Individuals and Travellers

Reforms to modernise Australia’s visa system—Q&As

Why is there a need for Immigration Reform?

The purpose of Immigration Reform is to pursue the Government’s priorities of a strong economy, strong national security and a cohesive and prosperous society.

The Department is managing growing volumes of visa applications and travellers, within an environment of increasing risks to national security and budget constraints.

Australia’s visa business model and underpinning technology systems are almost 30 years old and have increasing limitations.

The Department is committed to creating a system that is better suited to manage the rapidly growing number of visa and citizenship services for lower-risk clients. Staff will then be able to continue to focus on more complex, higher-risk matters, using their expertise and judgement on the applications that most warrant our attention.  

What are the improvements and what will they achieve?

The Government will introduce reforms to modernise Australia’s visa system and how it is delivered globally to provide a seamless, automated experience for most travellers, and link them to value added services.

Our goal is a streamlined experience for the vast majority of visa and citizenship applicants, better automated end-to-end processing and increased use of self-service, which aligns to the whole-of-government digital agenda. The Department will retain sovereign functions, including policy functions, visa decision making and security checks.

The package includes:

  • simplifying and streamlining our visa system so that it is easier for clients to use and understand
  • engaging with the market to explore new technologies to help design and build a visa processing platform that will better manage risk, increase efficiency in processing and improve the visa applicant experience
  • improving existing ICT systems to enhance the Government’s ability to assess and verify the identity of individuals arriving in Australia

When will the improvements come into effect?

This is a long-term program of change to the way we deliver our services.

There is no immediate impact for visa applicants or holders. The first step will be broad consultation with the market on the design and build of a new visa processing platform.

What will the changes look like?

The changes will make it easier for clients and business to access visa services and information. Improvements in online services and back-end processing will enable the Department to maintain high levels of service for the growing numbers of visa applicants.

While the changes will be designed to manage the increasing number of travellers and migrants who cross the Australian border each year, they will also improve the relevant safeguards and provide the Government with more opportunities to protect our community. 

Will these changes impact on Australia’s attractiveness as a migrant destination country?

The improvements will continue to support Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for tourists, skilled workers, students and investors.

Enhanced identity capabilities will deliver a seamless experience for low-risk travellers across our border with minimal interaction with border officials.

What will happen to people who have an existing visa application?

There is no immediate impact for current visa applicants or holders. Current visa applications will continue to be considered under existing processing arrangements.

You do not need to contact the Department. Applications will continue to be considered under the existing processing arrangements.

How will we be able to better verify the identity of individuals coming to Australia?

The Department’s use of biometrics will:

  • streamline decision-making and facilitate the efficient movement of legitimate travellers
  • increase detection of people of security, law enforcement or immigration concerns
  • reduce identity fraud, including in migration and citizenship programmes.

These enhancements will occur in the back-end of our systems helping to protect the safety of the Australian community and provide a seamless experience for the majority of travellers.

How will the reforms affect the Department’s current service providers?

At this point, there are no immediate changes to current arrangements. In the longer term, we foresee visa reform providing potential new opportunities for current service providers.

How do I get involved if I believe I have a service to offer?

As a first stage, the Department issued a market consultation paper on 23 June 2017, Delivering visa services for Australia', to start the long-term process of market engagement. The market consultation phase closed on 23 July 2017.

On 22 September 2017, the Department published a Request for Expressions of Interest: Delivering visa services  for Australia – Bundle 1, available through AusTender, to further engage with the market. This closed on 27 October 2017.

The release of the Request for Information – Assessments Against Visa Criteria on 12 January 2018 on AusTender is the next step of market consultation, where the Department is seeking information from the market about innovative ways of undertaking assessments against visa criteria in more streamlined and automated ways. The Department encourages potential providers to consider all the market engagement papers, including this RFI and engage in the process.