The statistical information on this site may not be the latest. For the most up to date information visit the ABS website abs.gov.au

This is not the latest release View the latest release

Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia methodology

Reference period
November 2019
Released
16/01/2020

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 This release contains statistics on the travel movements of persons arriving in, and departing from, Australia.

2 Its main focus is to provide information and analysis of short-term movements (i.e. less than one year), in particular short-term visitor arrivals (STVA) and short-term resident returns (STRR). Statistics on overseas arrivals and departures relate to the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers. Individuals who travel multiple times in a year are counted each time they cross Australia's borders. Permanent and long-term movements in this publication are not an appropriate source of migration statistics. For further information refer to:

3 These statistics are important as input to a broad range of other statistical collections, including:

  • Australia's official population estimates, through quality estimates of Net Overseas Migration (NOM);
  • the Australian Migration Planning Framework;
  • key national economic and tourism indicators;
  • forecasting NOM into the future;
  • International Trade & Balance of Payments statistics;
  • compiling the International Accounts and the Tourism Satellite Account;
  • estimating National Income and Consumption; and
  • creating benchmarks for the International Visitors Survey.
     

4 A number of characteristics collected about travellers are also available in this release. For more information and a complete list of variables available see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 35 and 37.

Source of the statistics

5 Administrative information on persons arriving in, or departing from, Australia is collected via various processing systems, passport documents, visa information, and incoming passenger cards (see Passenger Card Appendix). Aside from persons travelling as Australian or New Zealand citizens, persons travelling to Australia are required to provide information in visa applications. These administrative data are collected by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) under the authority of the Migration Regulations 1994 made under the Migration Act 1958.

6 ABS statistics on overseas arrivals and departures (OAD) are mainly compiled using information from Home Affairs sources. All overseas movement records are stored on Home Affairs' Travel and Immigration Processing System (TRIPS). Each month all OAD movement records, including those matched to an incoming passenger card, are supplied to the ABS and then processed. From July 2017, due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card, the ABS has also used Medicare enrolment data as a secondary source of State of residence information for Australian residents.

Scope

7 Overseas arrivals and departures statistics relate to all recorded movements of travellers who cross Australia's international border. The statistics record the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers (i.e. multiple movements of an individual traveller during a given reference period are each counted separately). It includes the movements of all travellers regardless of their nationality, citizenship or legal status.

8 The statistics exclude the movements of operational air and ships' crew, of transit passengers who pass through Australia but are not cleared for entry (including some defence force personnel), and of passengers on pleasure cruises commencing and finishing in Australia. These statistics also exclude undocumented arrivals or departures.

9 From 1 July 2016, Norfolk island was integrated into Australia for administrative purposes. Travel between Australia and Norfolk Island is no longer considered an international movement and is therefore not included in Overseas Arrivals and Departures statistics.

Estimation sampling method

10 OAD statistics are derived from a combination of full enumeration and sampling. From July 2007, all departures are fully enumerated. All permanent arrivals and all arrivals with a duration of one year or more (long-term arrivals) are also fully enumerated. However, all arrivals with a duration of less than one year (short-term arrivals) are sampled. While the total number of travellers and their citizenship is fully known, statistics for other characteristics of short-term arrivals (such as their state/territory of stay/residence) are based on a sample and may differ slightly from those that would be obtained from complete processing. The sample is a fixed skip based on a threshold selected by country of citizenship. The sample is designed so that countries of citizenship associated with a small number of movements are fully sampled, while countries with a larger number of movements tend to have a higher threshold. This approach minimises the effect of sampling error associated with the available statistics. When the threshold is reached, the passenger card is selected and data extracted. For example every 51st short-term Australian arrival card would be selected and the data extracted and fully quality assured for that specific card, while every passenger card for a traveller with Sierra Leone citizenship would be selected. From July 2007, about 5% of all short-term arrivals have been selected for sample.

11 Some statistics relating to these movements are therefore estimates which are subject to sampling variability, that is, they may differ from statistics which would have been obtained if details of all these movements had been processed. The sampling error associated with any estimate can be estimated from the sample results and one measure so derived is the standard error. It would be impractical however, to publish estimates of standard errors for all figures from OAD statistics in individual tables.

Corrections and imputations

12 The imprecision due to sampling errors should not be confused with errors arising from imperfections in reporting, which may occur in any data collection, whether sampled or not. Errors of this kind differ from discrepancies arising from the fact that certain information reflects the travellers' intentions at the time the passenger cards were completed. These intentions are, of course, subject to change. Particularly affected is the distinction between permanent and temporary movement and in the latter case, duration of intended stay, country in which most time will be spent and main reason for journey.

13 Every effort is made to minimise such errors, both through careful design of the passenger cards and through checks on the information once it is received. During the edit process some items are corrected where they conflict with other known information. There are also a number of derivations and imputations undertaken that improve the quality of variables with missing responses. First, the ABS utilises alternate sources where available. The sources currently available from Home Affairs include: all overseas movements data stored on the TRIPS system, monthly missing country of birth data, and monthly New Zealand passport data. An additional alternate source used for state or territory of residence is Medicare enrolment data. Second, a hot deck imputation method is used for any remaining missing responses. For more information see Section 4 available in the data quality issues Appendix.

The 2017 review of OAD statistics and break in series

14 From 1 July 2017, travellers leaving Australia were no longer required to complete an Outgoing Passenger Card (OPC). Due to the removal of the OPC by the Department of Home Affairs, the ABS undertook a review of its Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) statistics, methodology and processing systems. This provided an opportunity to consider alternative data sources and ways to make better use of a range of existing data collected by Home Affairs about Australia's international border crossings. Detailed information on the changes and improvements arising from the 2017 review of OAD statistics appears in the data quality issues Appendix.

15 The review has resulted in a break in series, necessitating a revised time series for OAD data from July 2007 to June 2017 based on the new methodology. Figures prior to June 2007 may not be strictly comparable to those which follow.

Country classification

16 The classification of countries in this release is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries, 2016. For more detailed information, refer to the ABS release Standard Australian Classification of Countries, 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0). The entire historical series has been backcast using this version of the classification.

17 The statistics on country of residence or main destination, and country of embarkation or disembarkation have certain limitations because of reporting on passenger cards. For example many travellers just list the UK on their passenger card rather than stating England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

State and territory classification

18 Following the 1992 amendment to the Acts Interpretation Act to include the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as part of geographic Australia, population estimates commencing with September quarter 1993 include estimates for these two territories. To reflect this change, another category of the state and territory classification has been created, known as Other Territories. From 1 July 2016 Norfolk Island has been included in the Other Territories category following the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Other Territories includes Norfolk Island, Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. OAD data for Other Territories are not available prior to February 1995.

Seasonal adjustment and trend estimates

19 Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of short-term overseas movements are shown in tables 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8.

20 Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing systematic calendar-related effects from the original series. In the short-term visitor arrival and short-term resident return series, these calendar-related effects include seasonal (e.g. increased travel in December due to the Christmas holiday period), moving holiday (e.g. increased travel in January in some years and February in others due to Chinese New Year celebrations) and trading day influences (arising from the varying length of each month, the composition of the days of the week in a month, and the varying levels of activity for different days of the week). Each influence is estimated by separate factors which, when combined, are referred to as the combined adjustment factors.

21 From August 2019, the ABS improved the method for calculating trend estimates. It changed by removing the "ripple" effects, which tend to be more inherent in the previous trend series for smaller series and lower level estimates. The result of removing these "ripple" effects is trend estimates which are less volatile and less prone to revisions over time. An article prepared for the March 2018 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) explaining the new method can be accessed here: Improvements to Trend Estimation

22 From July 2007, the ABS improved the method of producing seasonally adjusted estimates, focussing on the application of Auto-regressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) modelling techniques, which can improve the revision properties of the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. For more information on the details of ARIMA modelling, see 'Feature article: Use of ARIMA modelling to reduce revisions' in the October 2004 issue of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0).

23 From November 2004, the ABS improved the method for removing trading day effects from seasonally adjusted estimates. Corrections for trading day effects are now applied as prior corrections to the original estimates, rather than being applied within the seasonal adjustment process. This is now consistent with the treatment of any corrections for large extremes, changes in level, changes in seasonal pattern, Easter, and other effects.

24 From July 2003, concurrent seasonal adjustment methodology was used to derive the combined adjustment factors. This means that data from the current month are used in estimating the combined adjustment factors for the current and previous months. Concurrent seasonal adjustment replaces the forward factor methodology used since seasonal adjustment of short-term visitor arrivals began in 1969 and short-term resident departures in 1976.

25 Concurrent adjustment can result in revisions each month to the seasonally adjusted estimates for earlier periods. However, in most instances, the only noticeable revisions will be to the combined adjustment factors for the current month, the previous month and the same month a year ago. Although there is no specific information paper on concurrent adjustment to short-term visitor arrivals or resident departures, more detail on the method in general can be found in the Information Paper: Introduction of Concurrent Seasonal Adjustment into the Retail Trade Series (cat. no. 8514.0).

