Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:29 GMT

Australia: How passports are issued, including the procedures for identification of the holder, and security features of the passport, especially related to the photograph; whether unauthorized passports that appear genuine are in circulation (August 2002-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 26 July 2007
Citation / Document Symbol AUS102284.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Australia: How passports are issued, including the procedures for identification of the holder, and security features of the passport, especially related to the photograph; whether unauthorized passports that appear genuine are in circulation (August 2002-2006), 26 July 2007, AUS102284.E, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Australia is reportedly one of the first countries in the world to issue a microchip-enabled e-passport (Australia 25 Oct. 2005). Since October 2005, e-passports have been issued to all new passport applicants as well as to applicants seeking to renew their passport (ibid.).

The e-passport is similar in appearance to the previous Australian passport (ibid.). However, the e-passport's centre page contains a microchip that holds the digitized "facial image" of the passport holder (ibid.). The chip also contains the passport holder's personal information, including name, gender, date of birth, nationality, passport number and passport expiration date (Australia n.d.a) .

Digitized facial images are also stored in a database maintained by the government of Australia (Cognitec 2 Nov. 2005). Face recognition technology is used to compare a passport applicant's facial image with images in the database (ibid.; Australia n.d.). According to the government of Australia, this technology is a more accurate way of confirming the identity of a passport applicant (ibid.) It is, for example, a way to verify that the applicant has not previously applied for a passport or other travel document using another name (Cognitec 2 Nov. 2005).

According to the government of Australia, the technology behind the e-passports significantly improves the security of Australian passports (Australia 25 Oct. 2005). However, in 2006, Lukas Grunwald, a participant at a conference for computer "hackers" in the United States (US) reportedly demonstrated how to "clone" a German e-passport ( 4 Aug. 2006) by capturing the information contained in the microchip from a short distance using an electronic reader (BBC 15 Dec. 2006). According to the online information technology (IT) publication, the fact that e-passports are standardized means the ability to clone personal information could apply to any e-passport that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) (4 Aug. 2006).

In a December 2006 media release, Australia's Parlimentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs addressed the issue of cloning directly, saying that Australian e-passports are "highly" secure, and that being able to access details on the e-passport chip is of no greater use than taking a photocopy of the personal information page of a passport (Australia 8 Dec. 2006). This personal information, in and of itself, is not enough to forge an Australian passport, she stated (ibid.). The Parliamentary Secretary further said that there have been no reported cases of anyone "tampering" with Australian e-passports (ibid.).

With respect to the process for issuing passports, on 9 May 2006, the government of Australia announced it had allocated an additional $14.6 million Australian dollars (AUD), [approximately CAD 13.2 (Canada 15 Jan. 2007)] to achieve the following "security enhancements":

  • Increased staff resources dedicated to detecting passport fraud;
  • Increased passport production time spent vetting and scrutinising passport applications at the interview stage and approval stages;
  • Provision of high-quality passport training to guarantee the quality, integrity and effectiveness of passport processes;
  • Introduction of a network of compliance officers to ensure internal review is focussed on the quality of decision making and the consistent application of passport policies and procedures; and
  • Upgrading the Passports Watch Office to a 24-hour, seven-day-a- week operation to enable real-time resolution of travel document issues that arise at Australian and international borders. (Australia 9 May 2006)

In 2005, Australia and the US began a pilot project to test a passport control system known as the Regional Management Alert List (US 28 Oct. 2005). The system enables both countries to access an automated database of each other's lost, stolen or invalid passports (ibid.). After joining the project in April 2006, New Zealand reportedly identified nearly 50 people who tried to enter the country using Australian passports that had been lost or stolen (The Age 27 Sept 2006).

According to the Annual Report of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the department detected 485 cases of passport fraud from 2005 to 2006 (Australia 2006).

Information about whether unauthorized passports that appear genuine are in circulation could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In a telephone interview on 21 December 2006, a representative from the Australian High Commission in Ottawa stated that the most up-to-date information on how passports are issued can be found on the government of Australia Web site. Passport application information on this Web site is as follows (Australia n.d.b).

