The Australian Passport Office has said that passport applications surged to over 102,000 in October, as Australians prepared themselves for the return of overseas travel.
This figure is up from the 82,000 applications it received in September, and the 53,000 it saw in August.
According to the Australian Passport Office, this meant the office was trying to process more than 5,000 applications per workday in October.
The office also reported a strong uptake in the newly introduced digital international COVID-19 vaccination certificate, a new requirement for overseas travel, with more than 717,500 certificates in the two weeks since the certificate was introduced on 19 October.
The surge in passport applications came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 1 October that fully vaccinated citizens and residents will be able to leave the country freely and return without hotel quarantine in November, once individual states hit the 80 per cent vaccination target in their adult populations.
At that time, PM Morrison said that instead of hotel quarantine, overseas arrivals would be required to quarantine at home for seven days.
“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” Prime Minister Morrison said at the time. “Let’s get vaccinated and get on with it.”
However, two weeks later, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that from 1 November, fully vaccinated international arrivals would no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine, deviating from the national plan.
Since then, Victoria and the ACT have both also scrapped the seven-day home quarantine requirement for double-jabbed Australians returning to their states from overseas.
Travellers will need to prove their vaccination status, with the use of the international COVID-19 vaccine certificate, which was rolled out on 19 October.
The long-awaited vaccine passport for overseas travel works in a similar fashion to existing digital COVID-19 vaccine certificates. The vaccine passport contains a QR code that can be readily scanned for verification by border officials and is currently available for download via the MyGov online portal.
Furthermore, the digital document is linked to a person’s physical passport, with travellers required to provide their passport information when they request the vaccine passport from Medicare.
Once downloaded, the document can either be printed and used physically, or stored digitally on a smartphone.
The federal government has promised that the certificates are as secure as a traditional passport and contain a higher level of encryption than the domestic proof-of-vaccination certificate.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who oversaw the creation and rollout of the international travel vaccine passport, said he expects Australians to welcome the new process.
“Australians understand when you travel overseas, countries require documentation to prove who you are,” he said.
“In the same way, for example, that for the last 20 years, Australians, when they travelled to Africa, they have had to carry a little international vaccination book that showed the Yellow Fever vaccination.
“This is exactly the same.”
Minister Robert stated that while not all countries require proof of vaccination in order to enter, Australia does, so travellers will need to have the vaccine passport organised ahead of any planned overseas trips.