Skip to main content

Compass

Compass - policy

Australian Passports

The principle object of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) is to provide for the issue and administration of Australian passports, to be used as evidence of identity and citizenship by Australian citizens who are travelling internationally (section 3 of the Passports Act).

The Australian Passport Office (APO), part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, issues Australian passports to Australian citizens in Australia and overseas. The APO also issues travel-related documents to Australian (and occasionally Commonwealth) citizens in certain situations and to eligible non-Australian citizens living in Australia (in accordance with Australia’s international obligations).

An Australian passport represents the holder as an Australian citizen and requests that the bearer be afforded freedom of passage and every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need. An Australian travel-related document does not. Collectively, Australian passports and travel-related documents are known as Australian travel documents (ATDs).

ATDs must be issued in forms that are approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (subsection 53(2) of the Passports Act). This power is delegated to Senior Executive Officers in the APO, but in practice the Minister approves all new forms of travel documents.

Current forms of Australian passport

four documents

Ordinary, Diplomatic and Official Passports are machine-readable (biometric) travel documents, indicated by the ePassport logo on the front cover.

These passports are designed to meet the internationally agreed standards for biometric travel documents agreed and set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The ICAO standards ensure that biometric travel documents are secure and work across border systems globally. Australia continues to play a key role is setting these international standards.

Biometric travel documents do both of the following:

  • include a tamper-proof passport chip as a security measure (and, as such, are a condition of some countries’ visa waiver programs)
  • facilitate the use of automated border systems (such as Australia’s SmartGate).

Ordinary passports

Ordinary Australian passports are issued to adults and children.

The maximum validity of an ordinary Australian passport is (subsection 17(2) items 1 to 4 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015 (the Passports Determination)):

  • 10 years for an adult
  • 10 years for a child aged 16 or 17 years
  • 5 years for a child 15 years or under
  • 5 years (optional) or 10 years for an adult aged 75 or over.

These maximum validities may be reduced depending on the circumstances.

A Limited Validity Passport (LVP) is an ordinary passport issued with less than the maximum validity for a passport of its kind. Usually LVPs are issued in Australia and London to meet the urgent travel needs of clients who cannot meet full application requirements, but their identity, citizenship and entitlement can be established. LVPs are issued with a maximum validity of 1 year.

A Reduced Validity Passport is an ordinary passport issued with a reduced maximum validity, determined by legislation, following the loss or theft of 2 or more of the client’s ATDs in the 5 years immediately prior to making the application (subsection 17(2) item 10 of the Passports Determination). See also: Lost and stolen passports

A Replacement Passport is an ordinary passport issued with the same expiry date as the passport being replaced or, in the case of a Replacement Passport to upgrade a Limited Validity Passport, the expiry date the LVP would have had if it has been issued with full validity initially (subsection 17(2) items 11 to 17 of the Passports Determination). See also: Replacement Passports

Concurrent Passports may be issued to adults and children in specified circumstances. The maximum validity of a Concurrent Passport is 3 years (subsection 17(2) item 5 of the Passports Determination). See also: Concurrent Passports

In specified circumstances, an ordinary passport may be issued with a maximum validity of 1 year (subsection 17(2) items 7 to 9 of the Passports Determination).

Diplomatic and Official Passports

Diplomatic and Official Passports are issued to facilitate the travel of Australian citizens who are travelling for diplomatic or official purposes, as approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs under the Ministerial Schedules: Sponsored Passports.

Diplomatic and Official Passports are also known as sponsored passports, as in most cases the government authority that the holder will represent sponsors the passport. The sponsoring authority must provide a Sponsorship Letter and the holder must sign a Sponsored Passports Conditions Acknowledgment.

Diplomatic and Official Passports do not confer on the holder any special rights or privileges. Individual countries may confer, at their discretion, certain rights and privileges to holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports.

Emergency Passports

Emergency Passports (EYs) are issued at overseas posts (except London) to facilitate the urgent travel of Australian citizens who meet all requirements but cannot wait three weeks for the issue of a Full Validity Passport.

EYs do not include a passport chip (as EYs are issued by overseas posts that do not have the capability to produce ePassports). Because they are not a biometric travel document, travel on an EY may require a visa, even where Australian citizens can usually travel visa-free.

The maximum validity of an EY is 1 year (subsection 17(2) item 6 of the Passports Determination). EYs are intended to meet the immediate travel needs of the holder and may be issued with less than the maximum validity. See also: Emergency Passports

Travel document series

Approximately every five years, the APO issues a new series of ATDs, with updated security features. In addition, every second series (released approximately every 10 years) has new design features, including new visa pages.

Due to the advanced security features of Australian travel documents (ATDs) and the integrity of the APO’s rigorous assessment process, ATDs are among the most secure and trusted identity and travel documents in the world.

Australian travel-related documents

Australian travel-related documents are issued under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) and related legislation, in accordance with Australia’s obligations under international law.

In addition to Australian passports, the Australian Passport Office (APO), part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), issues the following travel-related documents:

  • Convention Travel Documents (CTDs)
  • Certificates of Identity (COIs)
  • Documents of Identity (DOIs)
  • Provisional Travel Documents (PTDs).