Passport application forms can be completed and printed online, but not lodged. You will need to sign the completed application form in black ink, provide two new colour photographs of yourself (with your name printed on the back of one photo) and all supporting documents requested on the application form.

In Australia

Adult application and renewal forms should be personally lodged by the applicant at an Australia Post office. Child passport applications should be lodged by a parent/person with a parental responsibility for the child.

According to the Australian Government Web site, the following original documents are required to confirm citizenship and identity (Australia n.d.c):

To confirm Australian citizenship

Applicants must provide one of the following documents:

  • Your full Australian birth certificate. If you were born on or after 20 August 1986, proof that one of your parents was an Australian citizen or permanent resident of Australia at the time of your birth;
  • Your previous Australian passport that had two years' validity or more and was issued after 20 August 1986; or
  • Your Australian citizenship certificate (including an extract from the register of citizenship by descent or extract from the register of Australian births abroad) (ibid.).

To confirm identity

You need to provide one original of the following three combinations of documents.

NOTE: The various categories are listed at the bottom of the section.

Combination 1- two documents

  • One document from category A, and
  • One document from category B.
  • NOTE: if neither of these documents shows your current address, you will also need one document from category C that shows your current address.

Combination 2 (if you cannot provide combination 1)

  • Two documents from category B, and
  • One official document that includes your photograph.
  • NOTE: if none of these documents shows your current address, you will also need one document from category C that shows your current address.

Combination 3 (if you cannot provide all the documents for combination 1 or combination 2)

  • At least three documents from category C that show your name and current address, and
  • One official document that includes your photograph and signature.
  • NOTE: These documents must be no more than 12 months old. If you choose this combination, your application may take longer to process.

Category A

  • Current driving licence issued by an Australian state or territory
  • Birth card issued by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Category B

  • Medicare card issued by the Health Insurance Commission
  • Centrelink card issued by Centrelink
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) card issued by DVA
  • Credit card or account card issued by a financial institution in Australia

Category C

  • Motor vehicle registration or insurance papers
  • Property rates notice
  • Property lease agreement
  • Home insurance papers
  • Utilities bills e.g., telephone, electricity or gas
  • Bank statements showing your residential address. (ibid.)

The government information page also indicated that birth extracts and commemorative certificates are not accepted as proof of identity (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Age [Melbourne]. 27 September 2006. "NZ detects Australian Passport Fraud." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]

Australia. 21 December 2006. Australian High Commission, Ottawa. Telephone interview with a passport services representative.
_____. 8 December 2006. "E-passports – Secure for Australian Travellers." Minister for Foreign Affairs. [Accessed 29 December 2006]
_____. 9 May 2006. "Australian Passports – Enhancing Security and Integrity." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2006]
_____. 2006. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Annual Report 2005-2006. [Accessed 29 Dec. 2006]
_____. 25 October 2005. Minister for Foreign Affairs. "Australia Launches ePassports." (Media Release) [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]
_____. N.d.a. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade."The Australian ePassport." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]
_____. N.d.b. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "Where to Lodge Your Passport Application Form." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2006]
_____. N.d.c. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "Documents That Confirm Your Citizenship and Identity (in Australia)." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 15 December 2006. David Reid. "EPassports 'at risk' from Cloning." [Accessed 29 Dec. 2006]

Canada. 13 Febuary 2007. Bank of Canada. "10 Year Currency Converter." [Accessed 13 Feb. 2007]

Cognitec. 2 November 2005. "Australian Government Orders Cognitec's Face Recognition Software for Passport Issuance." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006] [San Francisco]. 4 August 2006. Will Sturgeon. "Biometric Passport Cracked and Cloned." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]

United States (US). 28 October 2005. Department of Homeland Security. "U.S., Australia Joins Forces to Limit Fraudulent Travel Documents." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Europol, Interpol, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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