Crossing the border

​​​​At the border

Required documents

All arriving and departing passengers must have a valid passport or travel document.

Arriving passengers need to complete an Incoming Passenger Card. If you are not an Australian Citizen you must hold a valid visa when entering Australia.

If you hold an eligible ePassport and are aged 16 years or over, you are eligible to use SmartGate when arriving at, or departing from, Australian airports..

Declaring items

See the Can you bring it in? section for more information on what can be brought in and out of Australia, and what items need to be declared.

Carrying expensive items

If you are departing Australia with expensive items (such as computers, cameras and video cameras) and you intend to bring them back to Australia, register these items on the B263 Goods exported in passenger baggage form.

You cannot use this form if you intend claiming a refund under the Tourist Refund Scheme. The goods registered must be easily identifiable; serial numbers etc. must be included.

Goods purchased duty or tax free in Australia must be taken with you and inspected at the departure point. You may also need to declare these on your return.

Passport stamping

We no longer stamp Australian passports as a matter of course but should you require evidence of travel you may ask one of our officers to do so.

Fingerprint checking

As a non-citizen of Australia, you may be required to have your fingerprints checked when arriving or departing. The fingerprint check will help verify your identity and assist in resolving any issues of concern.

A minimum of four fingerprints will be scanned. Checks will be conducted against the Department’s immigration data holdings and may also be checked against security or law enforcement records. 

Biometric checks should only take a few minutes of your time, with scans typically taking a few minutes to complete. 

The fingerprint scans will not be retained. The scans will be deleted as soon as the check is completed.

Using cameras and mobile phones

Passengers may use their cameras or mobile phones unless:

  • they are undergoing a clearance process
  • they are asked not to by an Border Force officer.​

Officers at international airports have the power to direct a person in a customs controlled area not to use cameras, sound recording equipment or mobile phones under the Customs Act 1901.
They may exercise this power where it is believed that the use of the camera or mobile phone may impede officers from carrying out their duties, or pose a risk to the border.  Unauthorised use of cameras, mobile phones or other electronic devices occurs when a person has been directed not to use such equipment but continues to do so.

Baggage examination and questioning

Border Force officers have legislative powers to conduct baggage examinations and to question travellers to identify breaches of certain customs, quarantine and other Commonwealth legislation, including the import and export of prohibited goods.

If you have any concerns about questioning or examination, you should direct your inquiry to the officer or their supervisor at the time of questioning.

Passenger selection

Risk assessment techniques are employed to identify which passengers will be examined or searched.

All movements across the border are screened using a range of intelligence, targeting and profiling techniques.

Some checks are done before an aircraft even leaves for Australia. Airlines provide the Department with advance notice of passenger details, which are analysed to identify risk factors. The Department also accesses and evaluates information held in airline reservation systems to identify passengers who might be a risk to Australia’s border security.


Border Force officers exercise questioning powers under Section 195 of the Customs Act 1901 and a range of other Commonwealth legislation. Officers have powers to question travellers about whether they (or a person accompanying them) have any dutiable, excisable or prohibited goods.

They also exercise powers to question travellers in relation to other matters such as their immigration clearance, the nature or origin of wildlife specimens and whether they have any currency or bearer negotiable instruments (for example, cheques or money orders).

Questions may include (but are not limited to):

  • the nature and content of the baggage
  • the person’s knowledge of what is in the bags
  • who packed the bags
  • where the person has travelled from
  • where the person commenced the journey
  • the source of any goods in the bag
  • the price of the goods
  • the manner in which the goods were obtained.

Refusal to answer questions may lead to a physical examination of goods carried by the passenger, delaying the passenger’s clearance.

Baggage examination

Border Force officers also exercise the power to examine goods subject to Customs control under Section 186 of the Customs Act 1901. This may involve:

  • opening packages
  • using a device such as an x ray or ion scanner on the goods
  • testing or analysing the goods
  • measuring or counting the goods
  • using a detector dog to examine the goods
  • if the goods are a document, reading the documents directly or with the use of an electronic device.

Officers may arrange for another officer or person with relevant experience to assist in the examination of goods and a traveller’s goods may be retained for examination.

Copying documents

After examining an item, Border Force officers may copy a document where they are satisfied that the document may contain information relevant to:

  • prohibited goods
  • an offence against the Customs Act or a prescribed Act
  • certain security matters.

A ‘document’ includes information stored on mobile phones, SIM cards, laptops, personal electronic recording apparatus and computers. There is no requirement for the traveller carrying the documents to be present when a document is copied.

Electronic devices

Electronic devices held for forensic examination under section 186 of the Customs Act will be retained for no longer than 14 days, provided there is no content on any device retained which renders the device subject to seizure under Customs-related laws. If any device is subject to seizure, the examination of any associated retained devices may take longer than 14 days.

Information about travellers’ definite itineraries, the impact on legitimate livelihoods or the need to contact family members will be taken into account when prioritising the examination. Cooperation from travellers regarding access to devices will assist in expediting the examination but without that cooperation the examination may take longer than 14 days.