Current forms of Australian travel-related document

four documents

Collectively, Australian passports and travel-related documents are known as Australian travel documents (ATDs). An Australian passport represents the bearer as an Australian citizen. In most cases, an Australian travel-related document does not.

CTDs and COIs are issued to eligible non‑Australians living in Australia (refugees and persons who are stateless or unable to obtain a travel document from their country of nationality).

Important: The issue of a CTD or COI does not confer on the holder any right to return to Australia without a valid Australian visa with re-entry rights.

DOIs may be issued to Australian citizens in certain circumstances where an Australian passport is unnecessary or undesirable or to citizens of other Commonwealth countries who are unable to obtain a travel document from their country of nationality (for example, in emergency situations overseas).

PTDs are a temporary travel document issued to Australian citizens overseas in countries without an Australian consular presence, who need to cross a border in order to get to an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate and apply for a new ATD.

CTDs and COIs are machine-readable (biometric) travel documents and meet the internationally agreed standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO Doc 9303 Machine Readable Travel Documents). Biometric travel documents include a tamper proof passport chip as a security measure.

DOIs and PTDs do not include a passport chip. For this reason, travel on a DOI or PTD may require a visa, even where Australian citizens can usually travel visa free.

Application for an Australian passport

An application for an Australian passport must be in the approved form and must be lodged in person.

Subsection 7(3) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 provides that an application for an Australian passport must be made in the form approved by the Minister (or delegate) and accompanied by the applicable fee (if any).

Clients can complete a passport application online then print it for lodgement. Every passport application must be lodged in person.

Previous passport holders applying online may be eligible for streamlined renewal. This option is only available online because generating the application relies on verification of the client’s previous passport record. There is no blank hardcopy form for streamlined renewal. Information on passport renewal is also available on the passports website.

In Australia, hardcopy passport application forms are available on request only from Australia Post outlets accredited to offer passport services. Australia Post provides lodgement services on behalf of the Australian Passport Office (APO) at around 1,600 participating Australia Post outlets across Australia.

Overseas, hardcopy forms are available on request only from an Australian diplomatic mission or consulate (overseas post). Passport officers at overseas posts provide passport lodgement services and issue emergency travel documents to Australians overseas. The APO delivers passport services in over 200 locations across the world through its overseas network. Around 5% of Australian passport applications are lodged overseas each year.

Each Australian State and Territory capital city also has a Passport Office (STO), where urgent passport applications can be lodged in compelling or compassionate circumstances. Applications for diplomatic and official passports and travel-related documents are also lodged at STOs.

The Australian Passport Information Service (APIS), based in Hobart, provides a telephone helpline for passport clients in Australia and some locations overseas. Applicants for an Australian travel-related document must call APIS to obtain an application form.

Almost all Australian passports are personalised (printed) in Australia. This includes all ordinary passports issued to clients in Australia and overseas. Completed passports are sent directly to the client by registered mail (in Australia) or to the post for sending on to the client (overseas). Clients may also choose to collect their passport from an STO or overseas post.

Information on applying for an Australian passport is also available on the passports website.

Application for a travel-related document

Australian travel-related documents may be issued to eligible non-Australian citizens living in Australia. Applications must be in the approved form and lodged in person.

Subsection 9(3) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 provides that an application for an Australian travel-related document must be made in the form approved by the Minister (or delegate) and accompanied by the applicable fee (if any).

There is currently no online application option for Convention Travel Documents (CTDs) or Certificates of Identity (COIs). Clients applying for these document types must complete a hardcopy PC5 Form. In Australia, clients must call the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) to obtain this form and an information pack (available in English, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, Tamil and Urdu).

CTD and COI applications must be lodged at a State or Territory Passport Office (STO). Australia Post outlets do not accept CTD and COI applications, with the exception of a few approved outlets in Melbourne (this may expand in the future). Clients must call APIS to book an appointment to lodge their application. As with Australian passports, every application for a CTD or COI must be lodged in person.

Overseas, CTDs and COIs are only available in certain circumstances, to clients who have held a previous Australian CTD or COI. Forms are available by arrangement with an Australian diplomatic mission or consulate (overseas post).

Specially trained Passport Case Officers confirm the client’s identity and visa status with the Department of Home Affairs and assess their eligibility against the criteria for issue of a CTD or COI set out in sections 6 and 7 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015.

Information on applying for a Convention Travel Document (CTD) or Certificate of Identity (COI) is also available on the passports website.

Cardinal and supporting documents

An application for an Australian travel document (ATD) must be supported by original documents to confirm the applicant’s identity and Australian citizenship, where required.

A client applying for an Australian travel document (ATD) for the first time must present their original cardinal (or commencement of identity) document (not a copy) issued by an Australian State or Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) (if born in Australia) or the Department of Home Affairs (if born overseas).

Clients must also present originals of any other documents needed to confirm their identity, Australian citizenship and current personal details.

Throughout their life, the identity of a person born or living in Australia is managed by the RBDM where they were born or live. Usually a document issued by an RBDM is required to confirm any changes to their personal details.

