Australian Civil Liberties Union

Your Rights 2005

Chapter 14

RIGHTS OF TRAVELLERS

Travelling overseas. Passports.Visas. Dual Nationality. Insurance. Health Returning to Australia. Customs. Deportation. Citizenship.

This chapter provides advice to Australian citizens and permanent residents of Australia travelling overseas and resuming toAustralia, and to tourists entering Australia. The advice is based on pamphlets put out by various Federal Government departments and agencies such as Hints for Australian Travellers.

LEAVING AUSTRALIA AND TRAVELLING OVERSEAS

Passports. If you are an Australian citizen and you wish to travel overseas, you should obtain a passport from a Post Office or the Australian Passport Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs. To obtain a passport, you will need to pay the sum of $150 provide evidence of Australian citizenship such as a Certificate of Citizenship or a Birth Certificate, an application form duly completed certified by a person who has known you for a period of at least a year and who is not a member of your family, and provide two identical photographs recently taken, one of which should be signed by the person who signed the application form. Children under the age of 18 years require their own passport and will need to get the consent of both parents to obtain a passport and produce a Birth Certificate showing the names of both parents. People who are married do not need to obtain their spouseís agreement to obtain a passport unless both spouses apply for a passport at the same time. Once a passport is issued, it is valid for a period of ten years and cannot be renewed. After ten years has elapsed the passport must be replaced completely and the relevant fee paid again.

You need your passport to identify yourself on entering or leaving countries, as well as for a variety of other purposes including checking into hotels or camping sites, and cashing travellers cheques. Keep your passport safe at all times. Fill in page 3 of the passport: the details of who is to be notified in case of an emergency. Read the notes in your passport. Do not alter your passport in any way as the Passports Act provides a penalty for such an offence. As your passport remains the property of the Australian Government it must not be used as security for a private debt. You should not let it out of your possession unless you are sure it is the normal practice in a particular place to hand it over temporarily for official purposes (for example, during a cruise shipís stay in port, or at hotels or camping sites to comply with local laws). Record the number of your passport. If your passport is lost or stolen, report it at once to the nearest police station and obtain a report of loss, and then provide a copy of the report to the nearest Australian Consul. A replacement passport may be issued only after the Consul is satisfied with your explanation of the loss and with the details contained in the police report. Delay in theissue of a replacement passport can be reduced if you are able to produce the same documentary evidence of your Australian citizenship and proof of your identity as you provided to obtain the passport you lost. Keep your passport and other forms of identification in separate places to reduce the possibility of losing them both at once. Check that your passport will be valid for at least six months beyond the period you plan to be travelling because a number of countries will not issue visas in passports which expire within six months of the date of intended entry to those countries.

Airport tax. In many countries an airport tax is payable on departure from international airports. Ensure that you have enough local or readily convertible money to pay it or you may not be able to leave on the planned flight. The Australian departure tax is $38.

Visas. A visa is a stamp, or sometimes a loose leaf document, placed in your passport by an official of another country to help you obtain approval for entry to that country when you arrive there. Some countries will admit you for tourist purposes for short periods without a visa provided you have a valid Australian passport. For most Western European countries visas for tourists are not required. Visas are not required for tours to Western European countries. Before leaving for any country check whether you need a visa. You cannot obtain employment in most countries unless you have a work permit.

Permits can usually only be issued to you before you arrive in the country. When you enter another country your passport will normally be stamped with an entry permit allowing you to remain there for a limited period. Make sure you check how long you can stay. If you want to remain longer you will need to obtain an extension of the entry permit before it expires. Your Consul can tell you where you should apply, but cannot stop local authorities taking action against you if you overstay. In some countries you will have to pay a fine if you stay longer than the time allowed and you could be imprisoned if the period of the overstay is excessive or if you cannot pay your fine on the spot. A South African or Israeli visa in your passport may cause some countries to refuse you entry.

Nationality. Each country is free to determine who it will regard as its citizens and under what conditions its citizenship can be acquired or lost. Citizenship laws are often complex and they can be quite different from Australian laws. In many countries, for example, citizenship is not considered to be lost simply because a person has acquired Australian citizenship. The laws of some countries require people who wish to renounce their citizenship to make formal written applications to do so.

