laminate itself containing a holographic design.
- From October 2005, 'M' series passports issued as a biometric or ePassport. Electronic passport logo printed under the passport number on the personal data page. The front cover printed in gold ink.
- Since May 2009, 'N' series passports issued as a biometric or ePassport. The passport was black instead of blue and had a slight font and case change to the word 'Passport' on the front cover. The front cover printing was in silver. Additional fraud counter-measures were included including a 'Ghost Image' and 'Retro-Reflective Floating Image' on the laminated page. Each page featured images of Australia printed throughout the document making every visa page unique and more difficult to reproduce.
- In late June 2014, 'P' series passports issued with innovative security features that make it even more difficult to forge. They have an Australian flag blue with gold embossed cover, printed using the same technologies as Australian banknotes. Visible security features include a new security laminate with the world's first colour floating image.
- Between mid-2020 to mid-2021, the 'R' series is expected to replace the 'P' series. The 'R' series will feature a hard polycarbonate data page, that is sturdier and more secure than previous series, as well as being waterproof. Note Printing Australia, who print Australian passports, has developed and built on existing relationships to ensure the 'R' series, and Australian passports in general, are at the forefront of passport design and technology.
Five Nations Passport Group
Since 2004, Australia has participated in the Five Nations Passport Group, an international forum for cooperation between the passport issuing authorities in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States to "share best practices and discuss innovations related to the development of passport policies, products and practices".
Types of passport
The Australian Government issues passports to provide an internationally-accepted attestation of their citizens' identity. To facilitate this global recognition, several types of passports are issued.
These are broadly issued in three categories:
- Ordinary Passport
- Official Passport
- Diplomatic Passport
Certain non-passport travel documents are also issued, with eligibility not limited to citizens:
- Document of Identity
- Certificate of Identity
- Convention Travel Document
- Provisional Travel Document
Beyond these, other documents for travel are issued in limited circumstances: ImmiCard, PLO56 (M56), Document for Travel to Australia (DFTTA). These are issued to protection or humanitarian visa holders, or persons in similar circumstances warranting their issue.
Ordinary passports are issued to Australian citizens to enable them to travel internationally, and provide an attestation of their identity. Most passport holders are issued Ordinary passports. Passports and Documents of Identity are ordinarily worth 70 points in the 100 point check system, thus used as an authorative identity document throughout Australia. Full passports can be used as an identity document for up to two years after their expiry.
These passports can only be issued to Australian citizen applicants, who can satisfy their identity and citizenship. Where unable to meet these requirements, Limited Validity Passport, or Document of Identity, may be compassionately issued. Limited Validity Passports are identical to regular passports, but issued with limited validity, up to a maximum of 12 months.
Passports in this category are ordinarily valid for five or ten years. Children under 16 years of age are issued five year passports, and adults aged 75 or over may choose a five or ten year validity. Adult applicants are otherwise issued passports with a ten year validity. Exceptions to this exist, such as in the case of concurrent passports.
These passports feature 34 usable visa pages, in the P series issued since June 2014, with a Frequent Traveller variant available containing 66 visa pages. The larger variant is available only to adult applicants seeking ten year passports, as five year passports already have the same number of visa pages per year.
Diplomatic and Official Passport
Diplomatic and Official passports are issued to people employed by or acting on behalf of the Australian Government. These are primarily individuals in defined categories and roles, required to represent the Australian Government overseas in an official capacity. These passports may sometimes be issued to dependents of the principal applicant, where necessary to facilitate their travel or safety.
These passports may only be issued to Australian citizens whose role or purpose of travel fits within the Ministerial Guidelines. Issuance is tighly controlled, due to the significance of formally representing an individual as acting, overseas, on behalf of the Australian Government.
Unlike Ordinary passports, individuals have certain legislative and contractual obligations to the Australian Government, when using or holding these passports. Diplomatic and Official passports may be cancelled without notice, if used beyond the relevant provisions in the Ministerial Guidelines.
