Australia, NZ move towards 'cloud passports', document-free travel

Australia, NZ move towards 'cloud passports', document-free travel

Australian and New Zealand citizens could soon travel between the two countries without carrying a physical passport – instead, utilising a ‘cloud passport’ which stores essential information on government servers and can be accessed by border agencies electronically.

Also retained would be a form of biometric data such as a fingerprint or digital photograph to assist in matching travellers to the correct digital identity when crossing the border, and would eventually render the traditional passport redundant.

Governments of the two countries are now in talks to trial the technology, says Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who also believes the concept would be rolled out globally over time.

Significantly, it would eliminate the issue of lost and stolen passports – with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reporting 38,718 cases in the last year alone – but would present a new host of security hurdles to overcome: particularly in regards to passenger movement.

Biometric identification is increasingly being used around the world with countries such as Malaysia, Japan and the United States relying on fingerprints to identify travellers, and Australia and New Zealand on a computer algorithm that analyses a traveller’s facial features against their passport photograph via SmartGate.

Australia’s government agencies already store every traveller’s border crossing details electronically, including information such as passport numbers, dates of travel and the contents of handwritten incoming and outgoing passenger cards, which are scanned and later saved digitally.

Also read: Brisbane Airport takes outgoing passenger cards digital

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Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • kimshep


    29 Oct, 2015 11:53 am

    One would have to wonder WHO else - apart from Govt agencies - would have potential access to such data?

    Given that a passport is usually required for international visitors in order to check into a hotel or take control of a rental car, would the boffins at DFAT provide some form of limited access to such 'second tier' providors?

    And what about countries (Eastern Europe and some South American) where you are required to carry your passport (or a facsimilie page) in public?

    Interesting and valuable concept, though.

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  • riley


    29 Oct, 2015 03:10 pm

    TRB care to chime in?

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  • riley


    29 Oct, 2015 03:11 pm

    I'm not happy about this for a number of reasons:

    1) I just bought a new passport.

    2) I don't want to be tracked anymore than I already am.

    3) I'll miss the social media news feed littered with passport photos with airline tickets poking through.

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  • mitchimus


    29 Oct, 2015 06:59 pm

    Sounds like a sensible idea. Travel to NZ really should be treated more like domestic than international IMHO.

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  • moa999


    29 Oct, 2015 07:40 pm

    Personally think this is already here.

    Australian authorities don't really need the passport stamps to see where you've been, and all it would take is a data sharing agreement with NZ to give them the same info -- ideally something that gives them limited access when they unlock a biometric key.

    Realistically I would expect first step is the passport will become a credit card with the existing chip but similar photo page (for hotels etc)

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  • AJT_


    30 Oct, 2015 12:28 am

    Why dont we just adopt a schengen system that allows free movement between the two countries with no fuss, imagine Air NZ and Jetconnect flights departing from the domestic terminal!

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  • Age


    30 Oct, 2015 04:30 pm

    As a signed up frequent traveller to HK, I scan a barcode and use my fingerprint to enter HK already since a few years.  No queue, and no passport really needed (although the barcode is a sticker put on my passport). 

    My passport gets full of visa's and stamps before it ever expires.  Going digital would be great.

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  • outthere1000


    31 Oct, 2015 05:02 am

    The trouble with fingerprints is - some people don't have them. Everyone has a face and eyeballs, but a surprising number of people don't have fingerprints. Even with a Nexus card (Trusted Traveller US/Canada program) I have to find an American official to be able to enter the country instead of using the automated booths.

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  • SeatNextToYours


    1 Nov, 2015 10:14 am

    Indeed some people lack fingerprints, but the same is true for eyeballs and even faces...

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  • Robin Ryan


    12 May, 2016 11:44 am

    Although reasonably frequent for a now leisure only flyer, I've never managed to fill a passport and regret the increasing loss of visa stamps (not to mention pretty stick-in visas, such as China and Vietnam still offer). HKG is a great disappointment as I haven't had even a stamp there for years. It makes it harder to track where I've been after a few years, although I suppose Tripit is now a susbtitute.

    Perhaps more countries will be like Lichenstein, where you can go to the post office and pay for a nice passport stamp.

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23 Jul, 2019 09:47 pm


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