26 An improved correction method has been implemented in the seasonal adjustment process to remove the effects of Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Diwali and Easter from the seasonally adjusted estimates:

  • Chinese New Year - Chinese New Year often falls in February but on some occasions falls in January. The seasonally adjusted and trend estimates for January and February should account for the impact of the calendar-related effect associated with the movement of Chinese New Year between the boundary of January and February. The Chinese New Year proximity adjustment method takes into account the change in activity before, during and after the event, with the size and shape of this effect depending on the series. In some series, the proximity correction is only applied to part of the series, as it is not significant for the entire series. Further details on this adjustment method can be found in 'Estimating and removing the effects of Chinese New Year and Ramadan to improve the seasonal adjustment process' in Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0, November 2005 issue).
  • Ramadan - Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and starts eleven days earlier each year in the Western calendar, so adjustments for this effect apply to different months over the years. The adjustment was made after the detection of a significant influence on travel for Malaysia, Indonesia and several North African and Middle Eastern countries associated with the start and/or end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. The estimates for Total South-East Asia and Total North Africa and the Middle East were also corrected as a consequence of these corrections. Other time series did not have a significant Ramadan effect and were not corrected.
  • Diwali - Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and is celebrated in autumn (northern hemisphere) or spring (southern hemisphere) every year. An adjustment was made after the detection of an influence on visitor arrivals from Singapore.
  • Easter - Easter falls on the Sunday after the ecclesiastical Full Moon that falls on or after March 21. It is therefore observed between late March and late April. Adjustments were made to movements from a number of countries.
     

27 Seasonal adjustment procedures do not aim to remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular month, such as the effect of major sporting and cultural events, changes in airfares and the fluctuation of the Australian dollar relative to other currencies. Irregular influences that are highly volatile can make it difficult to interpret the underlying movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. Trend estimates take these irregular influences into account.

28 The trend estimates of short-term overseas visitor arrivals and short-term Australian resident returns are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson weighted moving average to all months of the respective seasonally adjusted series (after correcting the series for large extremes or changes in level) except the ends. A different set of specially designed Henderson moving averages are applied to the initial and last six months where the 13-term version cannot be used due to a lack of data points. While this technique enables smoothed data for the latest period to be produced, it does result in revisions to the smoothed series, principally of recent months, as additional observations become available. There may also be revisions as a result of the re-estimation of the seasonal factors. For further information, see A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0) and Time Series Analysis Frequently Asked Questions, 2003 (cat. no. 1346.0.55.002).

29 Under concurrent seasonal adjustment, the most recent seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are likely to be revised when estimates for subsequent months become available. The trend revision is a combined result of the revision of the seasonally adjusted estimates and the revision derived from the use of asymmetric moving averages as future data become available. ABS research shows that about 75% of the total revision to the trend estimate is due to the use of different asymmetric moving averages when the estimate for the next time period becomes available. To assess the reliability of the trend estimate, the 'what-if' charts present trend estimates under two different scenarios for the next time period. The charts show only the impact due to the changes of the asymmetric moving averages and do not include the unknown impact of revision to seasonal factor estimates that would arise when the estimate for the next time period becomes available.

30 Occasionally situations occur that necessitate breaks being applied to the trend series. These breaks are necessary because of a change in the underlying level of the series. While the breaks apply to an individual country (e.g. Pakistan), a consequence is that breaks are also applied to the regional total series (e.g. Total Southern Asia) and the Total series.

31 Trend breaks currently included in the STVA and STRR trend series are as follows:

STVA

  • Fiji - June 2000: decrease in STVA movements - Coup in Fiji
  • Indonesia - December 1997: decrease in STVA movements - Asian Financial Crisis
  • Korea - December 1997 and January 1998: decrease in STVA movements - Asian Financial Crisis
  • Other North Africa and the Middle East - September 2003: Increase in STVA movements - Gulf War
  • Pakistan - April 2016: increase in STVA movements - suicide bombing attack on 27th March, major floods on 3rd April, and earthquake on 10th April
  • Poland - November 2002: decrease in STVA movements
  • Sweden - September 2008: decrease in STVA movements - Global Financial Crisis
  • Thailand - August 1997: decrease in STVA movements - Asian Financial Crisis
     

STRR

  • Fiji - July 2009: increase in STRR movements - Additional flights available direct to Fiji from Melbourne and Adelaide
  • Turkey - March 2016: decrease in STRR movements - Ankara suicide bombing attack
  • Japan - April 2011: decrease in STRR movements - Fukushima earthquake
     

32 For a detailed discussion and analysis of OAD time series estimates, see the ABS Demography Working Paper 2004/2 - Interpretation and Use of Overseas Arrivals and Departures Estimates (cat. no. 3106.0.55.002).

Confidentiality

33 The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation.

34 Some techniques used to guard against identification or disclosure of confidential information in statistical tables are suppression of sensitive cells, random adjustments to cells with very small values and rounding. In these cases data may not sum to totals due to the confidentialisation of individual cells.

Rounding

35 The statistics in this release have been rounded to the nearest 100 for short-term movements and to the nearest 10 for permanent and long-term movements. Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of component items and totals. Analysis featured in the Key Points and Main Features of this release is based on un-rounded data. Calculations made on rounded data may differ to those published.

Additional statistics available

36 The ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Generally, a charge is made for providing this information. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

37 The following variables for overseas arrivals and departures data are available on request:

  • Age
  • Airport/seaport of arrival/departure
  • Arrival/departure date
  • Australian residents:
    • Country of stay, i.e. country spent most time abroad
    • Duration of stay, i.e. actual time away from Australia
    • State or territory of residence
       
  • Category of movement (eg: short-term visitor arrival, short-term resident return)
  • Country of birth
  • Country of citizenship (nationality)
  • Country of embarkation
  • Marital status (not available for Australian and New Zealand citizens)
  • Main reason for journey (not available for permanent movements, residents departing or visitors departing)
  • Overseas visitors:
    • Country of residence
    • Duration of stay, i.e. intended/actual length of stay in Australia
    • State or territory of stay/residence
       
  • Permanent migrants:
    • Previous country of residence (limited)
    • State or territory of residence
       
  • Reference day
  • Reference month
  • Reference year (available back to 1976)
  • Sex
  • State of clearance
  • Visa applicant type - primary or secondary (available from July 2004)
  • Visa subclass (available from July 2004)
     

38 Related statistics are also published by:

39 As well as the statistics included in this and related releases, additional demographic information is available on the ABS website. Users can access the full range of electronic ABS data free of charge on the ABS website.

Acknowledgments

40 This release draws extensively on information provided by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and information provided by the Australian Government Department of Human Services. The ABS also uses information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

Appendix - passenger card

Show all

Incoming card - front (This sample is not for public use)

Image: Incoming card - front (This sample is not for public use)

Incoming card - front (This sample is not for public use)

The Incoming Passenger Card is to be completed by passengers entering Australia. The passenger card also serves as a declaration in relation to health and character requirements for non-Australian citizens and is a visa application form for special category visa applicants.

On the front of the card, passengers are required to accurately provide: family/surname, given names, passport number, flight number or name of ship, intended address in Australia and if they intend to live in Australia for the next 12 months.

There are also a number of declaration questions relating to customs and quarantine, including: If you are not an Australian citizen, do you have tuberculosis, do you have any criminal conviction/s?

Are you bringing into Australia: goods that may be prohibited or subject to restrictions, such as medicines, steroids, illegal pornography, firearms, weapons or illicit drugs? More than 2250mL of alcoholic beverages or 25 cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products? Goods obtained overseas or purchased duty and/or tax free in Australia with a combined total price of more than AUD$900, including gifts? Goods/samples for business/ commercial use? AUD$10,000 or more in Australian or foreign currency equivalent? Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, fruit, vegetables? Grains, seeds, bulbs, straw, nuts, plants, parts of plants, traditional medicines or herbs, wooden articles? Animals, parts of animals, animal products including equipment, pet food, eggs, biologicals, specimens, birds, fish, insects, shells, bee products? Soil items with soil attached or used in freshwater areas e.g. sports/recreational equipment, shoes? Have you been in contact with farms, farm animals, wilderness areas or freshwater streams/lakes etc in the past 30 days? Were you in Africa, South/Central America or the Caribbean in the last 30 days?

The respondent to these questions must mark an X to answer every yes or no question. If they are unsure they must mark X in yes.
Passengers are required to provide a declaration and sign and date the completed card. The declaration states 'The information I have given is true, correct and complete. I understand failure to answer any questions may have serious consequences'.

Incoming card - back (This sample is not for public use)

Image: Incoming card - back (This sample is not for public use)

Incoming card - back (This sample is not for public use)

The Incoming Passenger Card is to be completed by passengers entering Australia. The passenger card also serves as a declaration in relation to health and character requirements for non-Australian citizens and is a visa application form for special category visa applicants.

