Australia Airports Plan to Eliminate Passports


The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection recently announced a plan to revolutionize airport security by 2020. It’s the latest and most extensive part of the government’s five-year Seamless Traveler initiative. Facial, iris and/or fingerprint recognition technologies will replace passport checks, allowing travelers to pass through Australian airports without any paper documents. Passport scanners, landing cards and immigration desks will soon be Aussie history.

Implementing the technology in Australian airports will cost a whopping AU$ 93.7 million ($71 million). The first installation is set for July in Canberra Airport. The government hopes to introduce the system in Sydney and Melbourne airports by November, with plans to implement it throughout national airports by March 2019. If everything goes as planned, 90 percent of Australia airport travel will be automatically processed, with minimal human interaction, by 2020.

Currently, Australian airports use a SmartGate electronic border processing system, which is less than 10 years old. SmartGate matches the face of the passenger with the microchip image on his or her e-passport.  However, soon this technology will be superseded and traditional immigration desks will be replaced by identifying electronic stations.


In a comment to The Sydney Morning Herald, John Coyne, head of border security at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, mused that passengers could pass through a corridor rather than gates. Travelers would have their biometrics measured there without even pausing.

“Whilst [travelers] still have to carry their passport, [they] may not have to present their passport at all in the long term,” Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement to ABC News. “But in the immediate term, this will make it easier [and] quicker for people going in and out of our airports.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced earlier this month that facial identification software might be used throughout U.S. airports to help prevent identity fraud. In fact, John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City has already adopted this technology as part of its $10 billion renovation.

The availability of passenger data, such as travel history, ticket information and criminal records, has accelerated the progression of biometric technology. Although it seems promising, the contactless system is still underdeveloped and has been met with some apprehension—namely, concerns about privacy and racial bias.