Australia to axe incoming passenger arrival card for digital app

Those bothersome paper arrivals cards will finally be replaced by a smartphone app.

By David Flynn, October 19 2020
Australia to axe incoming passenger arrival card for digital app

Australia will replace its incoming passenger arrivals card with a digital app which will also allow COVID vaccination certificates to be attached, if required as a condition of entry from certain countries.

Other data stored on the new Digital Passenger Declaration app, which the government plans to launch by September 2021, could include visa information.

"This new capability will strip away the need to scan paper cards," says Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.

"Currently, the government collects a range of passenger information, including contact details, customs and biosecurity information from citizens and non-citizens entering Australia using a manual, paper based process."

Tudge said the digital app would streamline the processing of travellers arriving from overseas and "put us in a prime position to successfully reopen our borders in a COVID-safe way."

The Digital Passenger Declaration will also be available on a laptop computer or tablet and "will also allow certified COVID vaccination certificates to be digitally uploaded and connected if and when they become available."

Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection – precursor to today's Department of Home Affairs – scrapped the green departure cards for outbound travellers in mid-2017, and at the time indicated the days of the orange arrivals cards were also numbered.

As previously reported, the government is also weighing an option for travellers arriving from low-risk countries to enter home isolation rather than hotel quarantine.

Also read: Australian Government considers home isolation for overseas arrivals


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 238

Hope it works better than the Covid Safe app. 

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 26

.......September 2021 - could anyone be slower than our governments?

20 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

So what happens if your phone dies like mine recently did? Or if you you don't have a smartphone? And yes, there are people still using old style Nokias etc.

15 Mar 2013

Total posts 2

I'd assume (although you know what they say about assuming) that they would have kiosks available airside before you reach the immigration counters to fill in the form - along with free Wi-Fi for those who have a charged up mobile device but no local data plan.

A few benefits I can think off the top of my head would be
1) Quicker turn-around time for the department to add\change\remove questions vs a paper form
2) The ability to add in detailed follow-up questions (if yes, then answer these three questions) since physical space is no longer a consideration
3) Instant access to the responses which could then be used by the automated border gates and\or border guards

06 Mar 2020

Total posts 2

HazelM, there are even some people who don't have a mobile phone of any type, my husband being one of them.


17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

The Australian arrival card has always been one of the most complicated and detailed. Most of the info is superfluous and non verifiable. Ever noticed in UK, citizens just show passport and thats it! Information should be linked (uploaded one time only) to passport number and a straight thru process implemented. But that might save thousands of border force jobs and thats not going to fly! Its like the transit process at Australian international airports, painful and a cast of thousands (to be avoided if at all possible). 

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 21

How overdue is this !!    Regularly go to Singapore 🇸🇬!   They are continually so far ahead and we play catch up 

The day of paper cards is over 12 months ago 

Get moving Australia 


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 22

It’s about time! Have always thought how arcane those arrival cards are. How antiquated does it seem having to hand write your passport number and tick the boxes yes or no depending on whether you’re bringing wood into the country or happen to have $50,000 in cash stuffed into a suitcase, or maybe you’ve been to an animal farm in South America in the last 30 days? I’ve often thought when visiting internationals are filling out the card prior to landing they must be thinking Australia is some kind of backward country that possibly doesn’t have the internet yet! 😀

Arrivals cards are completely pointless for citizens - not sure why they are bothering to go electronic when they have a scan of your passport as you enter the country anyway. No doubt some bureaucrat is congratulating themselves for streamlining the process without stopping to ask why there is any need for an arrivals declaration for citizens anyway. As P (above) noted it is not required to enter the UK as a citizen. And for visitors, do they ever actually use the address provided?

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 5

Now that will be interesting.  I don’t have a mobile phone - smart or otherwise, and have no intention of getting one.   Does that mean I will be stuck in limbo, off the aircraft but not in Australia?

paul 2076

tech is great when it works, but doesn't lots of the time.

How often do banks tech stuff up ? No eftpos, no cards accepted.

Cash is making a comeback & so is hard copies of everything.

Silly leagie fans at suncorp last week couldn't get into ground as useless ticketek failed. 20,000 missed kick off cos they tried to use tickets on their phones. Dumber & dumber.

12 Aug 2019

Total posts 9

Probably about time those cards were digitised, so inefficient in this day and age. 

They’ll need to keep the cards as a backup though, for a multitude of reasons.

13 May 2017

Total posts 6

There will likely be paper cards for those without smart phones and for the elderly. Not everyone is tech savvy.

24 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

I married a Filipina 22 yrs ago & have flown to & fro the Philippines multiple times since.  On my very first return flight, ( in 1998 ) on filling out my first inbound passenger card, I found both the card & print were far too small to read effectively, making it real easy to omit important detail.  Previous comments on this article so rightly condemn ( successive Governments ) for acting so slowly on this issue. With the Internet being what it is today, replacing the paper card with an app  " at least a decade ago ', should've been done;  for " apps " have been around for at least that long, if not far longer.

Yes; there will be future unforeseen bugs . . . faults needing addressing.  But improvements always happen - that's a no-brainer, so don't criticize unfairly. No-one gets it perfect, every single time.  I fully support the Federal Government's move on this.  I've no doubt the relevant dept have been working on this for some years now. Once fully up & running, it will stream-line through-put & foster a quicker check-in thru customs. The latter is what every passenger wants, especially after a long-haul flight.

Could it mean some Border Force Personnel lose their jobs?  Some might.  But I reckon most will be " redeployed " into bolstering other crucial Border Protection teams/areas & in the bigger picture, that can only be better for Australia, long-term.

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