Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Australia to provide seamless border for bona fide travellers

Line of Defence, Autumn 2017

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is considering tender submissions for an automated processing solution to support the concept of a ‘seamless traveller’ movement through its borders. Seamless Traveller will see AUD 93.7 million spent over the next five years for the rollout of next generation automated biometric processing at major air and sea ports across the country.

According to a statement from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, “biometric capability will reduce manual processes allowing a fast, seamless self-processing experience for up to 90 percent of travellers and enable border control officers to concentrate on passengers-of-interest.”

“In many cases that will mean people, whilst they’ll still have to carry their passport, may not have to present their passport at all in the long term,” Minister Dutton said. Travellers will instead be processed through biometric recognition of their face, iris and fingerprints that will be matched to existing data.

The new system is expected to abolish the need for passenger cards, passport control and will replace manned desks and electronic stations with automated triage points that utilise contactless technology and facial recognition cameras. SmartGates, introduced at Australian airports less than a decade ago, will also be replaced by the new system.

The abolition of passenger cards would also result in the obsolescence of Exit Point Marshalls, who direct travellers to baggage inspection or exit lanes based on their incoming passengers card answers.

The tender also stipulates that the new solution does away with the paper cards currently issued by SmartGate kiosks, which, would result in an entirely paperless process.

The contactless, paperless process would mean that some travellers may never need to break their step from disembarkation to terminal exit, unless of course they’ve checked-in luggage to collect or duty free shopping to do.

Interestingly, DIBP has not defined the specific solution but has rather asked tenderers to provide innovative solutions to “allow arriving travellers to self-process”. This deliberately open ended approach is deemed more likely to throw up the most innovative mix of possibilities. The tender closed on 31 January.


Enjoying this article? Consider a subscription to the print edition of Line of Defence.


Fairfax media has reported that DIBP is looking to trial the technology this July at Canberra airport, which handles limited flights to Wellington and Singapore. With only four international Singapore Airlines flights a week, Canberra presents an ideal test-bed, and Wellington ‘capital express’ commuters stand to benefit.  

The next step will be the introduction of the solution at a major airport in November, with rollout to be complete by March 2019.

The tempo with which the Australian government is approaching the adoption of these new border technologies puts its immigration department ahead of the game globally. While there have been some limited trials of similar technologies and plenty of research and development going on (see “Invisible Borders” in this issue of Line of Defence), there has been nothing in the way of comprehensive implementation.

New Zealand has previously been the beneficiary of early adoption across the Tasman, with NZ Customs Service’s SmartGate program having piggy-backed off the Australian forerunner.

Interestingly, the Seamless Traveller project breathes real life into the idea of a trial of passport-less travel between New Zealand and Australia, which was raised by Australian Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop back in October 2015.

Conceived out of a hackathon held at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, the concept involved the prospect of storing a traveller's identity and biometric data in a cloud. Although it no doubt raised a few bemused eyebrows at the time, it would now appear that passport-less trans-Tasman travel is now no longer a case of if but when.


Back to Border Security

Share on Social Media

Follow us


Contact us

Phone: 022 366 3691


© 2015. Defsec Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.






Line of Defence     

Fire NZ     

NZ Security