Nobody enjoys standing in long lines at passport control, but in some countries, Australian travellers no longer have to, thanks to a variety of ‘trusted traveller’ schemes to help Aussies zip across the border, or even automated lanes that welcome your passport by default.
Here are eight countries that offer speedy entry for Australians, and what you need to do to fly through like a local.
1. Hong Kong – eChannel
Eligibility: All Australian passport holders from their first visit to Hong Kong.
Where you can use it: All land, sea and air border crossing points for arrival and departure, including Hong Kong International Airport; Lo Wu (from Shenzhen); the China, Macau and Tuen Mun ferry terminals; the Express Rail Link West Kowloon; the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge; and more.
How to register: The easiest way for Australians to sign-up is after an arriving flight at Hong Kong International Airport. Complete a Hong Kong arrival card, clear passport control the normal way, and then head to one of two eChannel Enrolment Offices before walking through the doors to baggage claim.
Using eChannel: As part of the registration process, you’ll have your photograph taken and fingerprints scanned – this allows you to use the automated passport control lanes marked ‘Enrolled Frequent Visitor’ to enter and exit Hong Kong until your passport expires, and won’t need to complete an arrival or departure card for Hong Kong when using that eChannel.
2. Japan – Trusted Traveller Program
Eligibility: Applications can be lodged after visiting Japan twice in the 12-month period immediately prior to your application date, when you are a director or full-time employee (of at least one year’s standing) of an eligible business or organisation in Australia, Japan, or other eligible country.
Where you can use it: Tokyo Haneda Airport, Tokyo Narita Airport (Terminals 1&2), Chubu Airport (Nagoya), Kansai Airport (Osaka).
How to register: The first step involves answering a questionnaire on the Japan Government’s website, and a pre-clearance process on their end, and you’ll be notified if your application can progress to the next stage. On your next visit to Japan, clear passport control in the normal way but then immediately seek out a Trusted Traveller registration desk, before baggage claim.
Registration lasts for either three years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
Using Trusted Traveller: The registration process provides you with a ‘registered user card’, which you’ll need to access the Trusted Traveller lanes at passport control when you next travel.
You’re not exempt from completing Japan’s arrival and departure cards, but being a Trusted Traveller allows you to do so online before you travel, or via the Trusted Traveller passport kiosks at the airport, as opposed to filling out a paper form.
3. New Zealand – eGate
Eligibility: Available to Australian citizens with no registration required, so just walk on up to the barrier.
Where you can use it: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports (although not in Dunedin).
Using eGate: As the system is now ticketless, you simply approach the eGate, scan your passport, step forward when instructed and look at the camera for verification, much as you would have done on departure from Australia with our SmartGate.
You still need to complete an arrival card if entering New Zealand, which you’ll present at the second checkpoint after baggage claim.
4. Singapore – Frequent Traveller Program
Eligibility: Enrolment is now open to Australian travellers who have visited Singapore at least twice in the last 24 months: that’s two entries and exits across the border, so transits where you haven’t left the airport don’t count.
However, you can apply right after you cross departures passport control on your second visit, so that your passport will be set up ahead of your next visit.
Where you can use it: On arrival and departure at Singapore Changi Airport (all terminals), plus Singapore’s land borders with Malaysia at Woodlands and Tuas.
How to register: There’s a two-page application form to fill out, but you can save some time by printing and completing this before you travel.
You can then visit an ‘eIACS’ Enrolment Centre at Changi Airport (T3, straight after departure passport control on your right-hand side), at the Woodlands or Tuas crossings, or in-town at the ICA Building at Level 4, 10 Kallang Road (next to Lavender MRT Station) to complete the formalities.
Using Singapore’s automated passport lanes: This is another system that relies on fingerprints – scanned during the registration process, and again every time you cross the border after inserting your passport into the reader – which is straightforward enough.
If you see “welcome home” on the screens above passport control, you’ll know you’re in the right place, as Frequent Traveller members share the same passport channels as Singapore locals, with registration now valid for five years or until a passport expires, whichever is earlier.
As a Frequent Traveller member, you don’t need to complete any arrival or departure cards for Singapore. Your passport also gets a membership stamp, which you can present at manual passport control if you ever need to use that path, to avoid filling out the form.
5. Taiwan – e-Gate
Eligibility: All Australian passport holders from their first visit to Taiwan.
