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Protocol Guidelines

14. Airport facilitation for senior foreign visitors

Facilitation services are available for eligible foreign visitors arriving or departing on international commercial flights at the following Australian airports: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Facilitation is not available for domestic arrivals or departures. Embassy and/or consulate officials can receive or farewell visitors at the arrival or departure gate, after clearing security screening.

14.1 Who is eligible?

The following persons are eligible for airport facilitation:

  • head of state and accompanying spouse and children (see chapter 15)
  • head of national government and accompanying spouse and children (see chapter 15)
  • foreign minister and accompanying spouse and children (see chapter 15)
  • guest of the Australian Government (see chapter 15)

Senior Foreign Visitors

  • deputy head of state
  • deputy head of national government
  • parliamentary presiding officers – Speaker or President of a House of Parliament or equivalent (official visit)
  • former head of state
  • former head of national government
  • minister of national government (official visit)
  • state or province governor or premier (official visit)
  • chief justice of highest national court (official visit)
  • central bank governor (official visit)
  • head of UN agency or equivalent (official visit)
  • guest of the Australian Parliament (email request to Parliamentary Relations Office of the Parliament of Australia at ipro@aph.gov.au)
  • head of Canberra-based diplomatic mission on first arrival and final departure (official visit)
  • non-resident head of diplomatic mission on arrival and departure for credentials presentation (official visit).

14.2 How to apply

Airport facilitation for persons arriving or departing on private, chartered or State aircraft is arranged by the aircraft's ground handling agents in Australia.

For persons arriving or departing on commercial flights, an application for airport facilitation must be submitted at least five working days before the visitor's arrival in Australia by completing the Airport Facilitation Request webform.

14.3 How does airport facilitation work?

14.3.1 International arrival

An Australian Border Force (ABF) officer accompanied by one diplomatic/consular representative will meet the visitor at the arrival gate. The visitor will be escorted to the international arrival point for priority entry processing, unless the mission has booked a VIP room where the visitor can be taken while entry formalities are completed. Delegation members accompanying the visitor will generally not receive facilitation, although reasonable efforts will be made to keep the travelling party together during arrival processing.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources officers at the airport will be informed in advance of the visitor's arrival so that mandatory quarantine procedures can be handled appropriately.

14.3.2. International departure

An ABF officer accompanied by one diplomatic/consular representative will escort the visitor to the passport control point for priority processing.

After passport processing, the ABF officer will escort the visitor and the diplomatic/consular representative through security screening to an airline lounge or the departure area. The ABF officer will then return the diplomatic/consular representative to the public area of the airport.

14.3.3 Transfer from/to international/domestic arrival/departure

For a transfer from an international to a connecting domestic flight, or vice versa, the diplomatic/consular representative should escort the visitor from one terminal to another (ABF will not be involved). This is particularly important at Sydney and Brisbane airports, where international and domestic terminals are physically separate.

14.3.4 Airport VIP rooms

Airport facilitation does not include access to airport VIP rooms. Embassies and consulates need to book these directly with airports.

14.4 International arrival and departure processes

Senior foreign visitors for whom airport facilitation is provided are still required to comply with aviation security screening and immigration, customs and quarantine requirements.

14.4.1 Aviation security screening

Australia's obligations under international and domestic law to protect senior foreign visitors from harassment or impairment of dignity do not displace its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of airports and airline passengers.

Under Australian legislation, Australian airports are required to implement strict security screening procedures in the interests of public safety. These procedures apply to all airline passengers and others entering airport secure zones.

While every effort is made to undertake security screening courteously and respectfully, a certain level of intrusion is unavoidable in complying with these legal requirements. All baggage and personal effects are subjected to X-ray screening to ensure weapons and other prohibited items do not enter airport secure zones or an aircraft cabin.

Screening of the person involves walking through a door frame metal detector. If an alarm sounds, the person must undergo further screening, which can include the re-screening of personal items, the use of a hand-held metal detector or a physical pat-down by a screening officer of the same gender. Private screening – away from public scrutiny – is normally available for a pat-down.

Airline passengers and others may be randomly selected at security and international departure points to undergo additional screening via body scanning equipment. Under the relevant regulations, selection must not be based on a person's gender, ethnicity or employment.

Airline passengers and others may also be randomly selected to undergo explosive trace detection (ETD) screening.

14.4.2 Visa requirements

All foreign visitors must hold a valid visa to enter Australia. They must also complete an Incoming Passenger Card.

14.4.3 Customs and quarantine requirements

Senior foreign visitors are not exempt from Australian quarantine requirements including import prohibitions. They will be required to undergo quarantine screening if:

  • they answer 'yes' to any of the questions on the Incoming Passenger Card
  • they declare on arrival that they are carrying quarantinable items
  • a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources officer has serious concerns that they are carrying quarantinable items.

For further information, go to:

14.4.4 Health issues

If a foreign visitor indicates on their Incoming Passenger Card that they have been in Africa, South or Central America or the Caribbean during the preceding six days, they will be asked whether they have been in a yellow fever endemic country during that period. If they answer 'yes', they will be asked to present an International Certificate of Yellow Fever Vaccination. If they are unable to present a valid certificate, they will still be permitted to enter Australia (they will be given a Yellow Fever Action Card providing instructions on what they should do if they develop symptoms of yellow fever).

For further information, refer to the Department of Health's Yellow fever - general fact sheet.

If a foreign visitor shows symptoms of an infectious disease while travelling to Australia, the Biosecurity Act 2015 requires that the Captain/Master of the vessel report this before arrival in Australia. A Biosecurity Officer may board the ship or aircraft to assess the ill person and facilitate medical assistance if required. Increased health screening may be introduced during the very rare event of a public health emergency.

14.5 Accompanying security personnel

If a visitor for whom facilitation is provided is accompanied by security personnel, please read the information provided in chapter 15.6.

14.6 Accompanying media - equipment

If a visitor for whom facilitation is provided is accompanied by media representatives, please read the information provided in chapter 15.7.

14.7 Key contacts

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