US And Australia Looking To Streamline Customs Between Countries... Just Not For You

Chances are you've used a SmartGate to hasten your passage through immigration and customs when coming back into Australia. Wouldn't it be great if you could get into other countries faster via a similar method? A new initiative announced by the federal government is looking to make such an arrangement with the United States, but odds are if it does eventuate, you won't be able to take advantage of it.

The idea is it'd work both ways, according to ZDNet, so Australians would be able to use the US' SmartGate equivalent, called "Global Entry", while Americans would benefit from our streamlined processes.

Global Entry is not identical to SmartGate, however. While our system can used by any Australian or NZ citizen with the proper passport, Global Entry requires one to apply for inclusion and go through a pre-screening process that isn't exactly a breeze. It's only open to US citizens (and a few others).

On top of this, as part of the project's announcement, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare made it clear exactly what type of traveller would be the government's focus:

"It means getting into LAX quicker, it means getting into America quicker to do business and it's another example of our close relationship, our strong partnership, working together to ensure that our borders are strong and that business people ... working here and overseas, get to do that work that they want to do as quickly and easily as possible."

I'm sure frequent business travellers would reap the most from the agreement, but hopefully Clare isn't pre-empting additional red tape (or outright exclusion) for us regular folk.

New Zealand, which uses SmartGate, has also been looking to expedite the customs process between itself and the US. NZ's Dominion Post has the US Secretary of Homeland Security on record saying their focus would be "frequent travellers", which sounds much more inclusive, but we'll just have to wait and see.


Image: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service



    Is it just me or is the SmartGate kind of pointless? I find I save myself 10 minutes of queueing through immigration but instead spend that 10 minutes standing around the baggage carousel waiting impatiently for my bags to come through.

      I've never been able to use it -- I still have an older passport without the RFID.

      More often than not the immigration queue is greater than the wait for baggage. You still get out faster because you collect your bag on it's first rotation, not the eighteenth time it's done the whistle stop tour.

      Its not pointless. it means that the ruling class can go off and profit from global terrorism and war and you get the anal probe at the airport while they get waved through...

        What? When your passport expires, you'll get a new one that allows you to use the gate. No one pays for an updated passport. Also, immigration isn't customs.

    Last time the "smart gate" failed to recognise me and I had to go through the long way anyway. -_-

      Same here, luckily they waved me through to the front of the line. Couldn't complain, but man, I wanted to try out the futuristic gates. :P

        I also had the smart-gate fail on me, but I also got to the front of the line as well.

    Would love to try smart gate but have a toddler with me when I travel so it isn't an option. I like the idea of streamlining the process though - last time I returned from NZ we waited for nearly 2 hours with a hungry toddler in the queue to get through Melbourne immigration.

    I was one of the first people of the public to use one in Australia. I was actually amazed at how efficient it worked and without any hassles. It'd be awesome if the rest of the world used the same tech!

    I travelled alone to Japan twice last year, but unfortunately I couldn't use the smart gate because I'm not 18 yet, which was a bit of a pity.

      The age is actually 16.

        BAM ....

    Smartgate is great sometimes however as more and more people get modern passports I find the smartgate queues growing and making the speed difference negligible at peak times. It really depends when your flight is as to whether it's advantageous. Not to mention if you're flying with friends/family with older passports you have to wait for them anyway.

    No-one is worried about the identity theft or the lack of privacy with these RFID's I will gladly keep an old passport and take the long way.

      There is no information on the RFID that you haven't already submitted to DFAT in order to get the passport. it is the same information you submit to a country to get a visa.

      What exactly are you worried is going to get stolen????

      Going the old way collects the exact same information as well champ. check out the bottom of your bio data page on your passport. it has an MRZ strip (Machine Readable Zone). which is used to collect your passport information.

      A valid form of protest, but insignificant, as identity theft will go on regardless of who is last through the I'mmihtation line.
      ID theft is far more pervasive than the simple RFID / credit card scenarios you read in the headlines

    Stupid smart gates never recognise me. I try using them because usually the backup line there is way smaller than the others so go through much faster.

    I found smart gate to be no quicker or slower than the regular gate, it's just the queue that differs. It take what like 3 or 4 seconds for someone to look at your passport, check you're not wanted/excluded/terrorising the world, check it's you and stamp it. Smart gate doesn't really do that any quicker, it's just the queues to get to the smart gate that are smaller. They could (should) have just put more regular immigration gates in and staff them better.

    Smart gate always works for me (about 6 times now). It means I'm in queue for about 15 seconds, and then I'm through with a ticket that I just hand to the customs officer. For someone who travels a lot, it's a big improvement over the old system.

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