For clients born overseas, foreign documents may be presented for particular purposes (such as to evidence their place of birth and/or gender) or in particular circumstances only (for example, where the client was born overseas and lives overseas and cannot access an RBDM to update their details).

At lodgement, the lodgement officer will examine the integrity of the original documents presented and make certified copies to be attached to the client’s passport record. During processing, Australian birth certificates, name change certificates and citizenship certificates will be verified with the issuing agency.

The presentation of original documents and the verification of cardinal and name change documents are necessary to meet the highest level of assurance (Level 4, previously ‘Gold Standard’) for the verification of a person’s identity under the National Identity Proofing Guidelines.

Information on documents you need is also available on the passports website.

Establishing identity

Before issuing an Australian passport or travel-related document to a person, the Minister (or a person delegated to exercise the Minister’s power to issue an Australian travel document under the Australian Passports Act 2005) must be satisfied of the person’s identity (sections 8 and 10 of the Passports Act).

ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4 specifies that the holder’s name, DOB, sex (gender), photo and signature are all mandatory fields to confirm identity. Inclusion of the POB is a decision for issuing States. Australia considers POB to be a key identity attribute and includes it as a mandatory field.

These key identity attributes, or personal details, will appear on the ATD, along with the client’s biometric identifiers (photo and signature).

Establishing a client’s identity is essential to the security and integrity of the Australian passport system.  As the Australian passport is a primary evidence of identity document, robust processes must be followed to establish a client’s identity.

A client applying for an Australian travel document (ATD) for the first time must present their original cardinal (or commencement of identity) document (not a copy) issued by an RBDM or Home Affairs, plus originals of any other documents needed to confirm their current personal details.

At lodgement, the lodgement officer will examine the integrity of the original documents presented and make certified copies to be attached to the client’s passport record. During processing, Australian birth certificates, name change certificates and citizenship certificates will be verified with the issuing agency.

A client applying for an ATD for the first time must also present evidence of their identity in the community (Personal Identity Documents or PIDs) and a referee who has known them for at least 12 months and can confirm their identity. For children, the lodging parent must provide their PIDs, rather than the child. These measures provide additional confidence that the identity is legitimate.

All clients aged 16 and above must attend lodgement in person, whether applying for the first time or renewing. The lodgement officer will compare the client’s photo to the client in person (and/or take a photo of the client for Facial Recognition (FR) purposes or to appear in the ATD).

These identity requirements meet the highest level of assurance (Level 4, previously ‘Gold Standard’) for the verification of a person’s identity under the National Identity Proofing Guidelines [PDF]. This means that Australian passports are issued with a very high level of confidence in the claimed identity. In person lodgement is a key requirement to meet this level of assurance and one of the reasons the Australian passport is so highly regarded internationally.

Information on identity is also available on the passports website.

Name on Australian travel document

In accordance with ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4 and subsection 53(3) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), Australian travel documents (ATDs) must record the holder’s name.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has no authority to register names or name changes. In Australia, that is the responsibility of the relevant Australian State or Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage (RBDM) or the Department of Home Affairs.

Unless an exception applies, the name to appear on an Australian passport must be the client’s most recent name exactly as it appears on the client’s Australian birth, Australian citizenship or Australian RBDM name change certificate (subsection 53(5) of the Passports Act).

In certain circumstances, it may appear exactly as it appeared on the client’s previous Australian passport.

The client’s surname only may be updated to reflect a surname that appears on their RBDM marriage or registered relationship certificate, if it is their most recently recorded surname.

The name to appear on a Convention Travel Document or Certificate of Identity must be the name recorded on the client’s evidence of Australian visa status or the client’s most recent name as recorded by the Department of Home Affairs.

These requirements help to prevent a person from obtaining official documents and potentially operating in society in different identities.

On request, in exceptional circumstances only, the Minister (or an appropriate delegate) may consider approving the use of another name.

Information on names and name change is also available on the passports website.

Unacceptable names or signatures

Under subsection 53(4) of the Passports Act, the Minister (or an appropriate delegate) may also refuse a name or signature that is unacceptable, inappropriate or offensive.

Examples of names or signatures that may be deemed unacceptable, inappropriate or offensive include, but are not limited to, name or signatures that include:

  • an expletive
  • a racial or ethnic slur or implication
  • an obscene or offensive term, symbol or picture
  • a political statement or slogan
  • the name of, or reference to, a public institution or public office
  • a title, award or decoration that is not awarded directly to, or conferred directly on, the client by the Crown or under a law of the Commonwealth
  • a term that could mislead people into believing that the bearer has been awarded or conferred a title, award or decoration (see the note above)
  • a string of words that would not commonly be recognised as a name
  • a name that cannot be established by repute or usage
  • any other term that is contrary to the public interest
  • too many characters for the data page of the travel document
  • a symbol without phonetic significance
  • phrases or symbols such as “all rights reserved”, "signed on behalf of", trademark ™ or copyright ©
  • characters that the Minister or delegate considers are inconsistent with the international standards and recommended practices and procedures for travel documents adopted under the Convention on International Civil Aviation 1944 (the Chicago Convention).

Date of birth on Australian travel document

In accordance with ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4, Australian travel documents (ATDs) must record the holder’s date of birth (DOB).

