The Australian immigration policies oblige foreign travelers to apply for a relevant visa for Australia in order to enter the country.
Since no visa on arrival is granted by the government, applicants must be sure to meet all the necessary visa requirements and apply before they reach the Australian border.
Depending on the permit one is requesting and the applicant’s nationality, the requirements may include (among others):
- Proof of financial status
- Health certificates
- Biometric data
- Travel plans
- Criminal record
- Evidence of reasons for travel
On this page, overseas visitors can find detailed information regarding biometrics — what they are, who needs to provide them, and what type of Australian visa requires them. If still in doubt, travelers can refer to their nearest Australian consulate or embassy for advice.
What Are Biometrics?
Biometrics are unique physical data about an individual. The characteristics most used as biometric information to identify a person are:
- Facial structure
- Iris (a part of the eye)
How is biometric data used by governments?
Because of its uniqueness and inimitability, biometric information is extraordinarily useful in checking the identity of individuals. For this reason, biometrics are used by law enforcement around the world to fight and prevent crimes like identity theft.
Several countries have started storing biometric data in their passports thanks to a microchip (these documents are called biometric passports or smart passports). Since this information is much more reliable than printed physical descriptions on traditional paper passports, smart passports are expected to become the global standard for travel documents in the future.
How the Australian authorities use biometrics
For what concerns foreign nationals, the Australian authorities collect and store biometrics (usually, a face photograph and fingerprints) in secure databases following the requirements of the Migration Act and the Privacy Act. This is done in order to:
- Protect the foreigner’s identity from fraud
- Keep the Australian borders and people safe
- Ensure the security of travelers
The information gathered by immigration and diplomatic officers may be checked against the one stored by Australian and international agencies to confirm the visitor’s identity, criminal record, and/ or protection status.
Who Needs to Provide their Biometric Information?
Visa applicants requesting certain types of Australian visas or coming from specific countries may be required to participate in the biometric screening program.
Not all foreigners need to provide the same information — for example, some may be asked to have their photograph and fingerprints taken, others may have to give just one of the two.
The following categories are not covered by the biometric program:
- Australian permanent residents and New Zealand passport holders
- Citizens of countries not participating in the program
- Some travelers requesting an electronic visa (such as the eTA for Australia and the eVisitor visa)
- Some individuals applying for a visa while in Australia
- APEC Business travel card holders
Biometric program exemptions
The below individuals are exempt from having their data collected:
- Sovereigns, Heads of State and Government and their family
- Government Ministers and their family while on official business
- Government and inter-governmental organization officials travelling on official business
- Diplomatic staff
- Special Purpose visa holders
Minors will have their photograph taken regardless of their age. However, children under the age of 5 don’t need to provide their fingerprints. If the applicant is younger than 16 years of age, a guardian must be present at the time of data collection.
Countries in the biometric program
Applicants lodging their request in the following nations may be included in the biometric system regardless of their country of citizenship:
- Bosnia and H.
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
What Visas Require Biometrics?
The following is a list of Australian visa subclasses that are part of the biometric program:
Permanent Family visas
- 100 – Partner
- 101 – Child
- 102 – Adoption
- 114 – Aged Dependent Relative
- 115 – Remaining Relative
- 116 – Carer
- 117 – Orphan Relative
Visitors and Other Temporary visas
- 400 – Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist)
- 403 – Temporary Work (International Relations) – Government Agreement, Foreign Government, Domestic Worker (Diplomatic/Consular), and Privileges and Immunities streams
- 408 – Temporary Activity – Invited Participant, Australian Government endorsed event, exchange, sport, religious worker, domestic worker (executive) and research activity types
- 417 – Working Holiday
- 457 – Business (Long Stay)
- 462 – Work and Holiday
- 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage
- 491 – Skilled Work
- 494 – Skilled work (Employer Sponsored)
- 600 – Visitor Visa
- 602 – Medical Treatment
- 771 – Transit Visa
Temporary Family visas
- 300 – Prospective Marriage
- 309 – Partner (Provisional)
- 445 – Dependent Child
- 461 – New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary)
- 870 – Sponsored Parent
- 500 – Student
- 590 – Student Guardian
- 200 – Refugee
- 201 – In-country Special Humanitarian
- 202 – Global Special Humanitarian
- 203 – Emergency Rescue
- 204 – Woman at Risk
- 785 – Temporary Protection
- 790 – Safe Haven Enterprise
- 866 – Protection
As outlined above, exceptions apply. This means that not all those applying for the aforementioned visas will need to provide the Australian authorities with their biometric information.
What Biometric System Does Australia Use?
Australia has announced in June 2020 that a new biometric system has gone live. It is called EBIS (Enterprise Biometric Identification Service) and it was created in collaboration with Unisys Corporation and IDEMIA.
The new system collects identification data thanks to IDEMIA’s facial and fingerprint recognition algorithms and it is said to be capable of processing large volumes of data. EBIS can also perform face, finger, iris, and voice recognition.
In 2019, over 9.5 million visitors reached Australia. In a statement, Unisys announced that EBIS is: “a robust solution designed for high-volume (more than 100,000 transactions daily) and large-scale galleries (more than 100 million records).”
Unysis has already agreements in place with the Queensland government to provide facial image processing for local driver’s licenses and with the New South Wales Police Force for a data program for criminals’ biometric information. Moreover, the global information technology company has designed and built a new cloud infrastructure for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM).