How easy is applying for a passport online in Australia & New Zealand?

21 October 2020 Consultancy.com.au

According to a new benchmark of how countries have digitised their passport application services, Australia and New Zealand belong to the more digitally mature countries globally, but, both countries still have a way to go if they want to meet all the online and digital customer experience needs of applicants.

Governments globally are providing a growing number of eServices to citizens, with passport application services one of the many of those services. The issue governments face however is that technology has raised the bar for service expectations, and citizens today expect a seamless and consistent digital customer experience.

Based on a 5-level maturity model, researchers form BearingPoint assessed how countries such as the US, Germany, the UK, France, Brazil and Singapore score in terms of digital maturity – read: ease of application, convenience and service. The application process for Australian and New Zealandish passports was included in the analysis.

The initial levels represent a more traditional offline service delivery model; as the levels increase, organisations move towards transforming their service delivery into a “service design-led organisation, offering an integrated, digital customer journey” said the consultants. 

Digital Maturity Results

The study concludes that no country has reached ‘end-state’, meaning that it manages to satisfy all criteria. Ireland emerges as the global leader, in part due to its first mover advantage. “Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to offer a fully online passport renewal service,” explained Andrew Montgomery, Global Leader Government and Public Sector at BearingPoint.

Not far behind come in Finland, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK, who like Ireland have all been assessed at level four of the maturity model. This represents a passport service that offers citizens an entirely online application process, though some offline interaction may be required. Passport services at this level offer online services for handling problems with the application, for example, resubmitting a photo digitally if the initially submitted photo did not meet specified standards.

In comparison, at level five, there is no offline interaction required, and all online passport services are integrated to deliver simple, end to end digital services. Montgomery: “It is a low touch, seamless and paperless journey, with the result being a digital passport pushed to a mobile device. In addition, a country at level five would provide a secure and consistent, centralised Identity and access management solution.”

Together with the likes of Brazil, Estonia, France, Switzerland, and the US, Australia is positioned in level three of the maturity model.

Level four, three, two and one on the Service Maturity Assessment

A more detailed overview of the highs and lows of the passport application services of Australia and New Zealand: 

New Zealand

The Passport Service in New Zealand, which sits under the Department of Internal Affairs, shows strong digital maturity in relation to its digital offerings provided to citizens. New Zealand provides a full online service to their citizens for all application types except for child first-time applications and emergency applications; scoring highly in the dimensions of Online Service and Service Offering. For child first-time applications, an editable PDF is provided online, this must be downloaded and posted to the New Zealand Passport Service. 

In relation to the online application service and authentication, all applicants must have a ‘RealMe’ account to avail of the online application channel. ‘RealMe’ is a verified identity service provided by the New Zealand Government. This service also allows the ‘RealMe’ account holder to apply on behalf of someone else i.e. for a child application. 

Due to the centralised identity and passports service provided by the New Zealand Government, applicants availing of the online channel are not required to submit documentation. This includes the submission of physical witnessing forms; the New Zealand Passport Service facilitates the recording of witness details during the online process. This is a key attribute of digital maturity across the New Zealand Government, pushing New Zealand ahead of its peers. 

Unlike many other Passport Services included in the study, the New Zealand Passport Service provides applicants with the capability to submit family applications. This functionality greatly enhances the customer experience, streamlining the application journey, leading to New Zealand having a competitive edge over its counterparts in different countries. 

The New Zealand Passport Service offers a standard (10 working days) and an urgent (3 working days) for the turnaround of passport applications submitted online. In addition, in terms of customer service and passport photos, the New Zealand Passport Service provides an Online Photo Checker for applicants to check the quality of their passport photo before applying through the online application service. Passport photos must meet particular ICAO standards, thus providing this service in advance to the applicant is key. 

Australia

The Australian Passport Service, which sits under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, provides a partial online application service for all application types except emergency applications, resulting in a lower score for the dimensions of Online Service and Service Offering.

In terms of e-authentication, the online application process requires the applicant to login using an ‘AusPassport’ account. This is a basic authentication service; as in order to register for an ‘AusPassport’ account, you only need a valid email address and must accept the terms and conditions presented during this process. By providing this, it provides the ability for the citizen to start the application, save progress made and return at a later stage to complete it. 

The citizen can complete the application form online; however, they must lodge the physical application in person. With regards to digital maturity, the Australian Passport Service does operate a document generation service for passport applications. Following completion of the online application, an application checklist is generated detailing the specific citizenship and identity documents required to support the application, this also details the unique application ID.

The applicant’s photo is not submitted online nor is payment taken, these activities must be completed offline, leading to a lower score in the overall online service offering. The citizen must submit the required documents, passport photos and complete payment at a participating Australia Post outlet or an Australian diplomatic or consular mission.


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