The date of birth (DOB) on an Australian passport should appear exactly as per the client's full original Australian birth certificate or Australian citizenship certificate.

In certain circumstances, it may appear exactly as it appeared on the client’s previous Australian passport.

The DOB on a Convention Travel Document or Certificate of Identity (for non-Australian citizens) should appear exactly as per the client's visa evidence or Home Affairs record.

The DOB must appear on the ATD in the following format: DD MMM YYYY (for example, 07 JUN 1979).

In most cases, the client’s DOB must be confirmed against original documents. There are exceptions for clients who genuinely cannot obtain original evidence of their DOB.

Place of birth on Australian travel document

ICAO Doc 9303 Part 3 specifies that inclusion of the holder’s place of birth (POB) on a travel document is a decision for issuing States. Australia considers POB to be a key identity attribute and includes it as a mandatory field.

Australian travel documents (ATDs) must record the holder’s place of birth (POB).

Usually POB refers to the client’s suburb, town or city of birth, but may also be a village, province, district, state or other overseas equivalent for clients born overseas.

The client’s suburb, town or city of birth or overseas equivalent is printed on the ATD. Unless there is no other place of birth known, the country of birth (COB) is not printed on the ATD but is recorded in PICS for identity purposes.

In most cases, POB is recorded exactly as per the client's full original Australian birth certificate, foreign birth certificate or foreign passport.

There are exceptions for:

  • clients who genuinely cannot present a birth certificate or foreign passport (for example, clients born overseas in a war torn country)
  • foreign place names with commonly used English translations (the English place name will appear on the passport)
  • places that have changed names due to geographical renaming (the client may request their POB be updated to reflect the new name)
  • countries that are not recognised by Australia.

Sex (gender) on Australian travel document

In accordance with ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4, Australian travel documents (ATDs) must record the holder’s sex. Consistent the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, the Australian Passport Office (APO) interprets sex on the ATD to mean gender.

In accordance with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, the Australian Government is primarily concerned with a person’s identity and social footprint.

As such, the preferred approach is for Australian Government departments and agencies to collect information on a person’s gender. Consistent with these guidelines, APO interprets sex on the ATD to mean gender.

ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4 specifies that the holder’s sex (gender) is a mandatory field. This field cannot be left blank. Clients who identify as a gender other than male or female (intersex, indeterminate, unspecified, non-binary) may request that the gender in their ATD appear as X.

ATDs will record sex/gender as one of the following:

  • M (male)
  • F (female)
  • X (intersex/indeterminate/unspecified/non-binary).

In most cases, gender is recorded exactly as per the client's full original Australian birth certificate, foreign birth certificate or foreign passport.

Sex and Gender Diverse (SGD) clients may also present a Form B-14 or letter from a registered medical practitioner or psychologist to support their preferred gender.

Photo and signature (biometrics)

ICAO Doc 9303 Part 4 specifies that the passport client's photo and signature are mandatory fields.

Photos

A high quality photo that meets the photo requirements is essential.

The photo to appear on the Australian travel document (ATD) must bear a good likeness to the client and be of a high enough quality to allow for automated Facial Recognition verification.

This increases the efficiency and integrity of the issuing process and enables eligible clients to access streamlined renewal.

A high-quality photo in a biometric (machine-readable) travel document (or ePassport) enables travellers to access automated border processing, such as SmartGates at the Australian border and similar systems overseas.

Poor quality photos decrease the chances of successful automated processing, meaning the client may be referred to the primary line for manual processing.

Information on photo requirements is available on the passports website.

Signatures

Signatures provide an extra biometric security feature on the travel document, in addition to the client's photo, and are a mandatory element for persons over 10 years of age.

However, under subsection 53(4) of the Australian Passports Act 2005, the Minister (or an appropriate delegate) may refuse a name or signature that is unacceptable, inappropriate or offensive.

In addition to being scanned and printed on the ATD, an adult’s signature on the application form is a legal declaration by the client that:

  • the statements they have made and the information they have provided in, or in connection with, their application are true and correct
  • they have read and understood the information provided about the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information.

The lodging person signs this declaration for child applications.

The adult client or lodging person’s signature is also compared to the signature on their Personal Identity Documents (PIDs) presented at lodgement, to help confirm their identity.

Confirming citizenship

Only Australian citizens are entitled to an Australian passport. Before issuing an Australian passport to a person, the Minister (or a person delegated to exercise the Minister’s power to issue an Australian passport under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act)) must be satisfied that the person is an Australian citizen.

Under section 8 of the Passports Act, before issuing an Australian passport to a person, the Minister (or delegate) must be satisfied that the person is an Australian citizen.

As the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) does not determine citizenship, a client must provide original evidence to confirm their Australian citizenship with their passport application.

In accordance with the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, acceptable evidence of Australian citizenship will depend on whether the client was born:

  • in Australia before 20 August 1986
  • in Australia on or after 20 August 1986
  • overseas.

The Department of Home Affairs is the department responsible for determining Australian citizenship (not DFAT). If there is any doubt, the client must obtain an Australian citizenship certificate from the Department of Home Affairs, unless the client is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

An Australian citizenship certificate is not a requirement for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander clients. Alternative options apply in these cases.

