Sea travel

This page provides information about Australia's entry requirements, the shipping industry, passengers and crew about arrival or departure by sea.

Ships and other vessels

This section includes information for passengers and crew of ships and vessels concerning entry to Australia, vessel operator document and reporting requirements, obligations and liabilities.

Entry to Australia

Everyone arriving in Australia by sea on cruise ships and commercial vessels are subject to immigration clearance. This applies whether they disembark the vessel or remain onboard.

Everyone who arrives in Australia by sea without a visa in effect will have the same legal status regardless of where they arrive, unless they are an excluded class or otherwise exempted. This means, all arrivals in Australia by illegal maritime means cannot make a valid application for a visa unless the Minister personally finds it is in the public interest to do so. They are also subject to mandatory immigration detention, are to be taken to a designated regional processing country and cannot institute or continue certain legal proceedings.

Before arrival in Australia

As a general rule, vessels are required to provide passenger and crew reports to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service no later than 96 hours before arriving in Australia. These reports are available electronically from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

For international cruise ships electronic passenger and crew reports are also required to be transmitted through the department's Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system. 
See: Advance Passenger Processing

Proclaimed port

All vessels arriving in Australia are required to enter at a proclaimed port for their first port of entry. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service may grant permission for a vessel to enter Australia at a place other than a proclaimed port under specified conditions. Contact Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for more information on proclaimed ports.

Immigration clearance

On arrival all passengers and crew need to hold a valid visa and present a valid passport. Passengers are also required to complete an Incoming Passenger Card. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers undertake immigration clearance procedures on behalf of the department at Australian seaports.

Yachts​

Prior to arrival in Australia from an overseas country, all yachts and superyachts need to provide aSmallcraft Arrival Report to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) which details all persons on board for the purposes of immigration clearance. On arrival and departure all persons on yachts or superyachts will be subject to immigration clearance conducted by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Entering Australia

On arrival in Australia all foreign nationals need to have all of the following:

  • a valid national passport
  • a valid visa or travel authority
  • a completed Incoming Passenger Card (available from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).

Departing Australia

Prior to departure from Australia all foreign nationals need to present both:

  • a valid national passport
    and
  • complete an Outgoing Passenger Card (available from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).

Norfolk Island

Foreign nationals travelling to Norfolk Island need to be immigration cleared on departure from mainland Australia. A multiple entry visa is required for returning to mainland Australia.

Permanent residents of Norfolk Island

Permanent residents of Norfolk Island can apply for a visa on arrival to Australia by presenting travel documents.
See: Travel documents for entry to Australia

Cruise ships

 

Round Trip Cruise (RTC) status

Round Trip Cruises are cruises for up to 30 days duration that start and end in Australia, and include certain overseas ports for transit purposes only.

Each year, a number of international cruise ship voyages are approved for RTC status by the Department's Seaport Policy Section, National Office.

This is because under immigration legislation those passengers and crew on approved RTC voyages, which commence and end their voyage in Australia, are deemed not to have left Australia for the purposes of the Migration Act 1958, even though passengers and crew on the RTC may have travelled to overseas ports.

Important RTC information for travellers

Travellers should note the following important information about voyages that have been granted RTC status by the department:

  • where immigration legislation requires a person to be outside Australia to make an application or be granted a visa, these requirements cannot be met if he or she undertakes a voyage with RTC status, as the effect of the RTC provision is that the person is deemed not to have left Australia for the purposes of the Migration Act 1958
  • passengers who intend to travel to Australia to join a RTC should apply for a Visitor visa. (A transit visa, even with the multiple entry provision is not appropriate as it will cease after 3 days and the passenger will become an unlawful non-citizen)
  • a further period of stay in Australia cannot be obtained by applying for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) or other temporary visas, as the person is deemed not to have left Australia
  • a further period of stay in Australia cannot be obtained by persons holding a visitor visa that provides for multiple entries, with a stay period of 3 months on each entry, as the person is deemed not to have left Australia on a RTC

    Example: John Smith arrives in Australia by air on 1 June holding a visitor visa that provides for multiple entries with a stay period of 3 months on each entry.

    John's visa will cease and he will become unlawful unless he departs Australia by 1 September.

    John joins a 10 day cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on 15 August that returns to Sydney on 25 August. The voyage has RTC status, so John's voyage to New Zealand is not recognised as a departure from Australia. Therefore John's visa will still cease on 1 September. 
     
  • a single entry visa will not cease when undertaking a RTC because the person is not taken to have left Australia.

