Your ePassport

Key Points

  • When we process an application for an ePassport we digitally compare your passport photograph with any other facial images of you that we hold
  • This is done to verify you as the valid passport-holder and to protect your identity
  • We also store your digitised photograph on a chip in your ePassport to combat identity fraud and enable you to self-process at Australian airports using SmartGate

ePassports are accepted in all countries

The Australian ePassport is designed to make sure that people applying for and using passports are who they say they are. Our ePassport technology is about deterring passport fraud and keeping your identity safe.

Australian ePassports have been issued since 2005. However, all Australian passports issued before then remain valid until their stated expiry date. You do not need to obtain a new passport until your existing one expires.

Our ePassport complies with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and is accepted in all countries. As ePassport technology develops further and is adapted more widely, it will expedite travel across international borders.

The ePassport logo

the ePassport logo

The ePassport logo (above) is the international symbol for an electronic passport. It signifies that the passport contains an integrated circuit or chip on which data about the passport and passport holder is stored. The logo appears on the front cover of all ePassports and may be displayed at border inspection lanes at airports and transit ports equipped with the special readers that can access the data from ePassports.

Automated border checks

SmartGate

ePassports facilitate automated processing of travellers. Australia’s SmartGate is one such system. When these automated system checks are used, the photograph stored in the ePassport is compared against live images of the passport holder. This ensures that the holder is the person to whom the passport was issued.

Where automated processing is not available, ePassport holders are processed in the same way as holders of non ePassports.

The introduction of SmartGate at most international airports in Australia allows Australian and New Zealand ePassport holders, 16 years and older, the option to self-process through passport control. It uses the data in the ePassport and facial recognition technology to perform the customs and immigration checks usually conducted by Customs and Border Protection officers.

Biometrics explained

A biometric system is an automated means of recognising someone by measuring a distinguishing physical trait. Australia’s ePassport uses just one physical trait — a digital photograph of the face. The information needed to generate the facial biometric information comes from the photograph associated with your passport application. Your digitised photograph is stored in the Australian Passport database and in the computer chip within your ePassport.

Using biometric technology, your passport photograph can be digitally compared with other facial images of you that may be held in the Australian Passport database, to ensure that the images are of the same person.

The passport photo comparison check is used to verify your identity as the valid Australian passport-holder and to detect possible identity fraud by criminal elements.

Photograph quality

As the ePassport uses your photograph to generate the biometric information, it is essential that the photograph used complies with recognised international standards.

Inside the chip

Your digitised photograph is stored on a contactless integrated circuit chip embedded in your ePassport. The chip also stores your name, sex, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and the passport expiry date. This is the same information that appears on the printed data page of every passport.

Identity fraud

The ePassport’s biometric technology provides increased protection against identity fraud at two stages: when a passport is issued and when it is used.

When an ePassport is processed for issue, the photograph provided by the applicant is matched with images from any other Australian travel document the applicant has previously held.

When travelling, the ability to compare the digital image as held on the chip to the physical passport holder’s actual image by authorised border control officials forms an additional and significant deterrent to identity fraud.

Securing your information

The biometric chip and the electronic equipment used to write and read the chip meet the standards set by ICAO.

Only the secure systems used in the Australian Passport Office are able to write your personal information on the chip in your passport. The ePassport incorporates security features to prevent anyone from changing or accessing information stored on the chip.

Protection of the data is achieved through use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) cryptography. The use of PKI provides assurance to the reader that data on the chip was put there by an authorised entity, is complete, and has not been changed.

The chip also uses Basic Access Control (BAC) to minimise the risk of ‘skimming’ or ‘eavesdropping’ and to ensure that data can be read only when the passport is presented by the holder.

Privacy

The introduction of the ePassport is as much about protecting the privacy of passport holders as it is about strengthening the integrity of the passport issuing process.

Your passport is a vital tool in proving your identity. By combating identity fraud, the ePassport protects your passport information from misuse.

In addition, 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.


Please safeguard your passport

Remember to safeguard your passport at all times. When travelling overseas, it is often the only proof of identity that will be accepted. Please store you passport in the wallet provided to prevent damage. Additional fees apply to replace lost or stolen passports.

Further Information:

For the latest information about passports and copies of our other publications, visit our website, www.passports.gov.au or call the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) 131 232 in Australia. If you are overseas, contact an Australian diplomatic mission or consulate.

For travel advice and practical information to help you prepare for safe overseas travel, go to www.smartraveller.gov.au

Accessibility

If you are not fluent in English, you can use the Australian Government's Translating and Interpreting Service at your passport interview at no cost. If you need an interpreter or are visually impaired and need general passport information, please call APIS on 131 232

If you are deaf, or have a hearing impairment or speech impairment, contact us through the National Relay Service: TTY users telephone 133 677 and Speak and Listen users telephone 1300 555 727. Ask for APIS on 131 232.

We value your comments

We work hard to improve our service to you and we welcome your input about how our staff can make it even better. Please submit any compliments, complaints or comments to us in any of the following ways:

Online:

Telephone:

APIS 131 232

In writing:

Communications Unit
Australian Passport Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwan Crescent
BARTON ACT 0021