Information on citizenship is also available on the passports website.

Children and consent

A child application should include the written consent of each person who has parental responsibility for the child or an Australian court order that permits the issue of an Australian travel document (ATD) to the child.

Under subsection 11(1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), the Minister (or delegate) must not issue an ATD to a child unless:

— each person who has parental responsibility for the child consents to the child having an ATD

or

— an order of an Australian court permits the child to have an ATD, travel internationally or live or spend time with a person outside Australia.

Alternatively, a person with parental responsibility may request that a child application be considered under the special circumstances provisions set out in subsection 11(2) of the Passports Act and section 10 the Australian Passports Determination 2015. Certain delegates may consider applications without full consent or an Australian court order under these legislated special circumstances only.

Even when considered under special circumstances, there is no guarantee that a child application without full consent or an Australian court order will be approved. The delegate assessing the case may decide to issue, not to issue (because no special circumstances exist) or to refuse to exercise their discretion to issue under special circumstances because the matter should be dealt with by a court.

Child passport applications without full consent or an Australian court order generally take six to eight weeks to process. Normal turnaround times do not apply. If an ATD is not issued the application fee is generally not refunded.

Information on applying for a child passport is also available on the passports website, as well as supplementary forms and publications relevant to certain types of child applications.

The issue of an ATD to a child, even under special circumstances, does not equate to permission for the child to travel internationally.

Competent authority requests

The Minister may, at the request of a competent authority, cancel or refuse to issue an Australian travel document (ATD) to a person for law enforcement and security reasons.

The Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) provides that the Minister may, at the request of a competent authority, cancel or refuse to issue an ATD to prevent a person from travelling internationally. These provisions are intended to:

  • support law enforcement and security, including international law enforcement cooperation, by ensuring that a person is unable to travel internationally to avoid prosecution or to potentially commit a crime or endanger others
  • prevent avoidance of repaying a debt arising out of assistance provided by Australian consular services.

A competent authority may make a refusal/cancellation request for the following reasons:

All decisions following a competent authority request are made by the Minister, even where decisions are delegable and delegated. This is because a decision to restrict a person’s freedom to travel is a serious decision and should be made at the highest level. 

The only decision that does not require Ministerial sign off is the decision to refuse to issue an Australian passport under subsection 12(2) of the Passports Act, as there is no discretion in this decision. If a competent authority makes a request under subsection 12(1) or 12(1A), the Minister must not issue an Australian passport to the person, but may issue a travel-related document (for example, to facilitate return to Australia).

Refusal to process an application (fraud or dishonesty)

Qualified investigators look into all suspicions of fraud or dishonesty in relation to an application for an Australian travel document (ATD).

The Minister (or an appropriate delegate) may refuse to process an application for an ATD if there are reasonable grounds to suspect fraud or dishonesty in the application (subsection 19A(1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act)).

If the delegate refuses to process the application due to fraud or dishonesty, any applicable fees accompanying the application are not refundable (subsection 19A(2) of the Passports Act).

If the person concerned still wishes to be issued an ATD, a new application is required (subsection 19A(3) of the Passports Act).

This does not limit the offence provisions in sections 29, 30 and 31 of the Passports Act (making false or misleading statements, giving false or misleading information or producing false or misleading documents in relation to an application or ATD). These offence provisions may also apply (subsection 19A(4) of the Passports Act).

Information on passport fraud is also available on the passports website.

Refusal to issue an Australian travel document

An Australian travel document (ATD) will not be issued if the application is incomplete, the applicable fee is not paid or identity, citizenship or entitlement cannot be confirmed.

Under section 7 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), an Australian citizen is entitled, on application, to an Australian passport, provided:

  • their entitlement is not affected by another section of the Passports Act
  • their application is in the approved form
  • they pay the applicable fee (if any).

There is no entitlement to an Australian travel-related document, but in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention related to the Status of Refugees and the UN Convention related to the Status of Stateless Persons, Australia issues these documents to persons who meet the eligibility criteria set out in sections 6 or 7 the Australian Passports Determination 2015.

An application for an Australian travel-related document must also be in the approved form and accompanied by the applicable fee (if any) (subsection 9(3) of the Passports Act).

· Entitlement to be issued an Australian travel document (ATD) is affected by sections 8 and 10 of the Passports Act (identity and citizenship must be established) and Part 2 Division 2 of the Passports Act (Reasons the Minister may refuse to issue an Australian travel document).

Reasons the Minister may refuse to issue an ATD include reasons relating to:

If an appropriate delegate has reasonable grounds to suspect fraud or dishonesty in an application for an ATD, the application will not be processed and a decision on entitlement will not be made (section 19A of the Passports Act).

Lost or stolen Australian travel documents

Lost or stolen Australian travel documents (ATDs) must be reported as soon as practicable and cancelled immediately. Repeated loss or theft may result in a Reduced Validity Passport.

Lost and stolen travel documents can provide criminals with the potential to assume another identity, to carry out criminal activity in another name and to travel illegally. Fraudulently obtained travel documents are a key enabler for serious crime such as drug trafficking, people smuggling and terrorism. 

