I recently visited Melbourne for work and I can tell you the immigration process for foreigners to enter Australia at airports is amazing. In fact, there is nothing that is stamped in your passport and everything is electronic. I love the process as it helps business travellers a lot by saving space on their passport pages. Moreover, it is hassle free with very small lines at the airport. I saw boards saying, if you are from New Zealand or Australian Citizen or PR, you can use the Kisoks even and not even go through standard immigration line. Anyways, in this article we look at the process at entry and exit for internationals.
Electronic Visa – Australia : I hold an Indian passport and applied for business visa for Australia electronically on their website and got the approval even electronically as a document. There is nothing that is stamped on the passport. You do not even have to submit physical passport. Because it was my first time, I had to go to VFS Global Service Center to give my biometrics (fingerprints and photo). That’s it. Anyways, the visa either tourist or business is electronic and there is nothing stamped on your passport
Airline Verification – Visa Grant Letter : The airlines usually ask for visa and the details. Surprisingly, they did not even ask. I am assuming that they have the details, because, it is all electronic. In any case, it is always recommended to carry a copy of your visa grant letter. It looks like below. You can see the validity, visa type, etc.
Australia – Incoming Passenger Card : If you are an international, you will be given an incoming passenger card by the airline in the flight. You need to fill in your details. Pretty standard info, like your name, passport, address, contact details and your visa status details. There are two sides to it and they look like below. All you need to do is fill in these forms and carry it with you to give to the immigration officer at the airport.
At the Airport – Port of Entry / Border Control – Process : At the airport, you would have few options like, if you are a resident in Australia ( even international) or New Zealand Citizen and some other special cases, you can use Kiosks in the airport and you do not even need to go to border control officer / immigration clearance line. If you are a international/ foreigner on business visa or visitor visa, you will need to go through the immigration line that says, all passports. The process is pretty straight forward, the border control officer ( like CBP officer in US) looks at you, your passport, and the form and maybe captures a picture of you and lets you go. Nothing is stamped on passport. Initially, I was confused, I asked someone and they said, nothing will be stamped on the passport. Anyways, it was cool. That’s it. The process was very seamless. If you are a business traveller, you will love it as there is no stamp and you save the space of half a page in passport J
Customs Check Process : Once you are done with the border control process, you will be in another line at the baggage claim area to verify what you are getting into the country. It is pretty straightforward, this line was longer than other line. It is similar to customs process in US. They do random checks and send some set of people to have their bags scanned and rest of them are let go normally without check. Just make sure you do not carry stuff that you are not supposed to carry.
Exiting Australia – Border Control process : I was very impressed with the exit process. It is one of the very few countries that use Face Recognition and biometrics and fully automated system for exit process. First, you have the standard security check for your bags, when you go to the boarding area, then for the immigration, it is fully automated. You just put your boarding pass/passport and then you are let inside and you stand and turn towards camera, the system takes a picture and you are matched for the same and then you are done, the door opens. No stamping in passport, no paperwork, etc. In case, there is a mismatch in photo or anything, then the system will prompt for additional screening where you will have officer to verify. But, it works for the most part. Of course, one of my colleague had issue, because her original biometric picture was not taken well and other friend has passport letters not fully legible with printing. Of course, these are exceptions.
Overall, Australia immigration/ border control process is one the smoothest and modern process in the world . How has your experience been with Australia ?