    Example: Jane Doe arrives in Australia by air on 1 June holding a visitor visa that provides for single entry with a stay period of 3 months.

    Jane's visa will cease and Jane will become unlawful unless she departs Australia by 1 September.

    Jane joins a 10 day cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on 15 August that returns to Sydney on 25 August. The voyage has RTC status. Under immigration legislation, since Jane commences and ends her voyage in Australia, Jane is not deemed not to have left Australia. Therefore Jane's single entry visitor visa will still be valid and Jane can complete her stay in Australia until 1 September after undertaking the RTC.

Note: All passengers and crew upon arrival in Australia must be able to comply with immigration clearance if directed by a clearance officer. This means all passengers and crew will require passports/identity documents and, other than Australian citizens, be the holders of an Australian visa that is valid for the duration of the voyage.

Find out if the voyage you plan to undertake has RTC status

You should ask your travel agent, your cruise ship operator or you can contact Seaport Policy Section of the Department.
See: Seaport Policy Section

Important RTC information for Cruise Operators applying for RTC status

Applying for RTC status

Applications requesting RTC status should be lodged by email for specified voyages, as identified in a voyage schedule, which includes all the following details:

  • the Australian port from which the voyage will commence
  • any other Australian ports visited before departure from Australia
  • foreign ports to be visited, the date and time in each port
  • the Australian port at which the vessel will return to Australia
  • the port at which the voyage terminates.

Email: Seaports@immi.gov.au

The following should be noted:

  • Applications for RTC status should be made no later than 2 months before the proposed voyage and no earlier than 2 years before the proposed voyage
  • The voyage must commence and terminate in Australia. The voyage should be confined to ports in countries that are adjacent to Australia, that is, no further north than the equator, no further east than the 180th meridian (180 degrees longitude), and no countries to the west of Australia
  • Each foreign port is visited once only and the period of stay does not exceed 24 hours
  • The voyage does not raise significant border security concerns
  • The vessel's absence from Australia must not exceed 30 days.

Document requirements

On arrival in Australia, all passengers and crew arriving by sea need to have both a valid passport and a valid visa or entry authority to satisfy a clearance officer for immigration clearance.

The master, owner, agent, charterer and operator of the vessel need to ensure that everyone on board have evidence of a visa that is in effect and that permits them to travel to and enter Australia. Passengers are also required to complete an Incoming Passenger Card (IPC).

Ships' crew are not required to complete an IPC, but crew members who are New Zealand Citizens and hold a Special Category Visa will have to complete an IPC.
See: Passenger cards​​

Penalties may apply if passengers/crew arrive without the required documentation.
See: Obligations and liabilities

Australian citizens

Australian citizens entering Australia by sea are required to present a valid Australian passport or evidence of Australian citizenship, and complete an Incoming Passenger Card.

For information regarding Australian passports, contact the Australian Passport Office.
See: Australian Passports Office

New Zealand citizens

New Zealand citizens entering Australia by sea as passengers are required to present a valid New Zealand passport and complete an Incoming Passenger Card.

New Zealand crew may apply for a Special Category Visa (SCV) while in immigration clearance. The Special Category Visa requires presentation of a valid New Zealand passport and a completed Incoming Passenger Card. Crew who are not eligible for a SCV, may be eligible for a Maritime Crew Visa (MCV), but will have to lodge an application from outside Australia.
See:
New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary) Visa (Subclass 461)
Maritime Crew Visa

Foreign passengers

Foreign passengers entering Australia by sea, regardless of whether they are transiting or disembarking, need to satisfy a clearance officer that they have:

  • a valid passport (to be presented)
  • a valid visa or travel authority for entry to Australia (that may appear as a label in a passport or it may be electronically recorded against a passport)
  • a completed Incoming Passenger Card.

Foreign crew (non-military ships)

Master's responsibilities

The master of the vessel is responsible for ensuring all persons on board have correct and valid travel documentation. If a foreign crew member arrives without the required documentation they may be denied shore leave, restricted on board the vessel, and a penalty may be issued to the carrier.
See: Obligations and liabilities

Supernumeraries

Supernumerary crew may not have a seafarer’s identity document, instead they may use an identity card issued by the shipping company, or a crewmember’s employment contract.