The legislation and policy in relation to lost and stolen ATDs aim to encourage persons to take all reasonable steps to protect their ATD and to report any lost or stolen ATD immediately. ATDs reported as lost and stolen are cancelled immediately to help protect the holder’s identity and prevent the document’s illegal use.

The Australian Government has a Memorandum of Understanding with some countries and Interpol which allows the sharing of information on lost and stolen travel documents. ATDs that have been reported as lost or stolen are regularly reported to Interpol and appropriate border control authorities.

Where a person has had more than one ATD lost or stolen in a 5 year period, they will only be entitled to a Reduced Validity Passport, unless they can demonstrate they took all reasonable steps to protect their ATD and the loss or theft was out of their control.

For clients with repeated lost or stolen travel documents, subsection 17(2) item 10 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015 mandates a reduction in validity to a maximum of:

  • five years where the client has lost or had stolen two travel documents in the previous five years
  • two years where the client has lost or had stolen three or more travel documents in the previous five years.

This is a legislative requirement. The relevant ordinary passport application fee applies, even if the passport is to be issued with reduced validity.

Information on lost and stolen passports is also available on the passports website.

Damaged Australian travel documents

An Australian travel document (ATD) is an important document and all due care should be taken to ensure it is protected. Damage can cause delays while travelling or render an ATD invalid.

For the purposes of subsection 20(2) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), section 18 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015 provides that an ATD ceases to be valid if it is damaged such that the Minister (or delegate) is satisfied that it is no longer usable:

  • as evidence of the identity and citizenship of its holder or
  • to facilitate international travel. 

Section 24 of the Passports Act authorises an officer (as defined in section 6 of the Passports Act) to demand the surrender of an invalid ATD, including a damaged document, particularly if the damage is serious or suspicious.

This is intended to protect the holder from experiencing potentially costly and distressing delays if prevented from entering a country due to the condition of the document while travelling and to mitigate fraud.

An ATD that is so badly damaged that it cannot be recognised as an ATD, or presented at lodgement, will be treated as lost or stolen.

A travel document with only minor damage may continue to be used, but the holder may encounter difficulties, particularly if the condition of the document deteriorates while travelling, and should be advised to replace it as soon as possible.

A damaged passport may be used to support a streamlined renewal application, or an application for a minor damage replacement, provided it is not so badly damaged that it cannot be used to confirm the identity of the holder (or the damage is suspicious).

The damaged passport must also have more than two years validity remaining to be eligible for the lower cost replacement passport (with the same expiry date as the passport being replaced).

An ATD that is found to be faulty, for example to have a faulty chip, will be replaced without the need for a new application or application fee.

If the ATD or chip has been damaged while in the control of the client, unless exceptional circumstances exist, the client is responsible for the replacement.

Information on damaged and faulty passports is also available on the passports website.

Invalid Australian travel documents

An Australian travel document (ATD) ceases to be valid on the date specified (the expiry date) or when it is cancelled or in certain circumstances. These circumstances may be specified in an observation on the document (for example, valid for one-way travel only). They also include where the document is seriously damaged or the holder loses their Australian citizenship or dies.

Under section 20 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), an ATD ceases to be valid when the first of the following occurs:

  • at a time or when a circumstance occurs that is specified in the Australian Passports Determination 2015 (the Passports Determination) as invalidating an ATD (such as serious damage to the travel document or death or loss of citizenship of the holder)
  • at the time specified on the document (that is, the expiry date) or
  • when the document is cancelled.

An ATD is not valid while it is suspended under section 22A of the Passports Act. See: Suspended Australian travel documents below.

It is important to remove invalid travel documents from circulation so that they cannot be used for illegal activities.

Where a document ceases to be valid at a time or in a circumstance specified in the Passports Determination as invalidating an Australian travel document, the document must be recorded as invalid in the passport system.

It should also be recovered and physically cancelled wherever possible. This protects the integrity of Australian travel documents and enhances national and international security. Where a document expires or is cancelled the risk of misuse is lower.

Cancelled Australian travel documents

Australian travel documents (ATDs) may be cancelled by an appropriate delegate under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) for specified and unspecified reasons.

Subsection 22(1) of the Passports Act provides a broad discretion for the Minister (or an appropriate delegate) to cancel an ATD in unspecified circumstances, including on the request of the holder.

Subsection 22(2) of the Passports Act sets out a number of specified circumstances in which the Minister (or an appropriate delegate) may cancel an ATD. These include where:

  • the document is still valid when the holder applies for, or is issued with, another Australian travel document
  • the document has been lost or stolen
  • the holder dies
  • a competent authority requests the document be cancelled
  • the Minister (or delegate) becomes aware of a circumstance that would have required or permitted the Minister to refuse to issue the travel document had the Minister been aware of the circumstance immediately before the document was issued.

Most of the Minister’s powers to cancel an ATD under section 22 of the Passports Act are delegated. However, these delegations vary depending on the reason for the cancellation. Before cancelling an ATD, officers must ensure they have the appropriate delegation to cancel the document for the relevant reason.

A decision to cancel an ATD under section 22 of the Passports Act is reviewable (paragraph 48(c) of the Passports Act).