Where you can use it: Taoyuan Airport (TPE) – which handles all flights between Australia and Taipei – along with Taipei Songshan Airport, Taichung International Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport and Kinmen Shueitou Airport.
How to register: When you arrive in Taiwan, don’t cross the border: find the dedicated e-Gate Enrolment Counters instead, which are conveniently next to the actual e-Gates.
After a photograph and fingerprint scan, you’ll have immediate access to the e-Gates, and can now enter Taiwan. Given queues of an hour or more aren’t uncommon at Taipei passport control, even if you don’t visit often, the process can still save you time, even on a single trip.
Using the e-Gates: You’re not exempt from completing a Taiwan incoming passenger card, but as you’re not being processed by an immigration official at the border, you’ll need to complete one online before your flight: the information will be electronically attached to your passport, so there’s no need to print.
At the barrier, a scan of your passport, fingerprints and photograph gets you through arrivals and departures passport control.
6. United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi: E-Border Gate
Eligibility: All Australian passport holders from their first visit.
Where you can use it: Abu Dhabi International Airport
How to register: Before approaching passport control, look for a service desk marked ‘E-Border Gate E-Registration’, to have your passport and biometrics verified. Registration remains valid until the passport expires.
Using E-Border Gate: Scan your passport to enter, look at a camera, and in seven seconds, you’re done!
Dubai: Smart Gate
Eligibility: All Australian passport holders from their first visit.
Where you can use it: Dubai International Airport. Note that Dubai’s Smart Gate system is not attached to Abu Dhabi’s E-Border Gate service, so you’ll have to register separately for each one.
Registering and using Smart Gate: There are Smart Gate registration counters prior to passport control, but they’re open to everybody and the lines can be long.
For business travellers with an Emirates fast-track card for passport control, it’s easiest to just proceed through regular passport control one last time, and ask the officer if you can be enrolled into the Smart Gate program.
If so, you’ll be asked to stare at a camera momentarily for an iris scan, and will then be able to use the Smart Gate lanes on your departure from Dubai that same trip, and on all future visits. Registration remains valid until your passport expires.
7. United Kingdom – Registered Traveller
Eligibility: Australian citizens who have a UK visa, or who’ve visited the UK at least four times in the past 24 months, can apply for the current Registered Traveller program.
Where you can use it: Use the ePassport gates or the ‘UK/EU’ line at passport control at London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Luton, Standsted and Southend airports. Also available at airports in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Glasgow and Manchester, and at the Eurostar terminals in Brussels, Lille and Paris when bound for the UK.
How to register: You’ll first need to apply via the UK Government website, and pay an application fee of £70 (A$131). If you receive preliminary approval, that fee also covers your first year of membership: otherwise, you’ll receive a refund of £50 (A$93.50).
Once you have that preliminary approval, you’ll proceed through regular UK passport control one last time, which is where the officer can finalise your Registered Traveller enrolment.
Using Registered Traveller: On your next visit to the UK, you’re free to use either the ePassport channel, or the line normally reserved for UK and EU passport holders, with no need to complete a UK arrivals card.
However, after the first year you’ll need to pay another £50 for a further 12 months of membership. As the UK government has announced plans to give all Australian passport holders access to those ePassport lanes later in 2019, there should be no need to complete that renewal.
8. United States of America – Automated Passport Control (APC)
Eligibility: Australian passport holders who have previously visited the US at least once on the same passport, and for their current trip, are seeking entry into the United States using ESTA (visa-waiver), or with a B1, B2 or D visa.
Unfortunately, if you’re travelling under any other visa type, you’ll need to line up for manual processing and can’t use APC. Australian travellers also can’t register for the separate US Global Entry system.
Where you can use APC: Most Aussies would encounter these kiosks at Dallas/Fort Worth, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco, and at US Pre-Clearance facilities in the likes of Abu Dhabi and Vancouver, among many other places. Registration is not necessary.
Using APC kiosks: These kiosks don’t sit directly at the main border crossings with their own barriers: they’re essentially ‘step one’ of a three step process, where you scan your passport, confirm your travel details and respond to various questions.
As such, travellers using the APC kiosks don’t need to complete a US arrivals card, and will instead receive a slip from the kiosk with their photograph and details printed. Present that slip at the dedicated checkpoint, along with your passport for stamping, and you’re through to baggage claim.
Have you encountered any other fast-track passport control options for Australian travellers on your journeys? Share your tips with others via the comment box below!