Fact Sheet 70 – Managing the border
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Australia's border security system differs from other countries in some important ways:
- Australia has a universal visa system – all visitors, temporary residents and permanent migrants to Australia must apply for a visa or a visa equivalent, with conditions appropriate to their stay.
- Our visa application system is a risk-based system. The traveller's risk profile, reason for travel and individual characteristics are taken into account, and will determine what kind of visa application process is undertaken.
- As part of the visa application process, all applicants are checked against the Central Movement Alert List (CMAL), a watch list contributed to by security and law enforcement agencies as well as other Commonwealth agencies. CMAL continues to check clients throughout all visa and travel stages.
- In November 2011, the department deployed a sophisticated statistical Risk Scoring System (RSS). The RSS deploys statistical risk models built on departmental data holdings and can identify high risk visa applications as they are being processed through the Generic Visa Portal (GVP).
- Since March 2011, DIAC has also been testing risk scoring for inbound travellers. Data is collected at check-in at the overseas airport. Statistical risk models then evaluate every traveller for risk.
After a visa is granted, a traveller will pass through a number of checkpoints, many unnoticed to the traveller, before they arrive at the Australian border, where clearances are streamlined.
Australia's visa system provides a screening mechanism for preventing the entry of people who are identified as posing a security, criminal or health risk, while facilitating the travel of genuine travellers.
Australia's border management system is based on a number of 'layers'.
- the universal visa system (with alert checking)
- the airline liaison officers (ALOs) network
- the Advance Passenger Processing system (APP), which operates at check-in overseas
- the processing at Australian airports and seaports on arrival.
Leading-edge technology is used to deliver these secure immigration processing systems. Anyone wanting to travel to, enter or remain in Australia will undergo checks at each of these layers, many of which are unobtrusive.
At the time of visa application, there is a check against the Central Movement Alert List (CMAL) prior to visa grant.
The CMAL is a database of people and travel documents of concern. It includes details of criminals, people who may pose a security risk and people barred from entering Australia for immigration breaches and health matters. It also includes details of lost, stolen and fraudulent travel documents.
The checks made at visa application level ensure travellers are checked prior to travel to Australia. Travellers are continuously checked against the database, including when passengers check-in at overseas ports. They are checked again by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers when they arrive in Australia.
The Security Referral Service (SRS) allows electronic processing between the department and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The SRS is world leading technology and places Australian border security among the best in the world.
The SRS retains its position at the forefront of border security technology through a program of continual improvement, functional enhancement and integration with departmental and other Commonwealth agency systems. The recently deployed Risk Scoring System (RSS) will enhance the SRS function. It has the potential for being more accurate than existing systems in identifying persons of concern.
Since its implementation, the SRS has:
- reduced manual data entry and improved data accuracy,
- speed up the process of national security checks in some cases,
- provided audit, risk management and reporting capabilities to the security assessment process.
Australia has a network of immigration officers operating as Airline Liaison Officers (ALOs) at a number of overseas airports. ALOs work closely with host countries, airlines and international counterparts to detect and prevent improperly documented passengers from travelling and to facilitate the travel of genuine passengers.
The department has also deployed a number of Migration Integrity Officers at key overseas posts. These officers work with visa processing officers, other agencies, the host governments, airlines and like-minded overseas missions to build an understanding of fraud and other immigration malpractice in their region.The collected information is reported on the department's global immigration intelligence system (IMtel). IMtel is configured by many departmental business areas to automatically alert them when relevant new or changed information is captured.
Australia's Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system is the next layer in Australia's approach to border management. APP is used for both air and sea arrivals.
When a traveller, including airline crew, checks in for travel to Australia, the airline is required to confirm (via the APP system) whether the traveller has a current valid authority to travel to and enter Australia.
Approximately 99.9 per cent of all air travellers to Australia are processed through APP. In less than four seconds, the passenger data is checked against Australia's passport, visa and alert lists and a message is returned to the airline staff telling them whether the person is 'okay to board' or 'not okay to board.'
This system can prevent a traveller from boarding an aircraft, flag them for screening on arrival or facilitate the entry of legitimate travellers faster because they've already been 'pre-processed'.
To ensure that APP reporting compliance remains high, an infringement regime exists that enables the department to issue an airline with an infringement of $1700 where an airline fails to report a person bound for Australia. In 2010 –11, 10 airlines were issued with infringement notices when their compliance with APP reporting fell below the 99.8 per cent threshold. Of those airlines, three were below the threshold for only one month.
Regional Movement Alert System
The Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS) is integrated with Australia's APP system and provides checks on all United States and New Zealand passports used to travel to Australia. The objective of RMAS is to strengthen the collective capacity of border management agencies from participating APEC economies to detect lost, stolen and suspicious travel documents.
When a traveller, including crew members, travels to Australia via an international passenger cruise ship, the cruise ship operator is required to submit a list of all people onboard the vessel enroute to Australia via the Sea APP system.
The APP system will cross check the crew and passenger data against Australia's immigration databases and alert lists to assist in identifying any inadmissible or inadequately documented people. APP for sea therefore allows departmental officers to identify such individuals before or on arrival in Australia.Ships may be infringed for failure to comply with reporting obligations through the APP system for sea.
When travellers arrive at the border, they may still be refused entry because of information revealed on arrival.
See: Arrival at an Australian Airport
Biometrics capture of fingerprints and facial images is being increasingly used in Australia and internationally as a high-technology identity integrity management tool. As part of a broader identity integrity management strategy to strengthen identification processes for non-citizens entering Australia, the department is introducing biometric technology into some of its programs and processes. This includes facial recognition and fingerprint matching technology.
As the technology matures and becomes more sophisticated, further biometrics solutions will be introduced into departmental processes and systems, taking account of international issues, system suitability, appropriateness and capability for technological expansion.
The department is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs and Border Protection) to design an integrated approach to the use of biometric technology at the border.
See: Biometrics Collection
More information about Australia's Border Security is available on the department's website.
See: Border Security and Entry Requirements
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 70. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2009.