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SmartGate: scanning your passport and face at the airport

By danwarne     Filed under: brisbane airport, Australia, Melbourne airport, Sydney Airport, Qantas Next-Gen Check-in, Perth Airport, government, immigration, passports, Darwin Airport, Adelaide Airport, Cairns Airport, Smartgate, Gold Coast Airport, e-passports

If you like the self-service nature of Qantas' Next-Gen Check-in, you'll want to try out the Australian Government's  SmartGate computerised immigration system, which, from today, is available in every Australian international airport.

The eighth and final airport, Darwin International, launched SmartGate this morning, allowing Australian and NZ e-Passport holders on all incoming international flights to go through immigration without actually having to deal with a border inspector.

The first SmartGate opened at Brisbane in 2007 and has been rolling out progressively since, and is now available in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and the Gold Coast.

The government says more than 3.5 million travellers have used SmartGate, including 986,000 people this year.

SmartGate uses a wireless chip that has been embedded in passports issued since 24th October 2005, along with face recognition technology to perform the customs and immigration checks that are usually conducted by a Customs and Border Protection officer.

How SmartGate works

To use SmartGate, you have to be an Australian or New Zealand resident, with an e-Passport and be aged 18 years or over.

You can tell if your passport is an e-passport by looking at the bottom of the front cover for the printed e-passport symbol, which looks a bit like the metal contacts of a SIM-card.

All passports issued after 24th October 2005 are e-passports.

There's no need to pre-register to use SmartGate -- anyone meeting the above criteria can use it.

When you get off your international flight and arrive into the customs hall, you firstly go to a SmartGate kiosk, which you answer some standard questions on to check that you're eligible.

It will also do facial recognition on you at that point to check that you're using the correct passport.

It then issues a printed ticket which you take to an automated exit gateway, which will again check your face against your passport's electronic record, and then let you go through.

If you are exiting New Zealand through Auckland, you can even do the first step of the SmartGate process there -- there are Australian Government SmartGate terminals in the airport.

This video shows how it works.

Tips for using SmartGate

You do still need to complete an incoming passenger declaration card on the plane or in the arrival hall, and after exiting immigration you are still subject to manual customs checks.

Also, don't throw away the SmartGate printed ticket after you've exited the gate! You need it as evidence that immigration has cleared your entry into the country, and you'll have to hand it in to a customs official.

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About danwarne

Dan is a tech enthusiast who frequently qualifies for enhanced airport security screening due to the number of cords and gadgets stuffed into his cabin bag.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 1/7/11 by AusFlyer

It would be great if it worked. I tried this morning and it didn't work and hasn't worked for me for my last 4-5 trips. Same went for the person who was in front of me who voiced his complaint to the uncaring immigration officer at the desk. Maybe you can let your readers know what to do if the system doesn't work like who we contact etc. The queues at immigration this morning were ridiculous so at least if they had a system that worked it might be handy. It would be more efficient if it worked off a thumb print or something like that.

2 on 1/7/11 by tm_smile

Have never had any issues with it and saves me a ton of time. Love the kiosks along arrivals before immigration that let's you process yourself before you get to the gates too.

3 on 4/7/11 by Simon

I agree it's a brilliant time saver and the one time it did not work I was directed to a seperate queue for people have troble with it which was still far shorter than the regular queues.  If you travel OS regulary it would be worth getting a new passport just to take advantage of this.

4 on 1/8/11 by damien

You have to make sure that you look like the photo that is embedded in your passport - I had a fringe at one stage and this caused some issues.

 

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