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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

International Movement Records


International movement records are records kept on every person travelling in and out of Australia by the Department of Home Affairs. The information is used for a range of reasons including border security and law enforcement. Authority to collect this information is granted by the Migration Act 1958.

Details recorded

Arrival and departure records for Australian travellers since 1981 are filed in a Movements Reconstruction database. The traveller’s records can include:

  • name, date of birth and gender;
  • relationship status;
  • country of birth;
  • departure and/or arrival date;
  • travel document number and country;
  • port code and flight or boat details;
  • visa subclass;
  • number of movements.

Section 489 of the Act grants power to the department to maintain a database of international travel movements. The department also keeps non-electronic movement records that include microfilm records of passenger cards from 1965, ship manifests from 1924 to 1964, and “alien” (immigrant) cards from 1947 to 1979.

Use of the records

A police, customs or other officer can be authorised to access the records for reasons including biosecurity, law enforcement or visa compliance. The information can be shared between departments. The storage, use and disclosure of movement records are also governed by the Privacy Act 1988.

Section 488 of the Migration Act imposes a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 2 years for anyone who reads, examines, copies, uses or discloses any part of a movement record without permission. If a person other than an authorised officer deletes, alters or adds to the records, alters any associated computer program or in any other way tampers with the database, the person faces a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 10 years.

Requesting a record

A person can request their own movement records from the department, under the Migration Act and the Freedom of Information Act 1982, using a Form 1359. An application can also be made on behalf of another person, with written consent. Proof of identity is required. International movement records from before 1981 can be requested from the National Archives of Australia.

Other passenger movement records

There are several other systems used by the Federal Government to process and screen travellers.

Advance passenger processing

This system is used to confirm that before boarding, a passenger has authority to travel to or leave Australia, and has a visa or proper travel documents. It is used to target security concerns and streamline the border clearance process. Airlines must provide advance passenger reports on all passengers and crew.

Passenger Name Record data

The Customs Act 1901 allows the department to request passenger information from all airlines offering international flights to and from Australia. Passenger Name Record (PNR) data aims to identify persons of interest in transnational crime including terrorism, drug trafficking, identity fraud and people smuggling. The data can also be used in exceptional cases to protect a person at risk of death, serious injury or threat to health. This information can be used by agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. A person can request a copy of their PNR data from the department.

Movement Alert List

The Movement Alert List (MAL) is a database that stores biographic details and travel documents of people who are of immigration concern in Australia. MAL is used to detect non-citizens who may pose a threat to the community, such as those who have serious criminal records or who have received an adverse immigration decision.

Thee are more than 700,000 people listed on MAL, and about 1 million documents of concern, such as reported lost, stolen or fraudulent travel documents.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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