Airport departure & arrivals passenger cards to be axed?

By Chris C., December 6 2016
Airport departure & arrivals passenger cards to be axed?

International travellers departing Australia may soon wave goodbye to those green paper-based ‘outgoing passenger cards’ under new plans to streamline border processing by the Australian Government.

Also potentially for the chop: the similar orange ‘incoming passenger cards’ completed by travellers arriving into Australia.

Much of the information recorded on both cards is already accessible electronically by government agencies, making the paper cards largely redundant.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is currently consulting with stakeholders on the removal of the paper-based Outgoing Passenger Card (OPC) and Incoming Passenger Card (IPC),” a spokesperson for the Department told Australian Business Traveller.

“Decisions about the timeframe for removal of the cards will be made after stakeholder consultation is completed.”

It’s understood that outgoing passenger cards are planned to disappear first – likely between mid-2017 and early 2018 – followed by incoming passenger cards in 2018/19.

Removal of these cards is currently contingent upon having similar information captured in other ways.

For passenger names, passport details and contact information, that could be achieved through existing airline ‘APIS’ systems which allow government agencies to access traveller data, although declarations for prohibited and restricted items would remain an issue.

Should the cards be axed, it’s not yet known whether travellers would simply verbalise any declarations at the border, or whether these would be made electronically in another way, such as via the SmartGate kiosks, at airport check-in counters or online prior to travel.

In any case, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection acknowledges that “removing paper-based Passenger Cards is integral to achieving an automated traveller experience… (for) the 50 million (international) travellers expected annually by 2020.”

PREVIOUS | There could be one less bit of paperwork standing between you and your flight – or even better, your airport lounge – from next year, as the Federal Government looks to ditch those green departure forms for outbound travellers.

The cards would be put out to pasture in favour of automated outbound SmartGate passport readers, which have already been installed at most international airports around the country.

Passengers using these gates currently hand their departure card to a Border Force officer or drop them into a collection box.

Much of the data which passengers must scribble onto the cards is already captured through their passport, with the exception of questions on your occupation, reason for travel and if you're carrying more than A$10,000 out of the country.

The review of outgoing passenger cards (OPCs) "is anticipated to be completed by early 2016", a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told Australian Business Traveller.

"The review will provide recommendations about how and when the paper OPC can be removed, while meeting stakeholder information requirements."

The spokesperson added that "a further review of the incoming passenger cards" will be conducted in the future. 

Earlier this year Australian Business Traveller gave the SmartGate system a first-hand trial run at Brisbane Airport, with the entire process taking just 55 seconds from clearing security to being airside in the international terminal.

Read: Australian eGate departure trial proves a real time-saver

Also read: 


Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 699

It would be great to axe them all togeather.

The smart gates can ask all the questions or a officer at a desk as well. 

Just you wait. The unions will come up with some moronic OH&S excuse or start using the terrorism card to keep the status quo! LOL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 150

or another round of strikes because they're facing the sacks.........or whatever excuses they want to invent.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

They could just restrict access to the SmartGates like they did recently.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 119

Hallelujah...espcially the future review of the Incoming Passanger Card.  


30 Apr 2015

Total posts 3

Only for AUssie, U.S and UK passport holders though, the rest will have to fill some kind of form as the smart gate does not support passports a whole of of countries passports.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 699

Not sure how long its been since you last went through a smartgate but

- Australia

- New Zealand (Who you left off and have been able to use it since the start)


- UK

- Canada

- Ireland

- Switzerland


- Singapore

As long as you have a passport from one of those countries and are able to be seen by the camera (ie Tall Enough) then your good

Whilst they put signs up saying you have to be over a particular age that is not the case.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

Last time I entered at Melbourne, the first set of kisoks just said AU/NZ/US/UK/SG/CH/IE, then the smart gate kisoks by the main processing point also said China/Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau

Its a pity none of the countries (NZ excepted) will reciprocate with smart gates for us. UK its only avaialble to EU citizens , Ireland as well. USA not either.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 18

UK has the Registered Traveler program ( for frequent travelers.  I have been using this for almsot 2 years and you can use the autoamted gates where avaible.  Otherwise you can join the EU/UK queue. 