On the back of the card, passengers are required to accurately provide: contact details in Australia and emergency contact details (including phone number, email or address), the country in which they boarded the flight/vessel, their occupation, nationality as shown on their passport, and date of birth. Additionally, passengers will fill out box A, B, or C depending on if they are migrating permanently to Australia (box A), a visitor/temporary entrant (box B), or a resident returning to Australia (box C). If it is box B, passengers will also be asked: their intended length of stay in Australia in years, months or days, their country of residence, and their main reason for travel, to be selected from convention/conference, business, visiting friends or relatives, employment, education, exhibition, holiday, other. The passenger can only select one of the options. If it is box C, passengers will be asked: country where they spent most time abroad, and their main reason for travel, to be selected from convention/conference, business, visiting friends or relatives, employment, education, exhibition, holiday, other. The passenger can only select one of the options.

Information sought on this form is required to administer immigration, customs, quarantine, statistical, health, wildlife and other currency laws of Australia and its collection is authorised by legislation. It is disclosed only to agencies administering these areas and authorised or required to receive it under Australian law. Form 1442i Privacy notice is available from the department's website www.border.gov.au/allforms/

Incoming passenger cards used from July 2017.

Appendix - data quality issues

1. Introduction

Administrative information on persons arriving in, or departing from, Australia is collected via various processing systems, passport documents, visa information, and incoming passenger cards (see Passenger Card Appendix). Incoming persons provide information in visa applications except those travelling as Australian or New Zealand citizens. These administrative data are collected by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (Formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)) under the authority of the Migration Regulations (Migration Act, 1958).

The majority of ABS statistics on overseas arrivals and departures (OAD) are compiled using information from Home Affairs sources. All overseas movements are recorded by Home Affairs and stored on its Travel and Immigration Processing System (TRIPS). Information from passports, visas and incoming passenger cards are matched and also stored with the relevant movement records on TRIPS. Each month all movement records and related information are supplied to the ABS for processing within the OAD system. For a very small proportion of records, Medicare enrolment data is used as an alternate source for state or territory of residence.

The purpose of this appendix is to provide a reference of the various changes that occur from time to time that may impact the quality of OAD statistics. These changes can be due to any part of the end-to-end processing, from passenger data collection to the output of OAD statistics. These can range from the design, provision and collection of the passenger cards through to the administrative systems and updates at Home Affairs. The changes can also result from better capture of passenger data, methodological improvements or improved processing systems.

In particular, this appendix provides information on changes to the OAD processing system including the imputations undertaken. It also provides a reference to any historical changes that have impacted the data over time.

An example of the current Australian incoming passenger card is available in the passenger card Appendix.

Read more

2. The 2017 review of OAD statistics

From 1 July 2017, travellers leaving Australia were no longer required to complete an Outgoing Passenger Card (OPC).

Due to the removal of the OPC by the Department of Home Affairs, the ABS undertook a review of its Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) statistics, methodology and processing systems. This provided an opportunity to consider alternative data sources and ways to make better use of a range of existing data collected by Home Affairs about Australia's international border crossings.

The primary aim of this review was to maintain the supply and quality of OAD data, given its importance as input to a broad range of statistical collections, research and decision making. The new system has been tested by processing over ten years of data.

The review has resulted in a break in series, necessitating a revised time series for OAD data from July 2007 to June 2017 based on the new methodology. Figures prior to June 2007 may not be strictly comparable to those which follow.

For this 10 year period, the ABS used the existing data collected from the OPC for the following variables: Country of Disembarkation, Country of Residence, Country of Stay (but not for Australian residents departing), Reason for Journey, State of Residence, and State of Stay. From 1 July 2017, after the removal of the OPC, each of these variables use their alternate source or are no longer available as identified in Table 1 below.

Data no longer available due to the 2017 review

Although the majority of the OAD data has continued to be published, some data items are no longer available from 1 July 2017 as a result of the retirement of the OPC. They include:

  • Permanent Departures for Australian residents will no longer be published in Table 2 of the Time Series Spreadsheets. Analysis of historical OAD data indicates that quality was not high for this category. For example, many travellers stating an intention of permanently departing return to Australia within twelve months or were actually not Australian residents. Net Overseas Migration statistics (published quarterly in Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) are a better measure of long-term overseas migration. Permanent Departures are no longer available for the revised series from July 2007. Permanent Departures of Australian residents have been grouped with all Australian Citizen and Resident Departures.
  • Country of Disembarkation for Visitors and Australian residents departing.
  • Country of Stay for Australian citizens or residents departing is no longer available for the revised series from July 2007. An alternate source for this variable is Australian residents returning to Australia (i.e. a residents second leg of journey). The ABS has produced a full 10-year historical trend and seasonally adjusted series for Short-term Resident Returns from July 2007 to June 2017 to assist data users transitioning to the new series.
  • Main Reason for Journey for Australian residents departing - from 1 July 2017, an amended Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) has been used to collect data for an alternative to this series. Australian residents returning are asked to provide their ‘main reason for overseas travel’. Therefore, the main reason for journey is provided for all Short-term Resident Returns and Long-term Resident Returns from July 2017 onwards.

Data that has changed due to the 2017 review

All data items, other than those outlined above will continue to be available. However, with the use of additional data sources, some definitional changes, and changes to the methods applied, all OAD data will change to some degree. In particular:

  • Moving from a passenger card base to an all movements base
    Previously, OAD data was based on a count of all passenger cards collected. Historically, this was usually 99% of all movements stored on Home Affair's Travel and Immigration Processing System (TRIPS). In the revised data from July 2007, the ABS has used all movements stored on the TRIPS system. This has provided a full count and an improved measurement of all overseas arrivals and departures.
  • Accessing pre and post-reference date data
    By accessing all movements stored on the TRIPS system, the ABS is able to make use of information from a corresponding incoming passenger card to acquire information about departure movements from Australia. Pre-reference date data includes all previously processed historical records, whereas the post-reference date data includes all TRIPS records up to and including 27 days after the end of the reference month.
  • Use of alternate data sources
    Information from existing electronic movement records maintained by Home Affairs is able to provide state of residence for most movements. A small number of records do not have state of residence able to be derived from the data supplied to ABS by Home Affairs. The ABS worked closely with Home Affairs, Tourism Research Australia, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to identify and test alternate data sources to the OPC that could provide state of residence information. Medicare enrolments were identified as the only viable source for this information given the vast majority of Australian residents are registered with Medicare. Testing of this approach showed that linkage of movement records with Medicare enrolment records was technically feasible and allowed the continued production of high quality statistics.
  • Some variables in OAD data have changed
    The removal of the OPC has directly impacted on the following variables listed in the table below. Their availability, any alternate sources to be used, and definitional changes are also noted.

    All other variables have not been directly affected. Changes to overseas arrivals data have been minimal. For some variables there has been minor improvement.

Table 1. Variables in OAD data that have changed (including new data sources)

OAD VariableVisitor Departures
Incl. Short Term Visitor Departures & Long Term Visitor Departures
Australian Resident Departures
Incl. Short Term Resident Departures & Long Term Resident Departures
Duration of stay: Includes short-term and long-termAvailable
Exact measurement from TRIPS system
Available
Exact measurement from TRIPS system combined with imputation
Country of DisembarkationNot available
after 30 June 2017
Not available
after 30 June 2017
Country of ResidenceAvailable
Incoming Passenger Card (IPC)
..
Country of Stay..Not available
See 'Data no longer available due to the 2017 review' above
Reason for Journey..Not available
after 30 June 2017
See 'Data no longer available due to the 2017 review' above
State of Residence..Available
Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) & Medicare data
State of StayAvailable
Incoming Passenger Card (IPC)
..
Change to DefinitionsVisitor Departures:
From 1 July 2017, Visitor departures will only be travellers identified with a temporary visa or New Zealand citizen. It will not include Australian citizens who previously had self-identified on the OPC as visitors.
A revised 10 year historical time series based on this definitional change was implemented.
All Australian Citizen and Resident Departures:
From 1 July 2017, Resident departures will include all Australian citizens, permanent visa holders, and any New Zealand citizens who can be identified as a resident.
A revised 10 year historical time series based on this definitional change was implemented.
.. not applicable
 

3. The 2013 review of OAD statistics

In 2013, the ABS undertook a review of its Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) statistics, methodology and processing systems. The primary aim of this review and system rebuild was to improve the quality of OAD data, given its importance as an input to a broad range of statistical outputs. The new system was thoroughly tested by processing over ten years of data. Imputations for missing traveller data were improved, in particular the duration of stay and the country of birth variables.

The rebuild of the system resulted in a break in series, necessitating a revised time series for OAD data based on the improved methodology from July 2004 to December 2013. The break in series was from July 2004. Most of this has now been superseded due to the 2017 review which has revised the series from July 2007 onwards.

4. Data derivations and imputations

Improved methods from July 2007

During the review of the ABS' Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) statistics in 2017, all derivations, logical edits and imputations were re-designed based on the best information, practices, data sources and methodology available. There were a number of derivations and imputations undertaken that improve the quality of variables with missing responses.

First, the ABS utilises alternate sources where available. The sources currently available from Home Affairs include: all overseas movements data stored on the TRIPS system, monthly missing country of birth data, and monthly New Zealand passport data. An additional alternate source used for state or territory of residence is Medicare enrolment data - see 'state or territory of stay/residence' in Section 5 below for further information.