Because of such laws manyAustralian citizens are also citizens of other countries and, therefore, possess what is internationally referred to as ídual nationalityí. Australian citizens who hold another citizenship or nationality are likely to be those who were not born in Australia; were born in Australia but had one or both parents or grandparents who were not born in Australia or are married to a person with another citizenship. It is wise to cheek whether you are a dual national before leavingAustralia and, if so, whether you are subject to particular laws or regulations when in the country of your other citizenship, such as liability for military service and for offences under its law committed outside that country. You could also be required to obtain an exit permit before being allowed to leave that country. Even if you do not accept the claim of another country that you are its citizen the authorities there may treat you as one. If you possess the nationality of an east European country you should know that some of those countries have mutual extradition agreements under which a visitor may be arrested in one country and transported to another (of which he or she is considered a citizen to face outstanding charges (such as an earlier unauthorised departure from that country). If you are treated as a citizen of another country according to its citizenship laws your Australian Consul may not be able to help you while you are in that country.

Loss of Australian citizenship. Australia provides in its own citizenship law that an Australian citizen, who is 18 years of age or over, who does an act or thing, the sole or dominant purpose of which is to acquire the citizenship of another country, ceases to be an Australian citizen from the date he or she becomes a citizen of that country. It makes no difference whether you are in Australia or overseas when you take the step which leads to acquisition of the other citizenship. If you marry a citizen of a foreign country you may, under the law of that country, automatically become a citizen of that country. In those cases,Australian citizenship is not lost. If, however, you marry a citizen of another country and apply to become a citizen of that country by registration, or in some other way you will cease to be an Australian citizen.

If you lose Australian citizenship as a result of acquiring another citizenship, you can apply to resume it. Anyone who loses Australian citizenship is no longer entitled to hold anAustralian passport. If you think you may acquire another nationality in some way, you should seek advice about the effect this would have on your Australian nationality from Australian authorities. Permanent residents of Australia who are not Australian citizens and who intend travelling overseas should obtain a Resident ReturnVisa for re-entry into Australia in their foreign passports before leaving Australia.

Health. Overseas travellers may need inoculation or vaccination to protect them in places where serious communicable diseases are prevalent, as well as to guard against the carriage of these diseases into areas where they are not found. The Department of Health can tell you about the requirements of each country. Malaria is a serious health risk in some countries in Central America, Africa and Asia. If you plan to visit countries in these areas seek medical advice a month before you leave Australia on the use of anti-malarial drugs. Obtaining competent dental care in overseas countries may be difficult, expensive and time consuming and may disrupt your schedule. It is strongly recommended that you visit your dentist before departure. If you require regular medical treatment or are taking prescribed medication, consult your doctor before travelling. You may need to carry an adequate supply of essential medication. If so, be sure to carry a doctorís certificate, prescription or letter relating to any drugs which you are using.

Health insurance. When you visit other countries, the risk that you will have an accident or fall ill increases considerably because of such things as unfamiliar traffic behaviour, endemic diseases, low safety standards, crime rates, unfamiliar diet, and impure food and drinking water. Medicare covers benefits for scheduled medical services incurred outside Australia but only according to Australian scheduled feesóoverseas charges are often considerably higher. The excess may be covered by taking out insurance with a registered private health benefits fund, subject to waiting periods and pre-existing condition provision. Medicare provides no cover for charges raised by hospitals for treatment overseas. If you need hospital treatment and you have not taken out additional health insurance cover tailored to your travel needs expenses can be very high indeed. Hospital accounts of between $10 000 and $30 000 are common in many countries.

Private health insurance. Contributors to registered private health benefits funds should personally check their entitlements to overseas hospital cover and note that expenses incurred overseas may only be reimbursed at the Australian insured rate (overseas charges may be considerably higher) you may have to pay all overseas medical and hospital fees in the first instance and claim reimbursement at a later date; and you may not be covered for a pre-existing condition. Some hospitals overseas wonít admit you if you donít have adequate health insurance or canít demonstrate to their satisfaction that you can pay.