13 May 2013

Total posts 6

The biometric passport is a universal standard. I'm pretty sure the SmartGate system could read and process most departing ePassports regardless of origin.

Probably the reason why the "incoming" SmartGate isn't widely supported for most nationalities is political rather than techincal. As I'd imagine there would be a need for international data-sharing agreements to handle the automated processing of visas, etc.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1242

Yes please.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 138

BNE airport app has an excellent way of filling up this card, scan this at the airport and then use the departure smart gate with the printed departure card (yes it would be better to skip it completely!) and you are out on the "Secure" side in less than a minute. They have opened this up for all airlines instead of just Qantas and Air NZ (intro trial).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 699

Just a personal thing, and yes the kiosks are great where you can scan your QR code from your phone but there are only two and they both take quite a while to print a card and they are also very noisy. 

When I say that I mean the computer does a lot of talking to you telling your to scan a code, its printing, collect it, have a nice day all that sort of stuff and the volume is quite loud so whilst your using it you almost always have other looking to see what it going on.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

17 Nov 2014

Total posts 102

I look forward for scrapping both incoming and outgoing passenger cards, that will make immigration in and out of Australia faster.

08 Dec 2015

Total posts 9

Yes, even the 'paranoid' USA does not have exit immigration at all, you merely submit to the BDSM experience that passes for 'Security', and you're airside and done.

The US authorites do know you've left as they collect such data from thir parties, airlines, other governments, etc. 

Seems pretty sensible to me.

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

It makes sense if you think about it.  Half of Americans don't realize anything exists beyond their borders, and the other half can't understand why anyone would ever want to leave the Greatest Nation on Earth!

Canada also has no exit formalities, but that's because when Justin Bieber left we didn't want there to be any obstacles.


13 Jun 2015

Total posts 141

About time to axe this crappy departure cards! Sick and tired of paperwork!

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 61

SmartGate never works for me and I'm always directed to an officer. Plus the last time I was forced to go through the 'smart' gate it was held up as the instructions weren't clear for Chinese passengers and there were no officials to assist. They just yelled at the poor Chinese woman until I managed to grab another officer walking past. So they really need to up their service and not just cut people out of the system.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2015

Total posts 17

Flew out this morning had to throw the card in a cardboard box. What a waste of time filling it out. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 97

For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called "files," "reports," "minutes," and "memoranda." These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. 

  --  Animal Farm, George Orwell

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2015

Total posts 77

This reminds me of anecdote from a past work place. Every Monday morning every branch would complete a form and fax it to a central office. One morning someone asked the question: 'why are people completeling this paperwork?'

It was then established that no one actually collected the paperwork, looked at the paperwork, or even needed the paperwork, but the branches were still completing it out of years of habit.

These customs forms are so out dated, manual, and a complete waste of resources. I'm reminded of entering Cuba last year and being asked on the customs form whether I was bringing 'walkie-talkies' into the country (no joke).

Any essential information should be able to be captured electronically. It is hard to imagine a situation where the information on these cards could be used for anything useful. And the filing and archiving of these forms must be a huge cost which could be better relocatted to more relevant things.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1525

Actually I found arriving cards more annoying than departure ones.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 119

Totally agree

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 4

But how will that work for kids and people without a chip in their passport?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

The only thing the smartgate machines need to do, is let the next person start the process whilst the first person is having photo checked.

This would speed up the process even more - particularly if more questions are going to be asked.

We used the new machine earlier in the year at BNE for the whole family. The app on our Android phone was used with it and it was a breeze.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Dec 2015

Total posts 5

About time.

We must be one of the last "first world" countries to still waste our time on these outdated pieces of paper

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

nowadays nearly all airline requests to fill out all details before even buying the ticket or for online chekin so what's the issue here?This stupid little card is just another annoying paper to carry around for nothing-the incoming card is a bit different as it's mainly for custom-as most ignorant people don't even read it and try to smuggle a whole chinese vegatable garden despite the warning of the strict caranteen regulation,so probably that will stay.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2012

Total posts 10

Totally agree, AXE them, all of them. Surely they can get this information electronically and can ask questions if required at the gate.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2011

Total posts 77

I used the SmartGate to exit Australia on Xmas Eve. Now I don't need to talk to an Immigration officer coming or going. I could have passed through without even dropping off my Outgoing Passenger Card in the box; there were no staff there to make sure anyone did so. It's a useless piece of bureaucracy, like the recently axed "Ebola card" which - again if you use SmartGate to enter Australia - was entirely superfluous

09 Apr 2015

Total posts 5

These things have been the subject of one of my rants for years.  Before the smartgates came in used to make a point of asking the guy behind the counter why the card asked me my name and birthdate when the passport could tell him everything about me - including where my parents were born!  