Special circumstance passports
In limited circumstances, Australian citizens may be issued passports outside of the usual requirements. Such passports will always be issued in one of the above categories: Ordinary, Official, or Diplomatic. Other than for an Emergency Passport, their appearance is identical.
A concurrent passport is a further passport issued to an individual, where they already hold a valid passport of the same category (Ordinary, Official, or Diplomatic). Issuance of these is very tightly controlled, granted to facilitate travel in exceptional circumstances.
Concurrent passports are most often granted when travelling (or transiting) a country that will not accept evidence of travel to certain places, or where significant delays will result in having to wait for return of the passport following (unrelated) visa issuance. Other circumstances may be considered, requiring authorisation by more senior staff.
The validity of concurrent passports is limited to a maximum of three years, except for where it is an Emergency Passport, in which case the maximum is twelve months. The validity period will usually be limited to the duration of travel needs plus six months.
Emergency Passports are issued to Australian citizens in circumstances where they cannot meet all requirements for passport issue, but can satisfy their citizenship and identity, or need to travel urgently and cannot wait for a regular passport. Issuance is strictly controlled, particularly where usual requirements cannot be met.
Limited Validity Passport
Limited Validity passports are issued to Australian citizens in circumstances where full documentation cannot be met, provided their identity and citizenship have been confirmed. The purpose is to benefit applicants with incomplete or inconsistent documentation, by allowing them to travel in the interim. They are exactly the same as regular passports, just with shorter validity.
Most commonly Limited Validity passports are offered to applicants with incomplete or inconsistent documentation around name or gender. This may be following name change, where cardinal documents such as birth certificate differ, and the applicant lacks sufficient documentation to corroborate the difference.
The current series Australian passport is blue, with the Australian coat of arms emblazoned in the centre of the front cover. "AUSTRALIA" is written above the coat of arms. Toward the bottom of the cover are inscribed "Passport" and, below it, the international e-passport symbol (
Identity information page
The Australian passport includes the following data:
- Photo of passport owner
- Type (P for passport)
- Code of issuing state (AUS)
- Document No.
- Nationality (Australian)
- Date of birth
- Male (M)
- Female (F)
- Intersex/Indeterminate/Unspecified (X)
- Place of birth (only the city or town is listed, even if born outside Australia)
- Date of issue
- Owner's signature
- Date of expiry
- Authority ("Australia" if issued in Australia, or the name of the issuing diplomatic mission if issued overseas – e.g. London)
The information page ends with the machine readable zone.
Sex and gender diverse
Australian Government policy is to record gender and not sex. Australian travel documents allow for recording of non-binary gender, one of less than 10 countries known to do so. Replacement passports are issued for free to applicants whose details have changed in the course of gender transition.
Applicants may choose to have the "Sex" (this name being an ICAO requirement) field on their passport recorded as M, F, or X. While unavailable on passports due to ICAO requirements, a Document of Identity may be issued with the sex field blank.
The sex recorded does not need to match that on a birth certificate or any other documents. For those without revised identity documents, who have not previously been issued a passport in the desired gender, a brief statement by a registered doctor or psychologist is sufficient. Where unable to get a letter from a doctor or psychologist, applicants are encouraged to inform the APO, so alternative arrangements can be considered.
Administrative policy of the APO and Department of Foreign Affairs aim to prevent unnecessary distress or offense. Refusal of applications from sex and gender diverse applicants, for lack of documentation or otherwise, is prohibited. Staff are required to not ask for extra information or documents, when applications are made. After lodgement, applications from sex and gender diverse applicants are required to be handled at all times by Executive Level officers with suitable sex and gender diverse training.
The passports contain inside the front cover a note that is addressed to the authorities of all other states, identifying the bearer as a citizen of Australia and requesting that he or she be allowed to pass and be treated according to international norms:
- The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.
The passport is printed in English. French translation is found on the identity information and chip page.