For certain variables that are missing, information about an individual can be derived from these alternate sources including an individual's nearest other travel movement. This is able to be done from Home Affairs sources, by using the unique person identification number to link to the various sources and over time. For example, by accessing all movements stored on the TRIPS system, the ABS is able to make use of information from a corresponding incoming passenger card to acquire information about an individual's departure movement. Pre-reference date data includes all previously processed historical records, whereas the post-reference date data includes all TRIPS records up to and including 27 days after the end of the reference month.

The variables which are available from accessing these alternate sources include: country of birth, country of citizenship, country of residence/stay, duration of stay, passenger card box type, and state of residence/stay.

Second, a 'hot deck' imputation method is then used for any remaining missing responses.

For 'hot deck' imputation, a record with missing responses (called the recipient), receives those of another similar record (called the donor) which has a full set of responses before the imputation process began. The recipient record keeps all of its original responses and only has the missing variables imputed, thereby keeping as much of the collected information for that record as possible.

The 'hot deck' imputation method uses a set of characteristics that choose the donor and recipient records which are as similar as possible. The characteristics used within the OAD system to align a recipient with a suitable donor, vary between the different imputations. A combination of different characteristics was tested for each of the imputations to ascertain which would give the best results. The characteristics used include: age, country of birth, country of citizenship, country of residence/stay, direction of traveller, category of movement, passenger card box type, sex, state of clearance and visa group.

The variables which are subject to 'hot deck' imputation are: age, country of birth, country of citizenship, country of embarkation, country of residence/stay, duration of stay, passenger card box type, reason for journey, sex and state of residence/stay, and a specific one for the country of birth of New Zealand (NZ) citizens. All missing values for these variables are fully imputed except country of residence/stay for permanent arrivals. However, from July 2017, due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card, the following are not imputed: country of disembarkation for any departures and country of stay for any Australian resident departures as both are no longer collected.

For details on each variable being imputed see Section 5. 'Overview of Variables Imputed'.

Missing responses

Table 2 below shows the missing response rates for the month of July 2019 as an example. The rate is a percentage of the total movements for the month unless otherwise stated.

Table 2. Missing response rates prior to, and after hot deck imputation(a) - July 2019
OAD VariablePre-imputationPost-imputation
%%
Age--
Country of birth(b)2.90-
Country of birth(non-NZ citizens)0.45-
Country of citizenship0.07-
Country of embarkation(c)7.79-
Country of residence/stay - all arrivals(d)10.88(e)2.45
Country of residence - visitor departures(f)48.16-
Duration of stay5.50-
Passenger card box type--
Reason for journey(g)9.58-
Sex0.02-
State or territory of residence/stay4.26-

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

  1. Not all variables are imputed, including marital status, port of clearance, state of clearance and visa type.
  2. For country of birth, the majority of imputations are for New Zealand citizens. See 'Specific imputation for country of birth of New Zealand citizens' in this Appendix.
  3. From July 2017, with the removal of the outgoing passenger card, country of disembarkation is no longer available.
  4. This rate is a percentage of the total arrival relevant records which is a combination of all permanent and long-term arrivals plus a sample of short-term arrivals.
  5. Country of residence/stay is not imputed for permanent arrivals. All other arrivals are fully imputed.
  6. From July 2017, with the removal of the outgoing passenger card, country of stay is not collected or imputed for residents departing.
  7. From July 2017, reason for journey is only collected for visitors arriving and residents returning. This rate is a percentage of the arrival relevant records which is a combination of all long-term arrivals plus a sample of short-term arrivals.

Missing responses for country of residence/stay

A further breakdown in Table 3 shows the proportion of responses missing for each passenger card box type, for July 2019 as an example.

Table 3. Country of residence/stay - proportion of missing responses for each passenger card box type
Box typeJuly 2019
%
A: Migrating permanently to Australia(a)73.30
B: Visitor or temporary entrant8.54
C: Resident returning to Australia9.38
D: Visitor or temporary entrant departing48.16
  1. Country of residence/stay is not collected from the passenger card for permanent arrivals. However, some information is collected from some permanent arrival visas.

5. Overview of variables imputed

Age

The primary source for data on this variable is passport or visa information. An alternate source used is the incoming passenger card. Age is calculated using date of birth.

For the hot deck imputation, the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: the passenger card box type and visa group.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for age, the missing rate is less than 1% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Country of birth

The primary source for data on this variable is passport or visa information if available. It is not available from the passenger card. The majority of imputations are for NZ citizens.

There are two separate parts to the imputation for country of birth. A specific imputation is in place for the country of birth of New Zealand (NZ) citizens, as data for this variable is not directly available from the passport or visa of NZ citizens. For details see 'Specific imputation for country of birth of New Zealand citizens' in Section 6 below.

The second is a hot deck imputation and is only used for non-NZ citizens. For this imputation, the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: category of movement and country of citizenship.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for country of birth for non-NZ citizens, the missing rate is less than 1% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Country of citizenship

The primary source for data on this variable is passport or visa information. An alternate source used is the incoming passenger card.

There are two separate parts to the hot deck imputation for country of citizenship. The first part is used if the data is missing. For this imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: direction, visa group, and country of birth.

The second part is only used if partial information is supplied on the passenger card. For example, if no official nationality is available and Europe was supplied as the nationality on the passenger card it would then be imputed to a country in Europe. The specific region or country grouping provided as the recipient's citizenship is used to align the recipient with a suitable donor for imputation. For the example noted above the donor would be from Europe.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for country of citizenship, the missing rate is less than 1% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Country of embarkation

The primary source for data on this variable is the incoming passenger card. When the passenger card is missing, the alternate source is flight schedule information. Prior to July 2007, the only available source for data on this variable was the passenger card. From July 2017, the country of disembarkation for all departures is no longer available due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card. It is therefore no longer available for visitors departing or Australian residents departing.

There are two separate parts to the hot deck imputation for country of embarkation. The first part is used if the data is missing. For this imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: category of movement and country of residence/stay.

The second part is only used if partial information is supplied on the passenger card. For example, if Europe was supplied as the country of embarkation on the passenger card it is imputed to a country in Europe. The specific region or country grouping provided as the recipient's country of embarkation is used to align the recipient with a suitable donor for imputation. For the example noted above the donor would be from Europe.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for country of embarkation, the missing rate averages less than 7% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Country of residence/stay

The primary source for data on this variable is the incoming passenger card. From July 2017, the country of residence/stay for Australian citizens and resident departures was no longer available due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card. As outgoing passenger cards have been removed, for visitors departing the primary source used is now an individual's arrival passenger card from their previous movement. For example, the vast majority of travellers (excluding permanent migrants) have two legs to their journey, such as an arrival followed by a departure. As historical data is available, retrieving an individual's previous movement (where possible) allows for the country of residence to be collected for a visitor departing. Country of Stay for Australian citizens and residents departing is no longer available for the revised series from July 2007.

An alternative data source is visa information which may be used for some travellers when available although this is limited. Prior to July 2007, the primary source for data on this variable was the original arrivals or departures passenger card (from the reference movement), and alternately visa information for some travellers.

There are two separate parts to the hot deck imputation for country of residence/stay. The first part is used if the data is missing. For this imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: category of movement, country of citizenship, and visa group.

The second part is only used if partial information is supplied on the passenger card. For example, if Europe was supplied as the country of residence/stay on the passenger card then it is imputed to a country in Europe. The specific region or country grouping provided as the recipient's country of residence/stay is used to align the recipient with a suitable donor for imputation. For the example noted above the donor would be from Europe.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for country of residence/stay, the missing rate averages less than 22% of all records. Country of residence/stay is not imputed for permanent arrivals and since July 2007 for Australian citizens and residents departing. All other records are fully imputed. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Prior to the '2013 Review of OAD Statistics' and the revision back to July 2004, the ABS imputed this data item in two stages. In the first stage, records with country of residence/stay missing were set to country of disembarkation/embarkation if a response was available. In the second stage, for remaining records where country of stay/residence was missing, values were imputed at the category of movement, reason for journey and country of citizenship level based on responses to other cards within each subgroup. For permanent arrivals, imputation was undertaken using a combination of country of embarkation and the stated responses of other permanent arrivals.

Duration of stay - current

Data on this variable is from two separate sources; firstly, it can be sourced directly from the traveller and secondly, it can be measured using movement dates. These methods have been applied on the revised data series from July 2007 and are outlined below.

  • First, for visitors or temporary entrants arriving in Australia (i.e. first leg of their journey) the primary source is the arrivals passenger card and is based on a travellers' intended duration of stay.
  • Second, the actual duration of stay is measured based on a traveller's movement dates in and out of the country. By accessing all movements stored on the TRIPS system, the ABS is able to maximise the use of pre & post-reference date data, to acquire information about an individual's first or second leg of journey. Pre-reference date data includes all previously processed historical records, whereas the post-reference date data includes all TRIPS records up to and including 27 days after the reference month.
     