They are a ludicrous waste of time.

09 May 2011

Total posts 23

Brilliant news! The departure card is especially a total waste of everyone's time and effort. Why oh why anyone wants to keep stats of  professions in this day and age is beyond me. 

However I wonder how they will handle customs declarations on the arrivals card if paperless, given our somewhat unique agricultural/bio security situation.   I am happy to retain a simpler/modified arrivals card that solely addresses biosecurity questions.

05 May 2016

Total posts 9

I forgot to drop mine in the box last week, and the world hasn't ended.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 97

As long as they don't give you receipts for surrounding the green slip, it will be fine. (ie, you're off the hook when you hit the street).

Although, the law still requests you to hand in the form.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 119

Same here bmq747. I forgot when leaving Sydney on Saturday and realised once I was on my way to LA.  Opps

Channel 7's Border Security show will be even more entertaining once the use of those orange cards are halted!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2011

Total posts 44

Egytpian passport works fine on the outgoing smartgates.  My partner and I went to Honkers in June, and we both got directed to the smartgates.  I didn't think he could use it, but he sailed through without a problem.  Exiting is not important I guess, all you need is a biometric passport for that.

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Yeah, when I was exiting from the UAE, the guy directed me to a smartgate there, and its works no problems with an Aussie passport.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

I traveled to USA in September & had to complete card leaving Australia & returning home, having not traveled OS for some years, was baffled that this archaic practice has remained. Then I got to LAX what a process getting through boarder security, only exceeded by their tedious departure process, it takes longer to get out of USA then getting in. Can't complain about a written card or two although troublesome!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 462

What part of the process of getting out of the USA is tedious? It's just like catching a domestic flight, with no Immigration clearance.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

I experienced something quite different from catching a domestic flight. Virgin Australia text me to make sure I was at Airport an hour earlier than anticipated due to long lines through Customs. Lining up in the Zig Zac cattle run, the usual remove jewellery, quart size lotion bag, meds etc but then removing cardigans, shoes & standing around waiting in stocking feet, many were ushered to the body scan. Customs staff questioned people on way through, adding to the delays. Even flight staff were subjected to same torture & were re-examined by Customs Staff but 'everyone' put their head down & endure it!!  

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

A number of countries have cut down or removed on their incoming/outgoing passenger paperwork.
The US removed the green I-94W form years ago. Not sure if they still have the white non VWP I-94, but I didn't see any handed out on my last few US flights. The US still has the 1 per family blue customs form, but that form isn't needed if you use the APC kiosks.
This year, Japan removed the departure section of their cards. They used to have incoming and outgoing sections on the same card with the departure part attached to the passport on arrival and removed when departing. The arrival section is still in use, but there is no longer anything to fill in when departing.

Having to fill in less paperwork is always a good thing.

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Good to get rid of these cards.... do you guys even don't bother filling out the green departure cards, and just walk though the machine??

For the orange arrival cards.... i think they can cut down how much information requried. I think its should be adopted in the same manner as the USA with its blue custom form, where 1 member per family can fill it out. 

Do you think we should adopt the same departure process for international flights as the USA?? So that means international flights can depart from the domestic section (and for countries with high risk things, another checkpoint can be set up at the gate).

09 Jul 2014

Total posts 4

About time they ditched these relics. Most of the information asked is already contained in the passport files. Anybody taking more than $10,000 in cash out of the country is going to say no anyway, because it's probably crime. Nobody carries that much cash unless you're a crim. The insult is that the cards don't even get looked at. Drop in the box on the way out and in a pile on the way in.  Keep it for non-residents and countries that don't have the Smart Passports.

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