Digging through your carry-on luggage at immigration for a pen, your passport and flight details is now a thing of the past for Australian travellers. As of July 1st 2017 passengers are no longer required to complete the Outgoing Passenger Card (OPC), colloquially dubbed the ‘green departure card,’ when exiting the country.
The CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents Jayson Westbury has acknowledged that the move away from the paper departure cards was long overdue.
“It’s good for Australia, it’s good for Aussie travellers,” Mr Westbury said. “It’s a celebration of Australia finally catching up with the rest of the world, in that we don’t have to fill out a form to leave.”
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton also remarked that the “Removal of the outgoing passenger card further supports the move towards a more seamless, secure and simplified border clearance process.”
“The automated process will add to existing state-of-the art passenger processing technology at our border and will help reduce queuing times and get travellers to their destination more quickly.” Mr Dutton said.
As many travellers departing from Australian airports had previously suspected, Outgoing Passenger Cards had been obsolete for quite some time. At Australian airports with SmartGate passport readers (such as Sydney) there was often no action taken when a traveller neglected to place the card in the designated Perspex box.
It has been reported that the Australian Government has been accessing passenger information from other sources such as The Advance Passenger Information System, which provides basic flight and passport details plus the contact information of passengers.
Mr Westbury has also long argued that a large portion of the information collected with the cards was readily available through the data provided by airlines. This may explain why alarm bells weren’t raised when the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that over 23,000 OPCs went missing in March this year alone. According to an ABS spokesperson, this missing data was largely recovered with the assistance of the Department of Immigration and Border Security via other avenues.
With OPCs gone, incoming passenger cards, which are still collected at Australian customs points, are said to be next on the list to be phased out. However, the Australian government and the Department of Immigration and Border Security have neglected to indicate how passengers will be expected to declare prohibited and restricted items upon entering the country in the future.