The Australian ePassport
Australia's first ePassport was introduced in October 2005. The first version of the ePassport, identified as the M series, was replaced by the N series in May 2009. The N series offers improved security features. For the first time in an Australian travel document, the document is produced using carbon neutral paper.
N series Australian ePassport.
The N Series ePassport has an embedded microchip in the centre page and a silver coat of arms and international ePassport symbol on the front cover.
The data page and Observation page of the N series ePassport
The chip embedded in the centre page stores the holder's digitised photograph, name, gender, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and the passport expiry date. This is exactly the same information that appears on the printed data page of the passport.
The ePassport offers several important advantages. It:
- provides greater protection against fraudulent misuse and tampering
- reduces the risk of identity fraud, currently estimated to cost the Australian economy billions each year
- enhances the protection of Australia's border through speedy and secure verification of incoming Australian passport holders.
The N series United Nations Convention Travel Documents and Certificates of Identity contain a chip and are therefore "e" travel documents. The N series Document of Identity and Emergency Passport do not contain a chip.
Australia is a leader in the development of biometric passport technology, and was one of the first countries to introduce an ePassport.
Data and Privacy Protection
Strict guidelines control how the department uses the information you supply with a passport application. The Privacy Act 1988 prohibits government officers from collecting, using or disclosing your information except in the performance of their duties. It obliges the department to take all reasonable steps to protect your information against loss, misuse, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.
The data on the chip is PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) protected, guaranteeing that it was put there by an authorised issuing authority and has not subsequently been altered. The chip's digital signature meets standards determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations.
The high lighted machine readable zone (MRZ) of the data page
The N Series passport uses Basic Access Control (BAC) to prevent the chip from being accessed until the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) on the data page has been read. In addition, the new series incorporates Active Authentication (AA) which offers an additional level of confidence to passport holders that their personal details contained on the chip are secure and protected.
The chip, and the equipment which reads it, have been manufactured to standards set by the ICAO. Australia is a member of the ICAO Machine Readable Travel Document Technical Advisory Group (MRTD TAG) and has played a prominent role in the development of the ICAO standards for ePassports. ICAO standards are available from the ICAO website.
Travelling to the USA
- Australians visiting the USA may be eligible to be admitted for 90 days under the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) provided they travel on a Machine Readable Passport (MRP) i.e. a passport with a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ).
- All valid Australian passports currently in circulation (whether ePassports or not) have MRZs and comply with US requirements under the VWP.
- The ePassport assists in helping border officials verify the identity of the holder, allowing for quicker passenger processing.
- Self service facilities, known as "SmartGate kiosks" have been installed at Australian international airports.
- Various countries have introduced ePassport processing at their borders. Those which have yet to introduce ePassport processing facilities will process ePassport holders in the same way as holders of a conventional passport.
- Australian Customs Service SmartGate Service
- Australian Passports website
- The US Visa Waiver Program
Basic Access Control (BAC)
A privacy feature to ensure the information in the chip is locked until the ePassport is read by swiping its information page across a special reader.
Machine Readable Zone (MRZ)
The MRZ consists of personal details printed on the bottom of the data page of the ePassport. The details can be read by swiping the page over a scanner. The MRZ is used to unlock the information contained in the embedded chip.
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
A technology used to confirm that the information in your ePassport chip was put there by the Australian Government, that it is complete and that it has not been changed.