Partners and dependants

Partners and dependent children of crew who enter Australia by sea must also hold a Maritime Crew Visa (MCV) or other valid visa for Australia. If they hold an MCV they are required to:

  • hold a valid passport
  • travel on the same vessel as the crewmember, and
  • be included on the crew list and identified as a partner or dependant.
Joining a vessel in Australia

Foreign crew who fly to Australia to sign-on to a commercial vessel (other than a vessel being imported into Australia by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) require a valid visa or electronic travel authority, as well as a Maritime Crew Visa which allows them to sign-on to a vessel.
See: Special Purpose Visa

Military crew

Certain military personnel entering Australia are eligible for the grant of a Special Purpose visa on arrival. To travel to Australia by air for the purposes of joining a military vessel require the following documentation.

Class Document/s
Australian
  • passport
    or
  • military ID

New Zealand

  • military ID and movement orders

Foreign naval / military forces

All of the following:
  • military ID
  • movement orders

Reporting requirements

Masters and agents of all cruise ships and commercial vessels are subject to a range of reporting requirements for immigration purposes, including pre-arrival reports, crew sign-on and sign-off, reporting in the case of desertion or a stowaway, or when medical evacuation is required.

Crew Sign-on & Sign-off

Crew leaving a vessel in Australia

All foreign crew need to sign-off when leaving their vessel for repatriation, hospitalisation or to transfer to another vessel. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officer must give approval before a crew member is permitted to sign-off a vessel.

Crew members signing-off for a holiday or to reside in Australia (other than Australian citizens) must present a valid passport with a valid visa or travel authority. Australian citizens must present their Australian passport.
See: Maritime Crew Visa

Crew joining a vessel in Australia

All foreign crew arriving in Australia to join a vessel as crew will require a Maritime Crew Visa or another visa appropriate for crew in order to sign-on to the vessel. A person 'signs-on' to a ship when they have signed the ship's articles and a Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officer has confirmed that:

  • the crewmember is lawfully in Australia
  • they hold a valid passport and a document identifying them as a seafarer employed on the ship
    and
  • their name is on a prescribed crew list.

Foreign crew who fly in to Australia to sign-on to a non-military vessel must hold a valid visa or travel authority to enter by air, as well as a Maritime Crew visa or other appropriate visa. Crew members arriving by another vessel as crew can be signed-off one vessel and signed on to another vessel. That sign-on should occur within five (5) days of signing off the first vessel.

Absent Crew (Deserters)

Crew members who are absent from the vessel, with or without the master's permission, must be reported on departure from each port. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Failure to report all absences may result in a penalty.
See: Obligations and liabilities

Stowaways

A stowaway is a concealed person on a vessel, or in cargo loaded on to a vessel, without the consent of the ship's owner, master, or any other responsible person.

The master, owner, agent, charterer or operator of the vessel must notify Australian Customs and Border Protection Service of any stowaways or concealed persons on board the vessel before arrival in Australia. Failure to report a stowaway may result in a penalty.
See: Obligations and liabilities

Stowaways are to be prevented from disembarking the vessel until a Australian Customs and Border Protection Service or a departmental officer directs otherwise.

Medivacs (Medical Evacuations)

The term 'medivac' refers to a person who is evacuated to Australia for emergency medical treatment.

Crew holding a Maritime Crew visa

Crew holding a Maritime Crew visa who are evacuated for medical reasons from a vessel, regardless of whether or not the vessel is travelling to Australia in the course of its voyage, are eligible to arrive in Australia for a stay of up to 30 days for hospitalisation.
Note: Crew medivaced from their vessel and arriving by air are permitted to enter Australia on their MCV.

If the person is likely to remain in Australia beyond the agreed period, another class of visa must be applied for.
Example: A Medical treatment visa
See: Medical Treatment – Visa Options

Crew not holding a Maritime Crew visa

Crew not holding a Maritime Crew visa who are evacuated for medical reasons from a vessel may be eligible for a Border Visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to enter Australia. This applies whether the crew member is evacuated by sea or air.

Pre-arrival reports

As a general rule, vessels are required to provide pre-arrival passenger and crew reports to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service no later than 96 hours before arriving in Australia. All crew, spouses and dependent children of crew members and passengers are required to be included on the pre-arrival reports and to be subject to immigration clearance on arrival at the first port of call.

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for international cruise ships electronic passenger and crew reports are required to be transmitted through the department's Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system.
See: Advanced Passenger Processing

Special Purpose Visa

Certain military personnel entering Australia are eligible for the grant of a Special Purpose visa on arrival. To travel to Australia by air for the purposes of joining a military vessel require the following documentation.