Wherever possible, an ATD that has been cancelled should be physically cancelled (MRZ and corresponding part of front cover cut off) as well as electronically cancelled in the passport system. This ensures the cancelled travel document is removed from circulation and cannot be misused (for example, for identity fraud or illegal travel) or mistaken by the client for their valid travel document.

Where a travel document is not available for physical cancellation, it must be voided (electronically cancelled in the passports system) and marked for impound.

Section 22AA of the Passports Act provides that the Minister must cancel an Australian passport that has been issued to a reportable offender where a competent authority makes a refusal/cancellation request in relation to the person.

A decision to cancel an Australian passport under section 22AA of the Passports Act is not reviewable, as there is no discretion in this decision.

Suspended Australian travel documents

Provisions under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) and the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 (the Foreign Passports Act) mitigate the security risk to Australia and Australians from persons travelling overseas to engage in terrorist activities.

An Australian travel document (ATD) may be suspended for 14 days based on a request by the Director-General of Security of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) relating to security risk (section 22A of the Passports Act).

Similarly, a foreign travel document may be demanded up for 14 days based on a request by the Director-General of Security relating to security risk (sections 15A and 16A of the Foreign Passports Act).

These provisions enable the Australian Government to proactively mitigate the security risk to Australia and Australians from persons travelling overseas to engage in terrorist activities.

Demand for surrender

Under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) and the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 (the Foreign Passports Act) authorised officers may demand the surrender of Australian travel documents (ATDs) and impound them in specified circumstances.

Sections 23 to 25 of the Passports Act and sections 16 to 17 of the Foreign Passports Act provide for an officer under the Passports Act or an enforcement officer under the Foreign Passports Act to demand the surrender of a person’s travel documents in specified circumstances.

Once surrendered, the travel documents are impounded—that is taken into the Australian Government’s possession.

The ability to demand the surrender of a person’s travel documents:

  • supports Australian and international law enforcement
  • helps protect children from international parental child abduction
  • protects the security and integrity of the Australian passports system by preventing the illegal use of Australian travel documents. 

It is an offence if a person does not immediately surrender their Australian and/or foreign travel documents if demanded to do so by an authorised officer. Penalties can include imprisonment or a fine, or both.

Under section 26 of the Passports Act, a Customs officer may also seize an ATD or other document that is not in the possession or control of any individual and the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the document is suspicious.

Offences

Offences under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) and the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 (the Foreign Passports Act) carry penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or 1,000 penalty units or both.

Offences relating to Australian travel documents (ATDs) are provided for under Part 3 and Part 4 of the Passports Act.

Offences relating to foreign travel documents are provided for under Part 2 and Part 3 of the Foreign Passports Act.

The offence provisions are intended to:

  • combat the trafficking of lost, stolen and false travel documents for use in connection with criminal activities, such as people smuggling, drug smuggling and terrorism
  • prevent fraud concerning the issuance and use of ATDs
  • deter the abuse of public office in the issuance and administration of ATDs.

The Passports Act and the Foreign Passports Act provide for penalties of up to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment or 1,000 penalty units or both.

In some instances, penalties for the offences are cumulative. For example, if a person sells two genuine or false ATDs, the maximum penalty set out in section 33 of the Passports Act is doubled (i.e. 20 years imprisonment or 2,000 penalty units or both).

These penalties are consistent with other offences in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and the Migration Act 1958 that aim to prevent the use of false identity and citizenship documents in Australia.

In addition to the criminal aspects, people who are victims of passport and identity crime often suffer emotional and financial costs. For victims of identity crime, IDCARE is available for support and advice.

Privacy and disclosures

The Australian Passport Office (APO) handles and protects the personal information of clients in accordance with the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act), the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act), the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

An officer who breaches the provisions in the Passports Act or the Privacy Act may face a criminal or civil penalty, or both. DFAT’s Privacy Policy and systems also protect personal information from misuse, interference and loss, and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.

The collection, use and disclosure of personal information is permitted under the Passports Act:

  • in relation to the operation of the Act (for example to establish identity, citizenship and entitlement to an Australian travel document (ATD))
  • to mitigate the risk associated with lost, stolen or otherwise suspicious ATDs
  • for specified purposes such as law enforcement, family law and related matters and to assist border management and facilitate international travel.

Clients applying for an ATD must declare they have read the Notice about the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information, which sets out how their information may be collected, used or disclosed in accordance with the law.

Information about Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information is also available on the passports website.

Review of decisions

Only those decisions specified as reviewable under passports legislation are eligible for administrative review. Certain decisions are not reviewable. A person affected by a reviewable decision made by the Minister or following internal review may request review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Section 48 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 and section 30 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015 set out the decisions relating to Australian travel documents (ATDs) that are reviewable.

Section 23 of the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 sets out the decisions relating to foreign travel documents that are reviewable.

These decisions are reviewable under administrative law, either by the department or the AAT. The department and the AAT can only review those decisions that the law specifically states are reviewable.

Review under administrative law is merits based, that is, the decision can be overturned if the reviewer does not think the original decision resulted in the best outcome, even if the decision was legally made. This differs from judicial review, which looks only at the legality of a decision.

