Passport applicants in South Australia and Tasmania are the first Australian citizens to use the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s new ATLAS passport application system to lodge and renew their passports online.
The system, which has been several years in the making, largely automates the process of applying for a passport using a smart form to guide citizens according to their individual circumstances.
It is the result of the seven-year passport redevelopment program that received just over $100 million in the 2010 federal budget to replace the department’s ageing passport application and issuing system, which reached end-of-life in 2015.
The program has delivered a new online application platform, data warehouse to host historical applicant data and support passport assessments, and a new passport production centre in Victoria.
The initiative has now concluded, and the department has begun transitioning passport applicants to the system starting with those in South Australia and Tasmania.
“Rollout of the online capability will be incremental, commencing with applicants lodging in South Australia and Tasmania in early 2017–18,” DFAT said in its latest annual report.
“Geographic coverage and user volumes will expand as confidence in the system grows.”
The application form allows citizens to complete their passport application online and print an application checklist that can then be lodged with Australia Post, which had its long-standing deal with the department for passport application lodgement services extended for 12 months earlier this year.
While the form is currently only available to domestic adult passport applications, the department indicated it will be extended to child and overseas applicants in the future.
DFAT hopes the new system will eventually see the entire passport application process conducted primarily online, with photos and documentation electronically checked for compliance.
“When fully functional, the new capabilities will support all aspects of the passports issuance process and provide a foundation for ongoing development and refinement as business needs emerge—including those associated with the live capture of passport images and the broader government digital transformation agenda,” it said.
The future for physical passports, however, is currently unclear: the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is preparing to remove the need for travellers to present their passports when departing Australia’s 10 international airports.
It recently awarded border technology provider Vision-Box a $22.5 million deal to replace airport smartgates with an automated solution that uses facial recognition instead to clear travellers.