Class Document/s
Australia
  • passport
    or
  • military ID
New Zealand
  • military ID and movement orders
Foreign naval/ military forces All of the following:
  • military ID
  • movement orders.

Obligations and liabilities

The table below summarises the obligations and liabilities that may apply to the master, owner, agent, charterer or operator of a vessel under the Migration Act 1958.

Obligation Liability

To ensure all non-citizen crew, partners and dependent children of crew members, and passengers have the appropriate documentation and visa to enter Australia.

The master, owner, agent, charterer and operator of a vessel who brings a non-citizen into Australia without evidence of a visa that is in effect and that permits the non-citizen to travel to and enter Australia, are each guilty of an offence against Section 229 of the Migration Act 1958.

Penalty: Up to AUD10 000 per person

To report stowaways/concealed persons as soon as the vessel arrives in the Australian migration zone and to prevent the person from leaving the vessel.

The master, owner, agent, charterer and operator of a vessel who fails to report an unlawful non-citizen concealed on a vessel when it arrives in the Australian migration zone, or who allows the non-citizen to leave the vessel without permission from a Australian Customs and Border Protection Service or DIAC officer, are each guilty of an offence against Section 230 of theMigration Act 1958.

Penalty: AUD10 000

To report all crew members (including those crew members given permission to leave the vessel) who were on board the vessel on arrival into Australia, who are absent from the vessel when it departs Australia, prior to having departed Australia.

The master of a vessel who fails to report an absent crewmember is guilty of an offence against Section 228 of the Migration Act 1958.

Penalty: AUD4000

To muster the vessel's crew at the request of a Australian Customs and Border Protection Service or DIAC officer, and have crewmembers produce their identity documents for inspection.

The master of a vessel who fails to muster the vessel's crew or have the crewmembers produce their identity documents for inspection, is guilty of an offence against Section 225 of theMigration Act 1958.

Penalty: AUD4000

To provide crew and/or passenger reports which list all persons on the vessel, including the required details.

The master of a vessel must comply with any request by an officer to provide a list of all persons on board the vessel and their required details, to gather together those persons, or to make sure of the disembarkation of those persons.

To enable a Customs and Border Protection Service or DIAC officer to board and search the vessel where they reasonably suspect there is an unlawful non-citizen on board the vessel.

The master of a vessel should do all things reasonably required by a Customs and Border Protection Service or DIAC officer to facilitate the boarding and searching of the vessel. Failure to do this is an offence against Section 245 of the Migration Act 1958.

Penalty: AUD10 000

To ensure persons enter Australia at a proclaimed port and to also ensure that unlawful non-citizens to be removed on a vessel for the purposes of removal or deportation from Australia do not leave the vessel prior to departure.

The master, owner, agent, charterer of the vessel are guilty of an offence against Section 232 of the Migration Act 1958 if an unlawful non-citizen enters Australia on the vessel, or if a remove or deportee who is placed on the vessel for removal or deportation leaves the vessel in Australia otherwise than in immigration detention.

Penalty: AUD17 000

To remove, within 72 hours, an unlawful non-citizen who has been placed onboard a vessel for the purposes of removal or deportation (unless permission for a greater period is given).

The master, owner, agent, charterer and controller of the vessel who fails to transport a person from Australia within 72 hours after being given notice to do so, is guilty of an offence against Section 217 of the Migration Act 1958.

Penalty: AUD17 000 

In the event of prosecution of a corporation, penalties of up to AUD17 000 apply.

Maritime Crew Visa

This section provides information about the Maritime Crew visa which is for foreign sea crew of non-military ships.

Apply for a Maritime Crew visa

Lodge an online (internet) Maritime Crew visa (MCV) application or download a paper application form.
See: Apply for a Maritime Crew Visa

Check if a Maritime Crew visa is held

Use this facility to check if a person has a valid Maritime Crew visa.
See: MCV Online Status Enquiry

About the Maritime Crew visa

Detailed information about the Maritime Crew visa is available.
See: About the Maritime Crew Visa

Information on the Maritime Crew visa application

Outlines the requirements on the application form, compares the two application methods, and outlines the basic steps to complete an application.
See: Information on the Maritime Crew Visa application (48KB PDF file)

Further information

You can contact the department for further information on the Maritime Crew visa.

MCV Applications
Email: mcv@immi.gov.au

Seaports Policy
Email us your enquiry.
See: Maritime Crew Visa Enquiry Form

In Australia

Telephone: 131 881

You can also contact the Translating and Interpreting Service.
Telephone: 131 450

Superyacht Crew Visa

A Superyacht Crew visa (subclass 488)​ allows a crew member of a Superyacht to work on the vessel in Australia and stay in Australia for up to 12 months.