Your travel agent should be able to advise you on comprehensive travel insurance for most contingencies related to overseas travel. It is not expensive and may save you and your family from financial trauma. If you wear glasses carry a spare pair as well as prescription for the lens. If you are travelling without a relative or friend and you become disabled by a serious illness or injury requiring your hospitalisation, advise the nearest Australian Consul who can provide guidance and will arrange, if necessary, to contact relatives or friends on your behalf, for funds, medicines, tickets or other needs.

Travel arrangements and insurance. Additional Insurance. Ensure that you reconfirm your onward booking and return travel arrangements as soon as possible after your arrival. This is particularly necessary when travelling during traditional holiday periods. Arrange adequate insurance to cover such things as accidents, additional costs associated with delayed flights, change of itinerary, loss of deposit, loss of baggage, loss of money, etc. Vehicle insurance. It is foolish to drive a vehicle without adequate insurance cover and to do so could cause financial distress. Some countries, e.g. in Europe, require visitors in private vehicles to have international insurance in addition to normal comprehensive cover. Drivers licenses. While travelling overseas you may find it useful to carry an International Driving Permit which can be obtained from the relevant automobile club in your State.Australian missions abroad do not issue or renew Australian drivers licences or International Driving Permits.

Money. Travellers cheques and international credit cards are usually the safest means of carrying money.Your bank or travel agent should be able to tell you the best type and currency for your area of travel. International credit cards are generally, but not universally accepted. Some travellers have encountered difficulties with particular credit cards in particular countries and there could be an advantage in carrying more than one credit card. In many countries, it is not possible to change Australian dollar travellers cheques and your Consul cannot do it for you. It is advisable to travel with other hard currency travellers cheques drawn on international banks You should check with your bank to ensure that, if lost, your travellers cheques will be replaced promptly. It is important that you keep records of your travellers cheques, i.e. number and amounts issued and spent, separate from the cheques, as they will be imperative in arranging the replacement of lost cheques. There is no limit on amounts that may be taken out of Australia for your travelling expenses but Australian Government regulations prohibit taking out of Australia more than $5000 per person in actual Australian currency notes and coins. It is often helpful to buy small amounts of foreign currency before departure so that you have cash for buses, taxis, phone calls, tips and airport tax on arrival in another country. Exchange rates in hotels or other commercial establishments are generally reliable but are usually slightly less favourable than those available in banks or official exchange bureaus. If you lose your money and valuables or they are stolen you should inform the local police. In an emergency, you can arrange (if necessary by telegram or telephone) for funds to be remitted to you by your bank or by friends through a bank. Your Consul cannot pay your debts but may be able to advance a small loan to help you out.

Mail, Pensions and Voting. Mail. Many post offices throughout the world provide a service for travellers who do not have a fixed address to which mail can be sent. If you want mail sent to you in other countries you can have it addressed to you care of ďPoste RestanteĒ in the city you intend to visit and may then collect it from the main post office in that city. Poste Restante offices usually hold mail only for one month and you will normally have to show your passport to be able to collect it. There are also commercial businesses, banks and credit card offices which may accept mail for you.

Pensions. Before leaving Australia, pensioners should check with the appropriate Department-Social Security, Veteransí Affairs-about entitlements and payments while overseas. Pensioner entitlements to free medical and other treatment apply only within Australia. Overseas, you are responsible for the settlement of all your accounts.

Eligible ex-servicemen may consult the Department of Veteransí Affairs about payment for necessary medical or surgical treatment of their accepted war related disabilities.

Voting. The Australian Electoral Office in each State capital will explain how you apply for a postal vote if an election or referendum takes place while you are overseas. Australian missions abroad will tell you where and when postal vote applications can be obtained.

Foreign laws/regulations/restrictions. Everyone visiting a foreign country is subject to the laws of that country. Be careful to obey all laws and regulations and take care with photographic restrictions in areas where there may be military equipment or installations. Beware of people offering to buy your possessions such as cameras, watches, clothing and jewellery. Such transactions may be in breach of local laws and may lead to severe penalties. You should not carry anything into or out of another country for other people, no matter how innocuous the item seems. You could unwittingly be carrying prohibited goods or drugs. When in other countries, remember that certain behaviour, dress, or expression of particular views,may be regarded as being discourteous or even a breach of the law and regulations of those countries. Take care to ensure that you donít give offence.

