INDEPENDENT NEWS

Australian Govt Restricts Issue Of Passports

Published: Wed 1 Oct 2003 11:54 AM
Australian Govt Restricts Issue Of Passports Offshore
To strengthen the integrity and security of its passport issuing system, the Australian Government will restrict the issue of its passports overseas from December. This initiative is part of the Government’s response to increased concerns about terrorism and identity fraud; both having been identified as world-wide problems.
The change is coupled with the introduction of a new more secure “M” series passport which because of its technological features, will only be issued in Canberra, London and Washington.
From December 2003, full validity Australian passports will only be produced at one of these three regional centres, the passport being couriered back to diplomatic missions overseas for delivery to the client in ten working days
Australian diplomatic missions overseas will continue to conduct passport interviews, accept lodgement of application forms, confirm entitlement and carry out local identity checks, but will be able to issue only limited validity emergency passports to enable urgent unforseen travel.
The measures being taken by Australia are consistent with those implemented by several other countries to improve the security of passport issuing arrangements.
Efforts are being made by the Australian High Commission in Wellington to make Australian citizens in New Zealand aware of the changes with widespread circulation of the attached notice.
Notice to Australian Citizens
I am writing to you about a matter of interest to all Australians - the integrity and security of our passport issuing system.
Current concerns about terrorism and identity fraud underscore the need to ensure that Australian passports are issued only to those who are entitled to them. Like terrorism, identity fraud is a worldwide problem. In Australia it costs the community an estimated $4 billion annually.
As part of the Australian Government's response, a new and more secure passport will be released in December this year.
While the current passport remains one of the most secure in the world, recent technological developments are being incorporated in the new version to provide further enhancements to the security of the document. More secure production arrangements are also being introduced. The technology required to produce the new passport will not be available at all Australian missions overseas. It will no longer be possible for Australian citizens to obtain a full validity passport from an Australian mission overseas (except London and Washington) at short notice.
When the move to regionalisation takes place in December 2003, all Australian missions will continue to conduct passport interviews, accept lodgement of application forms, confirm entitlement to an Australian passport and carry out local identity checks. However, in most cases the passport itself will be produced at a regional production centre (Canberra, London or Washington) and the document couriered back for delivery to the client. The turnaround time for this service will be ten working days, calculated from time of lodgement until the replacement passport is received back at the mission.
These changes are consistent with what other countries have been doing to improve the security of their passport issuing arrangements. For example, the United States, has already addressed the risk associated with shipping blank documents around the world by not issuing passports at any of their overseas posts, while other nations have rationalised their operations to limit their exposure.
If you have an urgent unforeseen need to travel and cannot wait to receive a full validity passport, you will be able to obtain a limited validity emergency passport in a timeframe to meet your travel needs. The emergency passport will have the same look and feel as a full validity document but will contain only four visa pages. Its validity will be restricted to meet the immediate travel needs of the applicant.
From December onwards, to avoid any inconvenience, Australian citizens should apply for a passport in sufficient time to allow for the ten day turnaround. You should also continue to ensure that your current passport has sufficient validity (normally six months) to meet other countries’ visa requirements.
A range of other changes have been made to strengthen our passport issuing procedures. These relate to evidentiary document requirements for passport applications and the proof required to demonstrate changes of name. Details can be obtained from the Consular/ Passport section of the Australian High Commission in Wellington.
Independent benchmarking confirms that Australia's passport issuing system ranks among the world best. Maintaining the integrity of the system is in the interests of all bona fide travellers. It is a task to which the Australian Government will continue to give high priority.
Allan Hawke
High Commissioner

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