Australia Post to keep passport services for three more years

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Australia Post to keep passport services for three more years

As digital authentication looms.

Australia Post will continue to provide passport application services for at least the next three years as the federal government works to bring traveller processing fully online.

The postal body was staring down a potential loss of its passport application lodgement deal with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last year when the agency issued an expression of interest for the service after 30 June 2017.

DFAT wanted passport applications to be conducted primarily online, with electronic checking of photos and documentation.

But later in the year Australia Post won a 12-month extension while the agency considered its options beyond July 2018.

DFAT has since decided to retain its deal with Australia Post for passport applications for the next three years, with the possibility of a further three-year extension.

The new deal starts on July 1. For the past 30 years Australia Post has processed 96 percent of all passport applications in Australia, or around 1.9 million each year.

DFAT late last year set its new ATLAS passport application system live, allowing people to lodge and renew their passports online. It is initially available only to applicants in South Australia and Tasmania.

The system lets citizens complete their passport application online and print a checklist that can be lodged with Australia Post. However DFAT has said it hopes the entire process will in future be conducted online.

Smart gates and biometrics

DFAT and the Immigration department are working towards a future where travellers don't need to present their passport at border gates. 

Immigration has long stated a plan to be clearing 90 percent of international travellers through automated solutions by 2020.

It signed a $22.5 million deal with Vision-Box last July to replace all the smartgates at airport arrival halls around the country with an automated solution that uses facial recognition to clear travellers.

The gates match individuals against facial images stored in airlines' advanced passenger processing systems, rather than their passport chip, removing the need for physical presentation of a passport.

Canberra Airport was the first to begin operating the new gates, which will initially still require passports to be presented; the 'contactless' mode will be switched on at an undefined later date.

The remaining 105 smartgates will be installed across Australia's other international airports throughout next year and 2019.

The smartgate overhaul is one of three projects under Immigration's 'seamless traveller' initiative.

The initiative will also see the incoming passenger card and exit marshalling process automated, and a new Pega business process management system installed to act as the central decision maker for border clearances.

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