Thursday, March 20, 2008

Applying for an Australian passport online

My passport was about to expire and I found I could fill out the application for a new one online. A web search on "password renewal" brought up up the Australian Passport Renewal Application Form.

The interactive online application did not work with the Firefox browser, but it worked with MS IE. Having Google maps to verify I put in addreses correctly helped, although the passport system seems to have its own address check. Also I used the wikipedia entry on average human height, to see I got mine about right.

The passport system asks a series of questions. The process is reasonably complex and I found it needed my full attention: I could not fill it in while chatting to some one at the same time. The system gives you a code so you can save your work part way through and come back to it later.

At the end the system provides a PDF file of the passport form. The applicant has to print it out in a very specific way (A4 paper of a specific weight paper).
There is a system to track the progress of the application.

More difficult than filling out the form was locating a post office with the Australia Post system, so I could lodge the form. The interview at the post office was straightforward, with the details in my old passport being checked.

What took a lot of time was having a suitable passport photo taken. The post office was using an old Polaroid camera. There are very stringent rules for passport photos. It took three attempts to get a suitable photo, with three minutes between photos for the photograph to develop. This process is a lot easier when a digital camera is used.

The Department of Foreign Affairs uses
facial biometric recognition software to check people against passports. Perhaps they could provide a simplified version of this as a web application, which checks if passport photos are suitable. The software could check if people were looking in the correct direction, not wearing hats or sunglasses, which are common reasons why photos are rejected for passports.

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