The Australian Government has incorporated the collection of biometrics into the visa application process outside Australia.
The term 'biometrics' commonly refers to a measurable physical characteristic or personal behavioural trait that is unique to an individual such as fingerprints, facial structure, the iris or a person's voice.
Biometrics are an important tool in identity management globally, helping countries reduce fraud and integrity risks. Other countries such as France, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and countries in the Middle East, also collect biometrics to improve visa and border checking processes.
The benefits of collecting biometrics include:
- better protecting clients from identity fraud
- making travel to Australia safer
- strengthening Australia's border security
- improving national security.
Visa Application Centre and Australian Biometric Collection Centres
Australia has implemented a global network of Visa Application Centres (AVACs) and Australian Biometric Collection Centres (ABCCs) with biometric collection facilities. Affected visa applicants need to lodge their visa application and/or provide their biometrics at an AVAC or an ABCC. AVACs and ABCCs are run by service delivery partners contracted to the Australian Government to provide visa application lodgement and biometric collection services.
While AVACs and ABCCs are contracted to accept visa applications, decisions about granting or refusing visas will continue to be made by our Department.
Commercial service delivery partners
Biometrics are collected by the Australian government's commercial partners:
These are experienced companies that provide visa application lodgement and biometrics collection services globally for several governments.
Selection of Australian missions and participating countries
The locations outside Australia included in the programme are selected on the basis of:
- the Australian Government's intention to provide broad geographic coverage for the scheme
- Australia's national security and fraud risks in visa caseloads
- the availability of shared visa application facilities with the Five Country Conference partners.
Visa application lodgement and the biometric collection process
Applicants lodging visa applications in selected locations, regardless of nationality, might need to attend an AVAC or an ABCC in person to lodge their application and/or provide their biometrics. Applicants might need to provide their biometrics in relation to each visa application they lodge, unless they are exempt in relation to a particular application.
Biometrics are collected using a quick, discreet and non-intrusive process that captures a facial image with a digital camera and a 10-digit fingerprint scan with a digital finger scanner.
AVACs can offer additional optional services on a fee-for-service basis.
Safekeeping and use of biometrics
Facial images and fingerprint scans are kept on secure departmental databases. Only authorised officers under the Migration Act 1958 (the Act), as regulated by the Privacy Act 1988, can access the biometrics of applicants.
Under the Act, the Department is allowed to provide the fingerprints and photographs of applicants to certain Australian Government Departments and agencies in addition to international organisations and countries for a permitted purpose. This includes for the purpose of verifying identity, checking whether a client has effective protection in another country, combating identity fraud or determining if the client has a criminal history.
In all cases where biometrics are provided to other agencies or countries, we will take steps to protect the applicant's privacy.
Exclusions from biometrics collection
Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens are excluded from biometrics collection.
A person does not need to provide their personal identifiers as part of the application process if both of the following apply:
- they are eligible to make, and have lodged, an electronic visa application
- the application is one of a type, or equivalent to a type which could have been lodged electronically prior to 23 March 2013.
Applicants for an Australian Declaratory Visa or Australian Citizenship and APEC Business Travel Card holders are also excluded. Applicants who are less than five years of age, incapable people, or those physically unable to provide a fingerprint scan, only need to provide a facial photograph.
If an applicant is an incapable person or under 16 years of age, a parent or legal guardian must be present when biometrics are collected.
Detailed information for visa applicants is available from