If the reference movement is the second leg of a journey, the exact dates a traveller crosses the Australian border are both available and therefore record a traveller's actual duration of stay. This applies to visitor departures and resident returns which are second leg of journey movements.

For resident departures, the reference movement is the first leg of journey and the intended duration is not available due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card. Accessing the post-reference date data (up to 27 days after the reference month) enables the measurement of the actual duration for the vast majority (usually above 80%) of resident departures. If the intended duration of stay is missing for a visitor arrival then this secondary source will also be used. Any remaining records with a missing duration of stay are imputed.

The quality for actual measured duration of stay recorded at the second leg of a journey is more accurate than that based on a traveller's intended duration of stay. In the example below for resident departures in June 2017, you can see prominent spikes for intended duration of stay at 1 week, 10 days, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks which is very different to the actual measured duration.

Download

If duration is unable to be sourced from the dot points noted above then it is imputed. There are three separate hot deck imputations used for duration of stay.

  1. The first imputation is used if duration of stay is missing but excludes any resident departures (see point 3 below for imputations for resident departures). For this imputation, the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: passenger card box type, country of citizenship and visa group.
  2. The second imputation is only used when a visitor has put one year exactly at their intended duration of stay on the arrival passenger card. It only applies to temporary entrants. This imputation reflects historical patterns that clearly show the majority stay less than one year. The imputation first involves creating an historical data set based on information from two years earlier. It then calculates the actual recorded duration of stay for those travellers who had originally put one year exactly as their intended duration of stay. This group becomes the required donor pool. For this imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: passenger card box type, country of citizenship and corresponding month. For the proportion imputed to either a long-term stay or a short-term stay for July 2017 as an example, see Table 4 below.
  3. The third imputation is used when a resident departure has not had its actual duration already measured using the post-reference date data up to 27 days after the reference month (i.e. residents who had not yet returned). Similar to the second method noted above, this imputation involves creating an historical data set based on information from two years earlier. It then calculates the actual recorded duration of stay for those travellers who had originally been flagged for imputation two years earlier. This group becomes the required donor pool. For this imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: passenger card box type, corresponding week of the month, country of birth and visa group. Due to this method used, duration of stay is only able to be imputed up to 1 year and 11 months. For the proportions imputed to either a long-term stay or a short-term stay for July 2017 as an example, see Table 5 below.
Table 4. Duration of stay - imputation for 1 year exactly - July 2019
Box Type Bno.%
Visitor or temporary entrant who stated 1 year exactly34 209100.00
those imputed to long-term visitor arrivals6 03217.63
those imputed to short-term visitor arrivals28 17782.37
Table 5. Duration of stay - imputation for resident departure - July 2019
Box Type Eno.%
Resident departure leftovers (i.e. actual duration unable to be measured for reference period)159 769100.00
those imputed to long-term resident departures23 15914.50
those imputed to short-term resident departures136 61085.50

Classification of duration of stay by category of movement is as follows:

  • Permanent arrivals: Duration of stay not applicable - set to zero.
  • Visitor arrival - first leg of journey: intended duration of stay as stated by visitors on incoming passenger cards, otherwise imputed.
  • Visitor departure - second leg of journey: actual duration of stay measured using the most recent arrival date, otherwise imputed.
  • Resident returning - second leg of journey: actual duration of absence measured using the most recent departure date, otherwise imputed.
  • Resident departure - first leg of journey: actual duration of absence measured using the most recent departure date up to 27 days after the reference month, otherwise imputed.
     

For a complete list of the categories of movement, see the Glossary.

Duration of stay - historical

Over time, there have been a number of changes to information collected on duration of stay. Initially, the intended duration of stay was only collected from information provided by all travellers on incoming and outgoing passenger cards in the intended length of stay fields. Therefore historically, the first leg and second leg of a journey both collected duration of stay based on intention.

With the introduction of TRIPS by Home Affairs in July 1990, the new system made possible the calculation of the actual length of stay/absence for travellers on the second leg of their journey (i.e. departing overseas visitors and returning Australian residents). This calculation based on TRIPS data commenced in July 1998. This change resulted in an improvement in data quality for duration of stay. In particular, for the distribution of the number of passengers staying for one year exactly declining significantly for this group of travellers.

The introduction of a new passenger card processing system from July 2001 provided further evidence of travellers rounding to one year exactly for their intended duration of stay in Australia or overseas. To reflect the historical movement patterns, the records with a reported duration of one year exactly were allocated to short-term or long-term. For visitors arriving in Australia, 75% of such records were allocated to short-term and 25% to long-term. For residents departing Australia, the distribution was 67% short-term and 33% long-term. With the '2013 Review of OAD Statistics', these proportional splits were able to be based on the behaviour of travellers from two years earlier - see Table 4. This method was applied to the revised data from July 2004. With the '2017 Review of OAD Statistics' and the removal of the outgoing passenger card, this method is not applicable for resident departures. It has been applied to the revised data from July 2007.

There is evidence to suggest that when completing the intended duration of stay question on the incoming passenger card (Box B), some passengers are entering their arrival/departure date or their birth date rather than their intended duration of stay. From September 2003, a rule was implemented to the data processing system at Home Affairs stating that if all three elements are complete (years, months and days), then the intended duration of stay was to be coded to a non-response.

Prior to July 2004, a simple assumption was put in place that set any traveller with a missing duration of stay to 10 days and therefore to a short-term movement.

Missing response rates for the duration of stay are only available since November 1998. Prior to this, imputation carried out as part of processing by Home Affairs prevented reliable estimation for missing duration of stay.

Passenger card box type

The primary source for arrivals data on this variable is the incoming passenger card. Administrative systems at Home Affairs and the ABS are also used as an alternate source for some travellers. During the edit process some items are corrected where they conflict with other known information. For example, all travellers with a permanent arrival visa arriving for the first time would be converted to Box A (migrating permanently to Australia) or all visitors on a temporary visa would be converted to a Box B (for arrivals).

Due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card in July 2017, the source for box type for departures data has changed. It has changed from a passenger declaration from the card to a derivation from the administrative data provided by Home Affairs. The definitions for Box D (Visitor departures) and Box E (Australian resident departures) have also needed to change as noted below. Box F (Permanent departures for Australian residents) is no longer available. In addition, a revised 10 year historical time series based on this definitional change was introduced from July 2007.

Variables from the TRIPS system used by the ABS to derive box type for all departures include: country of citizenship, visa type, duration of stay, and box type from the corresponding incoming passenger card.

  • From July 2007, Box E (All Australian citizen and resident departures) includes all Australian citizens, permanent visa holders, and any New Zealand citizens who can be identified as a resident.

    A New Zealand citizen is identified as a resident if they have not departed Australia for the past 12 months and are thus deemed to be living in Australia. In addition, if an individual has self-identified as a Box C (resident) on the incoming passenger card on their return movement using the post-reference date data (up to and including 27 days after the end of the reference month) then they are assumed to have been a Box E (resident) on departure.
  • From July 2007, Box D (Visitor departures) includes travellers identified with a temporary visa or New Zealand citizen. It does not include Australian citizens who previously had self-identified on the OPC as visitors.

    If any movements are not identified for Box E (residents departure) above, including NZ citizens, then they are assumed to be Box D (visitors departing). In addition, if an individual has self-identified as a Box B (visitor) on the incoming passenger card on their previous movement using the pre-reference date data then they are assumed to have been a Box D (visitor) on departure.
     

The hot deck imputation is only applied to arrival records as all departure box types are fully allocated based on the rules noted above. The variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: direction of traveller, visa group and country of citizenship. From July 2004 to June 2007, sampled or non-sampled data were used instead of visa group data. In addition, the variable 'stay-intent' based on 'intention to live in Australia for next 12 months (for arrivals only)' was also used.

Historically, prior to using the hot deck imputation for passenger card box type, the missing rate is less than 1% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Reason for journey

The only source available for data on this variable is the incoming passenger card. Reason for journey is only available for visitor arrivals and from July 2017 for resident returns. Prior to July 2017, it was available for resident departures, however, is no longer available due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card.

For the hot deck imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: category of movement, sampled or non-sampled data, visa group, age, duration of stay, country of citizenship region group and mode of transport. Prior to July 2017, donors used were: category of movement, sex and age. Prior to July 2007, donors used were: sampled or non-sampled data, passenger card box type, category of movement, and age.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for reason for journey, the missing rate averages less than 7% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

Sex

The only sources available for data on this variable are passport or visa information.

For the hot deck imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: the passenger card box type and visa group.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for sex, the missing rate is less than 1% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

State or territory of stay/residence

The primary source for data on this variable is the incoming passenger card. From July 2017, for all departures the source used is an individual's nearest arrival movement where possible. For example, the vast majority of travellers (excluding permanent migrants) have two legs to their journey, either an arrival followed by a departure or vice versa, a departure followed by an arrival. By retrieving an individual's most recent other arrival movement (where possible) this allows for the state or territory of residence/stay to be collected for that same individual's arrival passenger card.

