Digital passenger declarations ready for border reopening

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Digital passenger declarations ready for border reopening

Platform launches this week, but arrivals cards remain some way off.

International travellers flying into Australia will begin using the federal government’s permissions capability platform to complete arrivals checks from this week.

But work to integrate the new Pega-based platform with existing border systems is ongoing, meaning the incoming passenger card is not expected to be digitised until later this year.

Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo revealed the launch of reporting through the platform on Monday, as the government prepares for the reopening of borders on February 21.

“The digital passenger declaration – or DPD capability – will be released tomorrow,” he told senate estimates on Monday.

The DPD is the first use case to be built onto the permissions platform, with visas, import permits, personnel identity cards, licences and registrations also being considered.

Accenture is developing the DPD to replace paper-based incoming passenger cards and Covid-19 travel declarations, having won an initial $60 million deal last year.

The project follows the government’s failed billion-dollar attempt to outsource Australia’s visa processing platform, which cost almost $100 million before being dumped.

Home Affairs also previously attempted to do away with the incoming passenger card in 2017 as part of its ‘seamless traveller’ initiative.

Pezzullo said the DPD will initially replace the Australian Travel Declaration (ATD), which has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.

The ATD is used to collect information about a person, including their vaccination status and travel history. It must be submitted by a traveller at least 72 hours before departure.

Travellers arriving before February 18 are being asked to continue using the ATD, while those arriving after that date will need to submit a DPD. 

“Subsequent releases” of the DPD capability are then expected to see the paper-based incoming passenger card replaced, Pezzullo said.

Later in the day, he said having a "fully integrated the incoming passenger card" that is integrated with border systems is "a technology step still to go".

Technology and major capabiltiy group manager Michael Milford explained that three releases of the DPD were planned: February, April and June.

“At the end of June, the DPD will be complete and will be integrated with our backend systems," he told estimates.

"The greatest difficulty we have is not... the form, it’s actually with the integration of the backend systems."

Home Affairs began trialling the Pega-based platform in December, having initially planned to have the capability up-and-running in June 2021.

In January, the government introduced a new instrument specifying the circumstances where a physical passenger card may be required in addition to a DPD.

Circumstances are where a “person’s DPD cannot be access by a clearance authority” and a “clearance offer reasonably suspects that the information... is not accurate or complete”.

Updated to include additional information from estimates at 5:50pm

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