The embedded chip stores the owner's digitised photograph, name, sex, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and the passport expiry date. This is the same information that appears on the printed information page of every passport. Facial recognition technology was introduced with the release of the ePassport to improve identity verification and reduce identity-related fraud.
- Microprinting – for example, horizontal lines on the notice/bearer's information pages are made up of microprinted words.
- In L-series passports, the first verse of Advance Australia Fair is used.
- In M-series passports, the words are from Waltzing Matilda.
- In N-series passports, the lines are made up of the word "Australia" repeated.
- N-series passports also feature microprinted words from Clancy of the Overflow on the visa pages.
- The laminate of the identity information page on M-series and later passports contains retro-reflective floating images of kangaroos.
Applications for a passport
The 100-point personal identification system applies to new applicants for an Australian passport, and an Australian passport can in turn be used as an identification document of the passport holder (worth 70 points in the 100-point check scheme).
The 100-point personal identification system does apply to a renewal of a passport.
Australian citizens, aged 18 years or over who have an adult Australian passport that was valid for at least two years when issued, and was issued on or after 1 July 2000, in the current name, date of birth and sex or have a child Australian passport that was valid for at least two years when issued, and was issued on or after 1 July 2005, and that were 16 years or over at the time of issue may apply online for a renewal. If overseas, this may be done by contacting the nearest Australian diplomatic mission.
Renewals are not available for lost or stolen passports, in which case an application for a new passport must be made.
Refusal to issue passport
Under the Australian Passports Act 2005, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has the power to refuse, cancel or suspend a passport on a number of grounds including national security or health. In addition, a court can order an accused in a criminal matter, or any other person, to surrender their passport, for example, as a condition of grant of bail or otherwise.
In May 2017, the Turnbull Government successfully reached a deal with Derryn Hinch's Justice Party to allow the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to revoke the passports of 20,000 convicted child sex offenders listed on Australia's national child offender register, of which about 3,200 offenders with lifetime reporting requirements were to be permanently denied the opportunity to obtain a passport and hence the ability to travel outside Australia for life. This was described as a "world-first" passport-ban policy intended to combat child sex tourism perpetuated by Australian citizens especially in developing countries.
An Australian passport does not, in itself, entitle the holder to enter another country. To enter another country, the traveller must comply with the visa and entry requirements of the other countries to be visited, which vary from country to country and may apply specifically to a particular passport type, the traveller's nationality, criminal history or many other factors.
As of 26 March 2019, Australian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 181 countries and territories, ranking the Australian passport 9th in the world in terms of travel freedom (tied with the New Zealand and Icelandic passports) according to the Henley Passport Index. Additionally, Arton Capital's Passport Index ranked the Australian passport 7th in the world in terms of travel freedom, with a visa-free score of 161 (tied with Latvian, Lithuanian, Malaysian, Polish, Slovakian and Slovenian passports), as of 4 December 2018.
Foreign travel statistics
According to the statistics these are the numbers of Australian visitors to various countries per annum in 2015 (unless otherwise noted):
|Foreign travel statistics|
|Destination||Number of Australian visitors|
- Data for 2017
- Counting only guests in tourist accommodation establishments.
- Data for 2016
- Data for 2013
- Data for 2011
- Data for arrivals by air only.
- Data for 2012
- Data for 2014
- Data for 2009
- Data for arrivals by air only.
- Total number includes tourists, business travelers, students, exchange visitors, temporary workers and families, diplomats and other representatives and all other classes of nonimmigrant admissions (I-94).
Declared area offence
It's an offence under Australian law for Australians to enter, or remain in, certain regions designated as 'declared areas'. The Government may declare an area (but not a whole country) if it considers terrorists are operating in that area. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment. However, it is a defence if a person can show they entered or remained in the area for a legitimate purpose prescribed in regulations.
As of August 2019[update], the 'declared areas' were:
- Australian Passport (2011)
- Australian Document of Identity
- Australian Certificate of Identity
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- Australian Passport Office
- Biometric passport
- List of passports
- Visa requirements for Australian citizens
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