14.4 International arrival and departure processes

Foreign visitors for whom airport facilitation is provided are still required to comply with aviation security screening and immigration, customs and quarantine requirements.

14.4.1 Aviation security screening

Australia’s obligations under international and domestic law to protect senior foreign visitors from harassment or impairment of dignity do not displace its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of airports and airline passengers.

Under Australian legislation, Australian airports are required to implement strict security screening procedures in the interests of public safety. These procedures apply to all airline passengers and others entering airport secure zones.

While every effort is made to undertake security screening courteously and respectfully, a certain level of intrusion is unavoidable in complying with these legal requirements. All baggage and personal effects are subjected to X-ray screening to ensure weapons and other prohibited items do not enter airport secure zones or an aircraft cabin.

Screening of the person involves walking through a door frame metal detector. If an alarm sounds, the person must undergo further screening, which can include the re-screening of personal items, the use of a hand-held metal detector or a physical pat-down by a screening officer of the same gender. Private screening – away from public scrutiny – is normally available for a pat-down.

Airline passengers and others may be randomly selected at international departure points to undergo additional screening via body scanning equipment. Under the relevant regulations, selection must not be based on a person’s gender, ethnicity or employment.

Airline passengers and others may also be randomly selected to undergo explosive trace detection (ETD) screening.

14.4.2 Visa requirements

All foreign visitors must hold a valid visa to enter Australia. They must also complete an Incoming Passenger Card.

14.4.3 Customs and quarantine requirements

Senior foreign visitors are not exempt from Australian quarantine requirements including import prohibitions. They will be required to undergo quarantine screening if:

  • they answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions on the Incoming Passenger Card
  • they declare on arrival that they are carrying quarantinable items
  • a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources officer has serious concerns that they are carrying quarantinable items.

For further information, go to:

14.4.4 Health issues

If a foreign visitor indicates on their Incoming Passenger Card that they have been in Africa, South or Central America or the Caribbean during the preceding six days, they will be asked whether they have been in a yellow fever endemic country during that period.  If they answer 'yes', they will be asked to present an International Certificate of Yellow Fever Vaccination. If they are unable to present a valid certificate, they will still be permitted to enter Australia (they will be given a Yellow Fever Action Card providing instructions on what they should do if they develop symptoms of yellow fever).

For further information, refer to the Department of Health's Yellow fever - general fact sheet.

If a foreign visitor shows symptoms of an infectious disease while travelling to Australia, the Biosecurity Act 2015 requires that the Captain/Master of the vessel report this before arrival in Australia. A Biosecurity Officer may board the ship or aircraft to assess the ill person and facilitate medical assistance if required. Increased health screening may be introduced during the very rare event of a public health emergency.

Last Updated: 13 December 2018