Australia will replace its incoming passenger arrivals card with a digital app which will also support internationally-recognised Covid vaccination certificates.
Available as a smartphone app as well as a web-based service accessible on a laptop computer or tablet, the new Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) aims to combine travel information such as visas with health data including people's vaccination status – although vaccination will take priority as the DPD is rolled out for the broad return of international travel across 2022.
Passengers entering Australia will reportedly need to complete the DPD ahead of travel, rather than pulling out a pen to scribble on a form during their flight or on arrival at the airport.
The $75 million DPD system is being developed by technology consulting firm Accenture, with trials to begin in the coming months "before being deployed, at scale, throughout major Australian airports."
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.
In announcing the PDP concept in late 2020, then Acting Minister for Immigration Alan 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."
That reopening of borders is expected to happen from December 2021 after the national vaccination program passes the 80% milestone, and will see Australians once again able to leave the country without applying for permission.
Perhaps more importantly, it will remove the current limits on fully-vaccinated Australians returning from overseas, where many have been stranded since 2020, and also enable the establishment of quarantine-free travel bubbles with a range of countries.
Australians returning from 'low risk' countries, based on Covid cases and vaccination rates, are expected to be permitted to spend as little as 5-7 days in home isolation rather than 14 days in hotel quarantine.