Where crew wish to sign-on to a vessel in Australia there are a number of requirements that must be met.
The 'Seaports - Notification of Sign-On' (Form B522) contains certain bio-data details of crew wishing to sign on to a vessel. It allows the Department to perform an appropriate risk assessment and to check a crewmember's lawful status prior to signing the crewmember onto the vessel.
This form must be submitted (by hand, fax or e-mail) to the local Department of Immigration and Border Protection office 24 hours prior to the expected sign-on taking place. Failure to submit the form, 24 hours in advance may result in delays in officer attendance for sign-on or delays during sign-on processing. Where agents/masters receive notice less than 24 hours prior to a crew change-taking place, it is expected that they will provide this form to the local Department of Immigration and Border Protection office as soon as possible and provide a reason for the late notice.
The new form includes the following data:
- Vessel details;
- Crew bio-data;
- Expected sign-on date and time;
- Includes the question: "Australian Maritime Crew Visa holder? Yes/No". This is an opportunity for the master/agent to provide the Department with an indication of whether or not crew are believed to hold an Australian Maritime Crew Visa (MCV).
After providing this form to the Department, agents/masters will still need to make contact with the local Department office to determine where and when the actual sign-on processing activity will occur. The sign-on processing may occur on board the vessel, at Customs House or some other location as advised by the Department.
It should be noted that for crew to sign-on a vessel, the vessel must have arrived in Australia (e.g.. be in a Customs S.15 port, be at an Australian Resource Installation, etc.). Crew attempting to sign-on a vessel that has not yet arrived in Australia (i.e. before its first port arrival) or after it has departed Australia (i.e. after its last port departure), are to be treated as passengers, and are ineligible to utilise their MCV to be considered lawful in Australia. Agents/masters are to utilise the same form to advise the Department of 'sign-ons' occurring under these circumstances. Where crew do join a vessel prior to its arrival in Australia, and the vessel then arrives in Australia - they will be outwards cleared as a passenger when joining the vessel and then cleared inwards as crew when the vessel eventually arrives.
Crew sign-ons to a vessel that is between ports in Australia can be approved subject to master/agents obtaining relevant permissions from the local Department office.
Where crew are awaiting a sign-on to a vessel in Australia and are currently on a short-term visa (e.g. transit visa - period is only 3-5days) and they have concerns that they may not sign-on to a vessel prior to the expiry of their period of stay, it is important that advice is sought from the Department to determine options for extending that period of stay for those crew.