Demanding the surrender of travel documents (impounds)
Authority to demand to surrender (impound) of an Australian travel document
Under certain circumstances, DFAT and or other authorities listed in the Minister’s Determination can impound a travel document and demand its surrender. A travel document once demanded up by the approved authority/officer must be surrendered by the holder otherwise they are in breach of the Act and penalties apply.
The authority to impound an Australian travel document is found in the Australian Passports Act 2005, Sections 23 to 26, i.e.:
- Section 23 deals with travel documents that have been obtained by fraudulent means or may be used to commit an offence against the Australian Passports Act 2005;
- Section 24 deals with travel documents that have been cancelled or are otherwise invalid;
- Section 25 covers persons who owe money to the Commonwealth in respect of expenses incurred on their behalf while they were overseas or in respect of their return or repatriation to Australia; and
- Section 26 covers seizure by Customs of a document not in the possession or control of any individual or believed to have been used in the commission of an offence against the Act.
When the surrender of a travel document is demanded under the Act, the document may be voided and an ‘impound’ flag applied in PICS. In some cases a document’s status may remain as normal (N) until further investigation is completed.
The decision to demand the surrender of a travel document under the Australian Passports Act, Sections 23, 24, 25, is a reviewable decision.
Definition of Void and Impound (V & I)
The void status (‘V’) on a travel document in PICS indicates that the document has been electronically cancelled but not yet physically cancelled, see ‘ Cancelling Travel Documents ’.
The impound flag (‘I’) must always accompany the void status on a travel document. This indicates to the Passport Office and border officials that the document is to be confiscated immediately it comes to notice.
Circumstances when a travel document is electronically voided and marked for impound (V & I)
Travel documents are voided and impounded (V and I) in PICS under the following circumstances:
- When a travel document is reported lost or stolen;
- When the holder loses their Australian citizenship;
- When the holder dies;
- When a travel document has been electronically but not physically cancelled, see ‘ Cancelling Travel Documents ’;
- In cases of travel document related fraud and malpractice;
- Where a travel document has been incorrectly issued but not returned and physically cancelled;
- In cases of warrants or court orders requiring surrender of the travel document;
- Where a travel document has been issued for one-way travel to Australia or another destination; and
- In other circumstances authorised by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
When a travel document with an impound is presented
Demand for surrender letters
When a client presents a travel document including an Emergency passport or other restricted validity travel document which has been voided and has an impound flag applied, the document should be demanded for surrender and the holder provided with the appropriate demand letter.
The letter advises the client of their review rights and if they wish for consideration of the travel document being returned to them they must contact APIS.
Impound and physically cancel
When the document is handed over it should be immediately impounded and then physically cancelled unless the document is subject to a fraud investigation (important – do not destroy the document). If the document is subject to a fraud investigation it must remain in the condition it was surrendered. Documents must not be destroyed until the holder has been given the opportunity to request a review of the decision and/or request their physically cancelled document be returned. Documents impounded by Border control authorities must be forwarded to the nearest Passport State Office for further action or physical cancellation.
Impound flag for recovering monies owed to the Commonwealth
The Australian Passports Act 2005, Section 25 allows a travel document to be demanded up and an impound flag recorded on a holder’s record where monies are owed to the Commonwealth in respect of expenses incurred by the Commonwealth:
- on behalf of the person in a foreign country; or
- money lent to the person by the Commonwealth when the person was outside Australia; or
- expenses incurred by the Commonwealth in, or in connection with, effecting the person’s departure from a foreign country.
It is expected that the surrender of travel documents will only be demanded up in those circumstances where the person is being repatriated to Australia.
Impound flags are not to be used routinely where monies are owing to the Commonwealth – e.g. for dishonoured cheque payment for passport fees. Normal debt recovery action must be used in those cases. Where an application fee is not paid (e.g. a cheque is dishonoured) the travel document should not be issued until the fee is paid. If the travel document is issued before the fee problem occurs and efforts to recover the document fee are unsuccessful, the travel document should be voided and impounded.