It was way back in 2016 that we published the article flagging big changes to the Australian passport photo system.
Then in 2018, announcing that biometric passport photo system, ID Station, was moving to an online platform, we wrote that (distributor) Brands Australia ‘told Inside Imaging that it is only “possibly, in time” that federal and state government departments will move to an online photo ID system, which is currently being adopted in the UK, Canada, France and NZ.’
More than four years down the track and it appears nothing much has changed. There was some concern at the time that Australia Post would swallow up the entire passport photo business if, as was on the cards, it won the ‘Direct Capture Tender’ from passports regulator DFAT.
Australia Post is already entrusted with reviewing passport applications and conducting pro forma interviews, including accepting or rejecting passport pics. As we wrote in 2017, when a partial online passport system was introduced with Australia Post as the retail portal, ‘DFAT does not endorse “particular photo outlets or providers” for passport photos. But the new online-only system creates a virtual “closed loop” between the passports office and Australia Post.’
So the situation remains that you either need to bring in a hard copy photo to the Australia Post interview or, given the AP outlet is equipped with passport photo gear – 1300 of them can take passport photos – have it taken there for $19.95.
New Zealand, on the other hand, is online only – the Identity and Passports office doesn’t accept hard copy, only an acceptable digital file. It has outsourced a ‘Guaranteed Passport Service’ to the Warehouse Stationery chain (‘Only $25!), but also recommends professional photographers, camera stores, and more worryingly, ‘a friend with a cellphone or camera’. An app on the government website enables checking the friend with a cellphone’s effort against the required criteria.
Nonetheless, Brands Australia reckons there’s still great potential for a NZ passport photos business, with gross profit using its ID Station of between NZ$14 and NZ$16 on passport photo orders (including optional Compliance Certificates).
The good news in Australia, according to Brands Australia managing director, John Rule, is that the move to Australia Post winning a Direct Capture Tender is ‘now on hold’.
‘DFAT are supporting photo capture in all channels, and it is not exclusive to Australia Post,’ he told Inside Imaging. ‘We lobbied them just pre-COVID and COVID has placed a setback on any change.
‘Now they are considering online capture [as in NZ] as an alternative, as I understand it. However, there is no firm date yet, we expect somewhere within the next two years.’