By accessing all movements stored on the TRIPS system, the ABS is able to make use of information from a corresponding incoming passenger card to acquire information about departure movements from Australia. Pre-reference date data includes all previously processed historical records, whereas the post-reference date data includes all TRIPS records up to and including 27 days after the end of the reference month.

As some departures from Australia do not have a recent corresponding incoming movement record, a small number of records do not have state of residence able to be derived from the data supplied to ABS by Home Affairs.

The ABS worked closely with Home Affairs, Tourism Research Australia, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to identify and test alternate data sources to the OPC that could provide state of residence information. Medicare enrolments were identified as the only viable source for this information given the vast majority of Australian residents are registered with Medicare. Testing of this approach showed that linkage of movement records with Medicare enrolment records was technically feasible and allowed the continued production of high quality statistics.

Medicare enrolment records are supplied to the ABS by the Department of Human Services. The information supplied to the ABS for this purpose does not include any Medicare claims or other health information. Each month, the ABS attempts to link movement records to a corresponding Medicare enrolment record to obtain state or territory of residence. This data linkage is undertaken in a dedicated facility and follows strict protocols to protect security and confidentiality. While many movement records relate to persons who are non-residents or otherwise aren't eligible for Medicare, all persons with a movement in the reference period are in scope for the linkage. Overall, approximately 57% of movement records were able to be linked to a Medicare enrolment record and state or territory of residence is able to be obtained for approximately 95% of Australian residents. Medicare enrolments information is used as the source of state of residence/stay in OAD statistics for approximately 3% of movements.

If state of residence/stay is not available from any of these sources, it is imputed. For the hot deck imputation the variables used to align the recipient with a suitable donor are: the passenger card box type, state of clearance, country of citizenship and visa group.

Generally, prior to using the hot deck imputation for state or territory of stay/residence, the missing rate averages less than 4% of all records. All records are fully imputed for this variable. See Section 4. 'Data Derivations and Imputations' above.

6. Specific issues for New Zealand passport holders

Allocating passenger card box type and a category of movement

Under the Trans-Tasman Agreement, New Zealand (NZ) citizens are not required to have a visa to travel to Australia. As a result, on their arrival in Australia, visa documentation cannot be used to determine whether they are either a permanent migrant or a temporary visitor, or an Australian resident returning from NZ. Analysis undertaken by Home Affairs suggests that a substantial proportion of holders of NZ passports tick Box A (migrating permanently to Australia) each time they arrive in the country, causing an over count of NZ migrants entering Australia. The following edits were applied to arrival movement to correct the over counting of NZ migrants.

From July 2001 to June 2002, Home Affairs coded all NZ citizen arrivals who had ticked Box A (migrating permanently to Australia) and had been to Australia previously (based on Home Affairs records) to residents returning (Box C). However, if these people were visitors previously, this recoding had the effect of incorrectly reducing the number of NZ migrants whilst at the same time incorrectly increasing the number of NZ citizen who were returning residents. This problem was overcome by coding the NZ citizens who had been changed by Home Affairs from Box A to Box C back to Box A.

Since July 2002, Home Affairs has utilised a new edit system to ensure accurate measurement of permanent arrivals of NZ citizens. Where a person ticks Box A on his/her passenger card (migrating permanently to Australia), the record is verified by checking previous entries and related passenger card records, and if the person is previously recorded as a permanent migrant or resident then they will be counted as returning residents. This resulted in more accurate recording of NZ citizens who were migrating permanently to Australia and those who were residents returning.

In 2007, to better measure the changes in traveller behaviour and more accurately capture and measure temporary migration, the ABS introduced improved methods for calculating net overseas migration. This is now the most appropriate source for statistics on migration into, and out of, Australia. Data is available from December quarter 2003. See Explanatory Note 71 in Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0).

In July 2017, due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card, the ABS made some definitional changes and introduced new methods to accommodate for the loss of this source data. Some changes specifically relate to New Zealand citizens. For example, a resident departure (previously Box E on the outgoing passenger card) now includes all Australian citizens, all permanent visa holders and any New Zealand citizen who can be identified as a resident.

To identify a New Zealand citizen as a resident or a visitor, the following rules are applied. For a departure movement, if any individual (including New Zealand Citizens) has self-identified as a resident (Box C from the incoming passenger card) on their return trip (i.e. only up to 27 days after the reference month is available), then they are deemed to be a resident at the departure. In addition, the ABS is able to measure exactly how long since an individual's previous arrival. If a New Zealand citizen has been measured to be living in Australia for one year or more prior to departure, they are then identified as a resident departing. For all other New Zealand citizens departing they are deemed to be a visitor departing.

A revised 10 year historical time series based on the definitional and methodological changes is available from July 2007 onwards.

Specific imputation for country of birth of New Zealand citizens

With the introduction of biometric passports for New Zealand (NZ) citizens in April 2005, the country of birth information was removed from the passport and replaced with a place of birth, for example Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch or Melbourne. The passport was the only source of information on the country of birth of NZ citizens travelling to, or from, Australia. For other travellers who are not NZ citizens, country of birth information can be obtained from their passport or visa information. However, visa information for most NZ citizens is not available as, under the Trans-Tasman agreement, they do not need to hold a visa prior to travel to Australia.

Therefore, with the increased numbers of travellers holding NZ biometric passports, the proportion of movement records with a missing country of birth has increased substantially. For April 2005, NZ passport holders represented only 6% of the missing country of birth records, however by April 2007 this had increased to 79%. Ten years later, NZ passport holders are consistently representing 95% of these missing records.

In 2013, a special imputation for country of birth of NZ citizens was introduced with a previous rebuild of the OAD system, with data revised back to July 2004. It improved country of birth statistics in OAD, and also outputs on Net Overseas Migration (NOM), and the Estimated Resident Population by country of birth.

There are five steps to the process to generate country of birth when missing:

  1. Prior to the hot deck imputation, if country of birth is missing for a NZ citizen the system will scan historical records of NZ citizens back to 2003 to see if there is an earlier record of the individual's country of birth. This is made possible through the use of a unique personal identifier provided to each traveller who crosses Australia's international border. This step looks for a record with a matching personal identifier and if one is found, will use the country of birth of the matched record. In 2016 approximately 78% of records with a missing country of birth are being matched with an historical record for the same individual.
  2. If country of birth is still unknown after Step 1, the system will scan all previous imputations for country of birth for NZ citizens to see if there is an existing record for that individual. This ensures an individual's country of birth is only ever imputed once although they may cross Australia's international borders many times.
  3. If country of birth is still unknown after Step 2, but there is a place of birth supplied on the NZ biometric passport, then a place to country of birth concordance is used. This concordance is dynamic and is updated each month from the historical time series, which is also updated monthly with additional data supplied by Home Affairs. The number of records for each place of birth, separately within each country of birth, is then determined cumulatively from the historical time series. That is, if the name of a place of birth is used in more than one country, for example - 'Wellington' can be found in Australia, Canada, NZ, South Africa, UK and the USA, then the method adds up the number of instances within each of those countries from the historical series. Where a record is missing country of birth, the imputation will consider all possible donors with a matching place of birth. It will then choose a random donor based on its probability of occurring from the concordance, and copy across the donor's corresponding country of birth.

    By the end of Step 3, up to 98% of NZ citizens with a missing value have been provided a country of birth.
  4. If country of birth is still unknown after Step 3, but there is a place of birth supplied, then a search is done on all NZ towns and place names. If a match is found, it is assumed the country of birth of that record is New Zealand. Very few records are imputed using this step.
  5. Lastly, if country of birth is still unknown for any NZ citizen after all other steps are taken, then the standard hot deck imputation is applied but only for non-New Zealand-born as it is assumed any New Zealand-born will have been picked up in the previous four steps. Currently, less than 1% of records are imputed using this step.

7. History of processing changes

July 1998, permanent departures

Prior to July 1998, the number of overseas-born (excluding NZ) permanent departures of Australian residents was overstated.

In July 1998, Home Affairs introduced a box type validation edit to the processing system. The edit checked and corrected the box type according to the Visa Class/subclass. With the exception of Australian and NZ citizens, only Australian residents departing permanently (Box F) who hold permanent visas were retained in this box type. For temporary visa holders who incorrectly ticked Box F, their box type was changed to visitor or temporary entrant departing (Box D).

July to December 1998, reason for journey

Before the introduction of the redesigned passenger card in July 1998, 5% of short-term visitor arrivals, on average, were recorded as having a reason for journey of 'Other' or 'Not Stated'. This percentage rose to 14% for July, 16% in August and 29% in September 1998 as a result of processing problems. These problems were addressed by Home Affairs, with the percentage of 'Other' and 'Not Stated' dropping to 8% and 7% in October and November respectively.

From January 1999, OAD statistics referencing these three months have been revised. The revised data were calculated by estimating the number of persons responding 'Other/Not Stated' using past trends for each country of citizenship and proportionally allocating any persons in excess of the estimated 'Other/Not Stated' total amongst the remaining categories.