Make your journey more pleasant, rewarding and safe by taking time before leaving Australia to find out about the customs, laws and general characteristics of those countries on your itinerary. For information on the countries you plan to visit, write to their embassies/consulates in Australia and ask your travel agent or local bank. Keep away from disturbances or riots even as an onlooker. Situations can change very quickly and you can get caught up in them in a number of ways-some dangerous.

If there is civil unrest or a natural disaster in the area you are visiting, your Consul will advise you and help you. If there is an earthquake, flood, fire or other situation which might cause your relatives in Australia to worry about your safety, try to let them know as quickly as possible by telephone or telegram that you are safe, or if you cannot arrange this, let an Australian Consul know.

Mercenary activities and involvement in activities against foreign countries are unacceptable to authorities in many countries. It can lead to imprisonment or other penalties because it may be regarded as a hostile act against the country or against the people of that country. You should be careful about expressing opinion which may be offensive to the government or people of the country you are visiting.As far as Australia is concerned it is a criminal offence for an Australian to enter a foreign country and engage in hostile activity against the government of that country. It is also an offence under Australian law forAustralians to be recruited for service as mercenary soldiers forforeign agencies and governments.

Drugs. Many Australians mistakenly believe that other countries are less concerned about the use of prohibited drugs than Australia or that they might somehow be less vigilant about foreign travellers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Penalties for drug offences can be very severe and include death sentences, life imprisonment, and flogging. In many countries local laws make no distinction between soft and hard drugs and penalties can be equally severe for offences involving marijuana or alcohol. Narcotics agencies pass on details about drug offenders to authorities in other countries. Many foreign countries refuse entry to people who have been convicted of drug offences. Conditions in some countriesí prisons can be primitive and health and welfare facilities poor. There are countries where accused people are presumed guilty until they have proven their innocence.

Before you take a chance with carrying or using any type of drug in any quantity, think about these penalties and think about the suffering and expense you may cause your family and friends if you are caught. An Australian Consul canít intervene in the process of other countriesí law enforcement and canít get people out of prison. If you are arrested overseas you may ask to see your Consul who can give you a list of lawyers who are generally regarded by the consular community as being reasonably competent to assist you. The choice is yours as to which one you want to engage, or whether you want to find another one who is not on the Consulís list. The Consul canít give you legal advice and canít pay your legal expenses, but he or she can arrange for your relatives or friends to be asked to send money and arrange other assistance if required. The Consul will try to ensure that you receive the benefit of the same laws and means of redress which the country gives its own citizens.

Further travel hints.You should keep a watchful eye on your personal belongings and avoid carrying valuables. Many travellers have suffered theft and robbery during their holidays. There are increasing numbers of incidents of bag snatching and petty thieving, which are not just confined to popular tourist spots. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or clothing which will draw attention to you. Leave a copy of your itinerary with your relatives or friends so that they have some idea of your whereabouts at all times in case they need to contact you. Tell your family inAustralia that if they experience difficulty in contacting you in a real emergency e.g. involving close family illness or death, they can do so through the Consular Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra or its regional offices in capital cities. Before leaving Australia consider putting your legal affairs in order if you havenít already done so.

ENTRY INTO AUSTRALIA

People entering Australia must be either an Australian citizen with an Australian passport, a New Zealand citizen with a New Zealand passport, a person with migrant or permanent residence status holding a permanent entry visa, or a tourist or person with temporary resident status holding a visitorís visa, a working holiday visa, a temporary residence visa or a studentís visa. A studentís visa may be obtained by people wishing to visitAustralia for a brief period on business or for a holiday. The person seeking to enter Australia will need to produce a return ticket and indicate that he has sufficient funds to remain in Australia. A person with a visitorís visa is not permitted to obtain employment here. A working holiday visa for a stay of up to one year may be obtained by young people from particular countries who wish to obtain employment here as well as enjoy a holiday.Visitors who wish to obtain employment in Australia, apart from people on brief business trips, should apply before arriving in Australia for a temporary residence visa which can be issued for a period of up to two years. If you are a dependent of someone holding a temporary residence visa, you will not normally be permitted to work in Australia. People wishing to enter Australia to settle here and eventually apply for citizenship should consult the Australian Consulate in their own country or the Australian Department of Immigration.