Several decisions are specifically not reviewable. Where the legislation specifies that decisions are not reviewable, it is usually because they are procedural in nature and not discretionary. However, certain decisions relating to children are also not reviewable. These are matters better dealt with by the Family Court than the administrative appeals regime.

Information on Review of decisions is also available on the passports website.

Delegations and authorisations

The Minister is designated to exercise most of the powers and functions under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (the Passports Act) and the Australian Passports Determination 2015 (the Passports Determination). Most of these functions are delegated to officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Minister’s Authorisations and Delegations instrument.

Section 51 of the Passports Act provides that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (the Minister) may delegate to an officer (as defined in section 6 of the Passports Act) any or all of the Minister’s powers and functions under specified provisions of the Passports Act.

Section 52 of the Passports Act provides that the Minister may also, in writing, authorise other persons to perform specified functions of an officer under the Passports Act.

Section 29 of the Passports Determination specifies further powers and functions that the Minister may delegate.

Section 23A of the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005  provides that the Minister may delegate one power under that Act to a Senior Executive Service (SES) officer only.

Endorsements and observations

An endorsement or observation may be used to provide information relevant to the identity of the holder and/or the purpose of their travel. It must not alter any details on the Australian travel document (ATD).

Section 55 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 authorises the Minister (or delegate) to endorse, make an observation or specify such particulars on an ATD as the Minister (or delegate) thinks fit (section 26 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015).

An endorsement or observation may be used to provide information relevant to the identity of the holder and/or the purpose of their travel.

An endorsement or observation must not conflict with, or be used to try to alter, any personal details on the data page.

An endorsement or observation may be printed directly onto the observation page when the ATD is issued. It may also be printed on a label that is placed on the observation page of an ATD with a stamp/seal after the ATD has been issued.

A fee applies to applications for observations that are made after an ATD has been issued. See also: Passport fees

Fees, waivers and refunds

Unless a fee waiver applies, application fees must be paid at lodgement for an application to be accepted and processed.

The Australian Passports (Application Fees) Act 2005 (the Application Fees Act) imposes fees in relation to Australian travel documents (ATDs) and for related purposes.

Sections 5 and 6 of the Australian Passports (Application Fees) Determination 2015 (the Application Fees Determination) set out the application fees for ATDs and additional fees for priority processing and overseas lodgement.

Passport fees are adjusted on 1 January each year, in line with the movement in the Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI). The amount of each fee is worked out with reference to an indexation factor set out in Section 5 of the Application Fees Determination.

Section 56 of the Australian Passports Act 2005 and Sections 27 and 28 of the Australian Passports Determination 2015 provide for the waiver or refund of these fees in certain circumstances. 

Refunds may also be provided for administrative reasons, including (but not limited to) where the client has been charged a fee in error or where a passport application is deemed incomplete and must be withdrawn.

Information on passport fees and refunds is also available on the passports website.

Priority, compelling and compassionate issue

In Australia and London, priority processing (two business days) is available to eligible clients for an additional fee. Clients with compelling or compassionate circumstances may qualify for even more urgent issue. Clients with urgent travel in other locations may apply for an Emergency Passport.

Eligible clients in Australia and London can pay the Priority Processing Fee (PPF). This ensures their Full Validity Passport will be ready to collect (or for the Australian Passport Office (APO) to send to them) within two business days of the APO receiving the application and all required documents. This is provided all requirements are met.

Clients in Australia (or London) who need a passport more urgently (that is, in less than two business days) due to compelling or compassionate circumstances can contact the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) or the High Commission in London to discuss their circumstances. If they meet the compelling or compassionate criteria, an urgent passport will be issued as soon as possible. Again, this is provided all requirements are met. The PPF still applies in compelling cases, but does not apply in compassionate circumstances.

In all other locations overseas (other than in London), clients who need a passport urgently can apply for an Emergency Passport (either instead of or in addition to their Full Validity Passport). Posts (apart from London) only have the capability to print emergency documents and cannot issue a Full Validity Passport in two business days, as these are produced in Australia.

Information on urgent applications is also available on the passports website.

Alerts

Alerts are an internal notification of information that might affect entitlement to an Australian travel document (ATD). They do not prevent travel.

An alert is an internal warning or notification placed on a client’s record to draw attention to a matter that may affect the person’s entitlement to be issued an ATD at their next application.

Alerts can be placed on a client’s record for a wide variety of reasons. If an individual does not have a passport record, one can be created for the purpose of adding the alert.

If an alert has been placed on a person’s record and the person applies for a travel document, the alert warns the officer processing the application that certain information must be considered or that a travel document must not be issued.

Alerts must be actioned or resolved before an ATD may be issued.

Alerts relate only to the issue of an ATD. They have no relevance to a person’s movements in or out of Australia. They cannot prevent travel where a person already holds a valid Australian or foreign travel document or is able to obtain a foreign travel document.

Most alerts have an expiry date. When alerts are created, a period of time must be specified. For example, a child alert that is not supported by a court order will expire after 12 months. A child alert that is supported by a court order will expire at the time specified in the order or, if no time is specified, when the child turns 18.

Information on child alert requests is also available on the passports website.

Note: A child alert relates only to the issue of an ATD, it does not prevent travel.

Back to top