July to December 1998, state or territory of residence/stay

For the months of August 1998, September 1998 and October 1998, data entry problems experienced by Home Affairs caused an overstatement of the Northern Territory as the main state of stay with a corresponding understatement for the remaining states and territories. In November 1998 these numbers returned to levels more comparable with previous years, with Home Affairs indicating that they had instigated data quality procedures to address this issue.

From January 1999, OAD statistics referencing these months have been revised. The revised data were calculated by estimating the number of persons indicating the Northern Territory as their main state of residence/stay using past trends and proportionally allocating any persons in excess of these estimates amongst the remaining states and territories.

With the introduction of the new processing system from July 2001, Home Affairs provided the ABS with data on all missing values for state or territory of residence/stay. From July 2001 to Jun 2004, any missing state or territory of residence/stay were imputed using category of movement and state of clearance.

September 1998, age, country of birth, citizenship and sex

A problem was experienced in the processing of OAD data for movement dates between 6 September 1998 and 16 September 1998, following the introduction of changes to Home Affair's input processing system. This problem may affect around 10% of all September 1998 records used in estimation and result in incorrect details for citizenship, date of birth, sex and country of birth.

September 1999, China and Hong Kong

September 1999 overseas arrivals and departures data were revised for movements from, and to, China and Hong Kong in respect of three variables: country of birth, country of citizenship and country of residence/stay. Changes to 'country of birth' and 'country of citizenship' have been made from data supplied by Home Affairs. Changes to 'country of residence/stay' have been made by assuming the average proportion of country of birth to country of residence/stay for migrants from China and Hong Kong in September 1995 to September 1998.

July 2004, all data

In 2013, the ABS completed a rebuild of the system which creates OAD data. At that time, all OAD data had been revised back to July 2004 based on the improved methodology.

July 2007, all data

In 2017, due to the removal of the outgoing passenger card, the ABS undertook a review of its OAD statistics, methodology and processing systems. The rebuild of the new system allowed better use of a range of alternative data sources. Due to these changes, all OAD data have been revised back to July 2007 based on the new methodology and definitions - see Section 2 above.

January 2013, duration of stay and reason for journey

Investigations by the ABS and Home Affairs uncovered a high non-response rate for both duration of stay and reason for journey for the month of January 2013. This was mainly due to changes to the collection and processing of passenger cards, which were introduced in that month. January is the only month that was affected and the non-response rates for subsequent months were at an acceptable level.

October 2014 to May 2015, delay in release of overseas arrivals and departures statistics and missing passenger cards

A number of releases of Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0) were delayed. This was due to an attempted transition to a new provider of passenger card processing by Home Affairs.

October 2014 to June 2017, increases in missing passenger cards

From October 2014 to May 2015, Home Affairs trialled a transition to a new provider of passenger card processing. During this period there was a higher number of cards missing than expected.

From August 2015, Home Affairs rolled out new technologies to streamline and strengthen border operations. Departure SmartGates are currently in use at all international airports in Australia for processing passengers leaving the country. Passengers using Departure SmartGates are required to place their outgoing passenger card in drop boxes located near the Departure SmartGate rather than handing them to Australian Border Force officers. Coinciding with the roll-out of Departure SmartGates, there had been an increase in outgoing passenger cards not being collected due to passengers failing to place their cards into the drop boxes.

To accommodate the increases in missing passenger cards, the ABS completed an upgrade to the OAD system in March 2016 to introduce new methods and additional data sources to help maintain data quality. They included: an individual's movement information from TRIPS where no card was received (i.e. an unmatched record); retrieving and using information from an individual's most recent known future movement (movement after the reference movement) or historical movement (movement before the reference movement) where appropriate; and flight information to ascertain an individual's country of embarkation or disembarkation. This maintained the quality of most variables and reduced reliance on the use of imputations.

July 2016, Norfolk Island

From 1 July 2016, Norfolk island was integrated into Australia for administrative purposes. Travel between mainland Australia and Norfolk Island is no longer considered an international movement and has been excluded from the Overseas Arrivals and Departures statistics.

September 2016, New Zealand citizen long-term resident returns to Australia

The ABS became aware of an increase of resident returns to Australia by New Zealand citizens with an overseas stay of 1 year or more (long-term resident returns). This increase is notable from September 2016 onwards and is not fully supported by real world explanations and has been traced to the input data ABS has received from Home Affairs. This issue has been flagged as a data quality concern and is being investigated by Home Affairs.

July to November 2017, state or territory of stay/residence

The ABS identified a data quality issue with state or territory of stay/residence for the period July to November 2017, with estimates for the Northern Territory being understated and a corresponding overstatement for New South Wales. The cause was identified as a coding issue with the new incoming passenger card, introduced from July 2017.

Affected cards have been re-processed and revised statistics for July to November 2017 were included in the December 2017 issue of Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0). The result of this revision is that estimates for the Northern Territory are approximately 30-40% higher in the revised data. Due to the data for these months having been re-processed, there are also minor changes to other published OAD statistics.

July 2017 to February 2018, state or territory of stay/residence

Investigations by the ABS and the Department of Home Affairs identified quality issues with the capture and coding of state or territory of stay/residence from incoming passenger cards from July 2017 onwards. A resolution to these issues was implemented and data re-processed. Revised OAD data from July 2017 to February 2018 was released in the March 2018 issue.

For the difference between revised and previously published OAD data for Short-term visitor arrivals and Short-term resident returns by State or territory of residence/stay, see Table 6 in the Data Quality Issues Appendix in the March 2018 issue.

July 2017, main reason for journey

In July 2017 the Department of Home Affairs discontinued the outgoing passenger card and introduced changes to the layout of the incoming passenger card in order to capture the main reason for journey for residents returning to Australia, as well as visitors arriving in Australia.

As the layout of the potential responses on the card changed from this point, there are some changes to the distribution of responses to the question on main reason for journey for short-term visitor arrivals, most notably an increase in the number of persons reporting that the main reason for travel was visiting friends and relatives and a decline in the number of persons reporting the main reason was a holiday. Following an extensive investigation of this issue, ABS modelling suggests that the proportion of people reporting visiting friends and relatives is approximately 4 percentage points higher, and holiday approximately 4 percentage points lower, after the introduction of the revised card layout. Also following this investigation, improvements have been made by Home Affairs to the process of capturing and coding main reason for journey from the card, and the ABS has further reviewed and made improvements to imputation of reason for journey.

Therefore, when comparing statistics on reason for journey between periods before and after July 2017, users should consider the changes noted above.

March to May 2018, state or territory of stay/residence

Investigations by the ABS and the Department of Home Affairs identified quality issues with the capture and coding of state or territory of stay/residence from incoming passenger cards from March 2018 onwards. A resolution to these issues was implemented and data re-processed. Revised OAD data from March to May 2018 has been released in the June 2018 issue. All time series spreadsheets and data files have been revised. For the difference between revised and previously published OAD data for Short-term visitor arrivals and Short-term resident returns by State or territory of residence/stay, see Table 6 in the Data Quality Issues Appendix in the July 2018 issue.

April to July 2018, country of residence/stay

In June 2018, the ABS identified a data quality issue with the country of residence of Bangladesh being implausibly high for short-term visitor movements. There was a corresponding decrease for Singapore and Malaysia. To fix this issue Home affairs implemented a procedural change in September 2018. For the period from April to August 2018 the ABS have identified the affected records and amended them by assigning to either Malaysia or Singapore. The amendments were based on historically observed distributions for travellers on visa subclass 601, stratified by country of embarkation and country of citizenship. Revised OAD data from April to July 2018 has been released in August 2018 issue. All time series spreadsheets and data files have been revised. For the difference between revised and previously published OAD data for Short-term visitor arrivals for Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia by country of residence, see Table 6 in the Data Quality Issues Appendix in the August 2018 issue.

September 2019, overseas visitor arrivals - short-term trips - corrections

A replacement issue containing corrected data on short-term visitor arrivals was released on 6 December 2019. It included corrections to some key statistics dot points and to some columns in Tables 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the Time Series Spreadsheets as noted below. Data on individual countries were not affected.

Time Series Spreadsheet affectedColumns affected (cell reference and variable description)
The whole time series is affected for each column listed below
Table 1: Total Movement, Arrivals - Category of MovementJ - Persons ; Short-term Visitors arriving ; Seasonally adjusted
K - Persons ; Short-term Visitors arriving ; Trend
Table 3: Short-term Movement, Visitors Arriving - Selected Countries of Residence: TrendAA - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Eastern Europe ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AB - Number of movements ; Total Southern and Eastern Europe ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AP - Number of movements ; Other South-East Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AQ - Number of movements ; Total South-East Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BD - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Central Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BE - Number of movements ; Total Southern and Central Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BR - Number of movements ; Total (Country of stay/residence) ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
Table 4: Short-term Movement, Visitors Arriving - Selected Countries of Residence: Seasonally adjustedAA - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Eastern Europe ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AB - Number of movements ; Total Southern and Eastern Europe ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AP - Number of movements ; Other South-East Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AQ - Number of movements ; Total South-East Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BD - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Central Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BE - Number of movements ; Total Southern and Central Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BR - Number of movements ; Total (Country of stay/residence) ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
Table 5: Short-term Movement, Visitors Arriving - Selected Countries of Residence: OriginalAA - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Eastern Europe ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
AP - Number of movements ; Other South-East Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;
BD - Number of movements ; Other Southern and Central Asia ; Short-term Visitors arriving ;

Technical note - seasonally adjusted and trend estimates

Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates add to the understanding of overseas arrivals and departures (OAD) statistics. Seasonally adjusted estimates allow users to analyse short-term movements including irregular impacts on the series, while trend estimates provide a better method to analyse and monitor the underlying direction of the series. In most cases, the trend series is the best source of information on the long-term direction of these statistics.