A Superyacht is any high-value luxury sailing or motor vessel that:

  • is 24 metres or longer
  • is not carrying cargo
  • is used for sport or pleasure.

The captain or owner of the vessel must be an approved Superyacht Crew sponsor or have applied for approval.

The Superyacht Crew visa (subclass 488) is a temporary visa.

Advance Passenger Processing

This section includes information about the online Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system which must be used by international passenger cruise ships to lodge pre-arrival reports of passengers and crew travelling to Australia.

What is Advance Passenger Processing?

Advance Passenger Processing (APP) is an online system through which pre-arrival reports of shipping passengers and crew on cruise ships travelling to Australia are sent to the department and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) notifiying them of persons on their way to Australia. APP also allows shipping operators and agents to verify if persons onboard hold a valid visas or travel authority to enter Australia.

APP reporting has applied to all international cruise ship arrivals in Australia since January 2004.
See: Register for Advance Passenger Processing​

Pre-arrival Reports

As a general rule, vessels are required to provide pre-arrival passenger and crew reports no later than 96 hours before arriving in Australia. All crew, spouses and dependent children of crew members, and passengers are required to be included on the pre-arrival reports and to be subject to immigration clearance on arrival at the first port of call.
See: Reporting requirements

For international cruise ships electronic passenger and crew reports are required to be transmitted through the department's Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system. 
See: Who can use Advance Passenger Processing?​

Who Can Use Advance Passenger Processing?

Advance Passenger Processing (APP) is the current pre-arrival reporting method for cruise ships.

An international passenger cruise ship is defined as a ship that has sleeping facilities for at least 100 persons (other than crewmembers) and is being used to provide an international passenger sea transportation service.

It is mandatory for all international passenger cruise ship operators to provide the department with information on all persons onboard the vessel no later than 96 hours in advance of arrival in Australia via the APP reporting system. Reporting can commence up to 30 days before the expected day of arrival in Australia. It is important that cruise ships advise the department's Seaports Entry Operations Centre (SEOC) before they commence APP reporting.
Email: seoc@immi.gov.au

Some voyages by international cruise ships that commence in Australia and return to Australia within 30 days may be granted Round Trip Cruise (RTC) status. APP reporting requirements do not apply to voyages with RTC status.
See: Cruise ships

More information regarding APP for entry by sea can be obtained from the department's Entry Operations Centre.
See: Entry Operations Centre​

Register for Advance Passenger Processing

If you are a cruise ship operator, or act as an agent for cruise ship operators, you need to contact the department immediately to register and commence Advance Passenger Processing reporting.

Please contact the Seaports Entry Operations Centre (SEOC) of the department.
Email: seoc@immi.gov.au

Enquiries

This section provides details of how to contact Brisbane Global Processing Centre, Regional Seaports Officers, Entry Operations Centre and the Seaport Policy Section of the department.

Maritime Global Processing Centre

For information about Maritime Crew or Superyacht Crew Visa applications contact the Maritime Global Processing Centre.
See:
Maritime Crew Visa Enquiry Form
Superyacht Crew Visa Enquiry Form

Email: mcv@immi.gov.au

Telephone: 131 881 (within Australia)

Mail:
Maritime Global Processing Centre
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
GPO Box 9984
Brisbane QLD 4001
Australia

Courier:
Maritime Crew Visa or Superyacht Crew Visa
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
299 Adelaide Street
Brisbane QLD 4000
Australia

Fax: 07 3136 7273

Regional Seaports Officers

The department has a network of Regional Seaport Officers (RSOs) who work with Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in providing immigration functions at Australia's seaports.

RSOs can be contacted in each Australian state/territory by contacting the Entry Operations Centre in Canberra.
See: Entry Operations Centre below

Entry Operations Centre

The department's Entry Operations Centre (EOC) provides operational advice and assistance to the aviation and maritime industries, and Australian and foreign government agencies.

It is open 24 hours for urgent or emergency assistance. Officers can assist with maritime immigration matters and Advance Passenger Processing (APP) reporting.

Email: seoc@immi.gov.au
Facsimile: +61 1300 368 422

Seaport Policy Section

The Seaport Policy Section is based in Canberra, Australia.

You can contact us about immigration legislation and policy information.

You can submit your request electronically.
See: Seaport Policy Enquiry Form

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Last modified Wednesday 25 February 2015

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