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Undocumented Uplift – Getting back to Australia from New Zealand when your child has lost his passport January 27, 2015

Posted by Sean Welsh in bureaucracy.
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So your 16 year old dependent child has lost his passport (or it has been stolen). The child is Australian and on holiday or visiting relatives in New Zealand and needs to get home.

It’s a bit of a rigmarole and the airlines might lie to you (they lied to me) but this is the process that worked. This is how I got my 16 year old back home to his mother so he could start school on time. I was given a lot of wrong, incomplete and unhelpful information. I discovered the whole truth by reading the Advance Passenger Processing (APP) manual online while on hold to Virgin and Air New Zealand…

1. Report the passport lost (or stolen) to the NZ police. They will give you a file number and email you a police report. Do not skip this step. You need the file number they give you for the EOC phone call to Canberra.

2. Report the passport lost (or stolen) to the Australian High Commission in Wellington (if you are south of Lake Taupo) or the Australian Consulate-General in Auckland (north of Lake Taupo). You can try to do this online at passports.gov.au but unless you remember who was guarantor to your child’s passport application (the person who signed the back of their passport photos and said this is a true image of [name]) you will not be able to complete the process.

3. The High Commission will advise you to request an “undocumented uplift” from the “duty manager” of an airline “in the first instance.” This is when you put your child on the plane without a passport. This can be done. I did it yesterday 🙂  In the second instance, you have to apply for an Emergency Passport which requires an interview at the High Commission (i.e. travel to Wellington). I was able to avoid this.

NOTE: The airlines may talk utter bullshit to you about this. (They did to me) I rang Virgin and was given wrong and unhelpful information. I rang Air New Zealand and was given wrong and unhelpful information. Virgin (after a long time on hold) said they could not authorize an undocumented uplift and gave me the number of the Auckland Consulate General. As was in Christchurch this was the wrong side of Lake Taupo and it’s utter bullshit anyway. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has no power to get you into Australia. Air New Zealand said I needed a letter from the High Commission. This is utter bullshit. DFAT has no power to get you home. The airline must contact the Entry Operations Centre (EOC) of the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS). They do not need a DFAT letter. The EOC has a 24 hour / 7 day a week number to call. They pick up in five rings or less. You are not put on hold. The number is in the Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) Manual which is online at the DIBS web site. This describes the override process for passengers without documentation. The more experienced staff at airlines know this but newbies and the junior front line of customer service do not and will get you off the phone with lies and fabricated bulldust.

4. It is very helpful if you prepare a dossier for your child with a scan of their passport, birth certificate and anything else that proves the child is Australian. (An accent is not enough.) The dossier should have the file number of the police report, whatever correspondence you have with the High Commission reporting the passport missing and all the evidence your child is Australian that you can get hold of. If the child has a driver’s licence or photo ID still this is most helpful. My child had his learner’s permit and school ID card.

5. Once you have the dossier and have notified police and an Australian diplomatic mission you have lost the passport, make the booking with the airline. Be firm. You may need to explain exactly what happens and many front line reservations agents will not know this. They may need to speak to a supervisor. Have them make a note in the booking that you need an “undocumented uplift.” Arrive early for your flight. As early as check-in permits in case there are problems.

NOTE: This is exactly what happens. The airline will enter the passenger’s data into the APP system if the plane is flying to Australia. Normally the check-in software does this automatically but in the case of an “undocumented uplift” you need a manual “G” override. The person who does this has to be a check-in supervisor or duty manager (not your common and garden front line check-in staff) so look for someone senior looking at check-in. The check-in supervisor reviews your booking and makes a phone call to the EOC in Canberra. The EOC in Canberra will want the supervisor to sight evidence of a a lost passport (police report) and of Australian nationality (copies of passport, birth certificate, driver’s licence, frequent flyer card – if its associated with an Australian address etc etc). If the EOC is happy they will issue “uplift approval.” EOC in Canberra gives the airline a code and this gets entered as a G override into APP and the undocumented person will be permitted to board the plane. The airline staff will escort the undocumented person through NZ Customs.

The only people on God’s Earth who can do this are the EOC in Canberra. The Ambassador cannot do this. The Consul cannot do this. DFAT is the wrong bureaucracy. You need a override code in the APP system which belongs to DIBS not a bit of letter head from the High Commissioner in Wellington who belongs to DFAT. They High Commission told me that they often hear that airlines request a letter. They will not issue one. They will never issue one. An “undocumented uplift” is an arrangement between the passenger, the airline and DIBS. It has nothing to do with DFAT. They just give you the tip. They cannot make the airline do this. So ask nicely. You do not actually have a right to get on an international flight without a passport.

6. At the other end, your child will be taken into an office and interrogated by Australian Customs. Customs will need to satisfy themselves that your child is not being kidnapped or trafficked and is willingly travelling. My child was in there for an hour so he says.

7. Once home, the child can apply for a replacement passport as usual.

The EOC can refuse the override (in which case you have to apply for an Emergency Passport which requires an interview – i.e. trip to Wellington) but Australian Customs cannot deport an Australian national or refuse entry to an Australian national.

The above was true to the best of my knowledge as of 27th Jan 2015. The information may date with time. The process should be much the same for an adult. Good luck!

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