A permanent entry visa is given to people who are accepted by the Immigration Department as immigrants.These persons have permanent residence status and can apply for citizenship in due course. People on other types of visas cannot easily change their status with a view to applying for permanent residence. People entering Australia who are not Australian or New Zealand citizens must also obtain an entry permit at the place of entry to Australia. In  exceptional cases, an entry permit may be refused. Australian citizens cannot be refused admittance. The Department of Immigration may supply a reentry visa to any resident of Australia who is not an Australian citizen and who wants to travel overseas and then return to Australia. People coming intoAustralia either on a visa or an Australian passport will be checked by Customs Officials at the place they arrive here which will normally be an airport.

Bringing In Goods. When you arrive in Australia you will be given printed information about goods on which Customs Duty is payable and goods which cannot be brought in at all-read the information carefully. Most personal possessions can be brought into Australia without paying Customs Duty. Customs Duty is payable on such items such as T.V. sets, etc. In the case of cigarettes and alcohol, small quantities can be brought in without paying duty. Some goods, plants, animals and food items cannot be brought in at all and must be surrendered to Customs Officials. The aim of this prohibition is to keep Australia free of disease prevalent in some overseas countries. If you are in any doubt as to whether a particular item is a prohibited import or is subject to Customs Duty you should declare the item so that a Customs Officer can decide whether the item can be brought in or not, or whether duty is payable.The penalties for breaching quarantine and other Customs regulations are very high.

Deportation proceedings may be instituted against various categories of people in Australia except Australian citizens. For instance the Minister for Immigration can order the deportation of immigrants with permanent residence visas who are convicted of crimes punishable by at least one yearís imprisonment within ten years of coming to Australia, and any visitors or residents who conduct themselves in such a way in Australia or overseas that leads the minister for Immigration to believe they should be deported.

The Minister can also order the immediate deportation of people whose visa or entry permit has expired or has been cancelled, or people who have no entry permit in the first place. People who belong to an organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government by force of the destruction of property or killing of public officials, etc., who have been in Australia for less than five years can also be deported.

If you are served with a deportation notice, it is advisable to get legal advice as soon as possible from a solicitor or a legal aid office. In some cases you can give written notice within thirty days of receiving a deportation notification that you want your case to be reviewed. In some instances you may be able to appeal to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal, an Immigration Review Panel, or the Federal Ombudsman. M.Rís can often help. Reasons for deportation may be obtained under the new Freedom of Information Act.

Citizenship. People who enter Australia as migrants may obtain Australian Citizenship by naturalization. Australian Citizenship may be granted to people who are of good character and have a basic knowledge of English, an understanding of the obligations and rights of Citizenship, and who have lived here for a period of at least two years. Application Citizenship can be made to the Department of Immigration after 2 yearsí residence and you will need to produce evidence of your present nationality which can be established by producing a passport. If your Application for Citizenship is granted, you must take an oath or affirmation of allegiance to Australia and will then be granted a Certificate of Citizenship. Some people are entitled to be both citizens ofAustralia and citizens of their country of birth. Such people may be liable for compulsory-military service in their country of birth if they return to that country. They may in some instances carry two passports. Most people become Australian citizens by reason of being born in Australia. Anyone born in Australia automatically becomes an Australian citizen, provided one of the parents is a permanent resident of Australia or is an Australian citizen, the only exception being children of the diplomatic or consular officials of foreign countries.A person may also be registered as anAustralian citizen if born overseas if one of their parents is an Australian. Children born overseas to Australian mothers who are not married can also be registered as Australian citizens. Overseas births should be registered at the relevantAustralian Consulate within five years. For further information on entering and leaving Australia contact the Department of Immigration.

 

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