The following graphs are provided to illustrate variations in the seasonally adjusted and trend series for selected countries. These graphs cover the period June 2009 to June 2019.

Overseas visitor arrivals - short-term trips

Selected source countries

The graph for:

  • France shows a major change of the seasonally adjusted series in April 2010 with a decrease in travel due to volcanic eruptions in Iceland, which closed major airports in Europe for one week
  • Sri Lanka shows one in March 2015 due to increased travel to attend the ICC Cricket World Cup, in which a majority of Sri Lankan games were played in Australia
  • New Zealand shows one in September 2011 with more New Zealanders staying home due to New Zealand hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
     
Download
Download
Download

Australian resident returns - short-term trips

Selected destinations

The graph for:

  • Brazil shows major changes of the seasonally adjusted series due to increased travel by Australians in July 2014, coinciding with the FIFA World Cup and August 2016, coinciding with Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro
  • Vanuatu shows one due to decreased travel by Australians in April 2015 after a series of disruptions of air travel due to severe tropical cyclones, most notably Cyclone Pam in March 2015.
     

Sometimes there are abrupt and sustained changes in the underlying behaviour of short-term movement series, termed ‘trend breaks’. Given that these occasions can distort trend estimates, the ABS takes such breaks into account when smoothing seasonally adjusted series.

The graph for:

  • Japan shows a break in the trend series due to decreased travel by Australians from April 2011 after the major earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 and subsequent radiation exposure incidents.
     
Download
Download
Download

Glossary

Show all

Australian resident

An Australian resident is self defined as reported by travellers when completing a passenger card. From 1 July 2007, Resident departures include all Australian citizens, permanent visa holders, and any New Zealand citizens who can be identified as a resident.

Category of movement

Overseas Arrivals and Departures data are classified according to length of stay (in Australia or overseas), as recorded by travellers on passenger cards, or derived with reference to previous border crossings. There are three main categories of movement and 10 sub-categories:

  • permanent movement;
    • permanent arrival (PA)
    • permanent departure (PD) - only available prior to July 2007.
       
  • long-term movement - has a duration of stay (or absence) of one year or more; and
    • long-term resident return (LTRR)
    • long-term visitor arrival (LTVA)
    • long-term resident departure (LTRD)
    • long-term visitor departure (LTVD).
       
  • short-term movement - has a duration of stay (or absence) of less than one year;
    • short-term resident return (STRR)
    • short-term visitor arrival (STVA)
    • short-term resident departure (STRD)
    • short-term visitor departure (STVD).
       

A significant number of travellers on the first leg of their journey (i.e. overseas visitors on arrival to Australia) state exactly 12 months or one year as their intended duration of stay. The majority of these travellers actually stay for less than their intended duration of stay and on their departure from Australia are therefore classified as short-term movements (i.e. less than 12 months) at the second leg of their journey. Accordingly, in an attempt to maintain consistency between an arrival and the corresponding departure, and improve the quality of statistics on the duration of stay measurement, movements of travellers who report their intended duration of stay as being exactly one year automatically have their duration of stay imputed. The duration of stay of these travellers is imputed using the actual recorded duration of stay from donors who have similar characteristics from two years earlier.

Country of birth

Country of birth refers to the country in which a person was born in. For Overseas Arrivals and Departures data, the country of birth is usually collected from a traveller's passport or visa information.

Country of citizenship

Country of citizenship is the nationality of a person. For Overseas Arrivals and Departures data it is usually taken from a traveller's passport or visa information and in some cases from the passenger card.

Country of embarkation

Country of embarkation is collected from the country a traveller indicates on their passenger card from answering the following question:

  • For someone arriving in Australia - In which country did you board this flight or ship?
     

Country of residence/stay

Country of residence/stay is collected from the country a traveller indicates on their passenger card.

  • For overseas visitors to Australia, it is their country of residence prior to travel as recorded on their passenger card or visa.
  • For Australian residents, it is the country they spent most time abroad (i.e. their country of stay).
     

Departures SmartGate system

Departures SmartGate is a secure system that automates the checks otherwise conducted by a Border Force officer at Australian airports. Departing travellers use SmartGates to self-process through passport control at Australia's International airports.

Intended length of stay

On arrival in Australia, all overseas visitors are asked to state their 'Intended length of stay in Australia'.

Long-term arrivals

Long-term arrivals comprise long-term visitor arrivals (LTVA) and long-term resident returns (LTRR).

Long-term departures

Long-term departures comprise long-term resident departures (LTRD) and long-term visitor departures (LTVD).

Long-term resident departures (LTRD)

Australian residents who stay abroad for 12 months or more.

Long-term resident returns (LTRR)

Australian residents returning after a recorded absence of 12 months or more overseas.

Long-term visitor arrivals (LTVA)

Overseas visitors who state that they intend to stay in Australia for 12 months or more (but not permanently).

Long-term visitor departures (LTVD)

Overseas visitors departing after a recorded stay of 12 months or more in Australia.

Main reason for journey

Overseas visitors/temporary entrants arriving in Australia and Australian residents returning to Australia are asked to state their main reason for journey using the following categories:

  • convention/conference;
  • business;
  • visiting friends/relatives;
  • holiday;
  • employment;
  • education; and
  • other.
     

Median age

For any distribution, the median value is that which divides the relevant population into two equal parts, half falling below the value, and half exceeding it. Thus, the median age is the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.

Overseas arrivals and departures

Overseas arrivals and departures (OAD) refer to the recorded arrival or departure of persons through Australian air or sea ports (excluding operational air and ships' crew). Statistics on OAD relate to the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers (i.e. the multiple movements of individual persons during a given reference period are all counted).

Passenger card

Passenger cards are completed by nearly all passengers arriving in Australia. Information including: country of previous residence, intended length of stay, main reason for journey, and state or territory of intended stay/residence is collected. An example of the current Australian passenger card is provided with the monthly Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0) publication in the Methodology.

Permanent arrivals

Permanent arrivals (settlers) comprise:

  • travellers who hold permanent visas (regardless of stated intended duration of stay);
  • New Zealand citizens who indicate on their passenger card an intention to migrate permanently; and
  • those who are otherwise identified as eligible to settle.
     

Permanent visa

A visa allowing the holder to remain indefinitely in Australia's migration zone.

Resident

See Australian resident.

Resident returns - short-term trips

See Short-term resident returns (STRR).

Sex ratio

The sex ratio relates to the number of males per 100 females. The sex ratio is defined for the total population, at birth, at death and among age groups.

Short-term arrivals

Short-term arrivals comprise of short-term visitor arrivals (STVA) and short-term resident returns (STRR).

Short-term departures

Short-term departures comprise of short-term resident departures (STRD) and short-term visitor departures (STVD).

Short-term resident departures (STRD)

Australian residents who stay abroad for less than 12 months.

Short-term resident returns (STRR)

Australian residents returning after a recorded stay of less than 12 months overseas.

Short-term visitor arrivals (STVA)

Overseas visitors who intend to stay in Australia for less than 12 months.

Short-term visitor departures (STVD)

Overseas visitors departing after a recorded stay of less than 12 months in Australia.

Skill stream

Those categories of the Migration Program where the core eligibility criteria are based on the applicant's employability or capacity to invest and/or do business in Australia. The immediate accompanying families of principal applicants in the skill stream are also counted as part of the skill stream.

This definition of skill stream is used by Home Affairs who administer the Migration Program.

State or territory of residence/stay

State or territory in which overseas visitors lived/stayed or the state or territory in which residents live/lived.

On arrival, overseas visitors are asked on their passenger card for their state or territory of intended address in Australia. Residents returning to Australia are asked on their passenger card for their state or territory of intended address.

Temporary entrants

See temporary visas.

Temporary visas

Temporary entrant visas are visas permitting persons to come to Australia on a temporary basis for specific purposes. Main contributors are tourists, international students, those on temporary work visas, business visitors and working holiday makers.

Visa

Permission or authority granted by the Australian government to foreign nationals to travel to, enter and/or remain in Australia for a period of time or indefinitely.

Visitor

A visitor is any traveller arriving to or departing from Australia who is not a resident. A visitor can be either short-term (less than 12 months) or long-term (12 months or more).

Visitor arrivals - short-term trips

See Short-term visitor arrivals (STVA).

Quality declaration - summary

Institutional environment

Overseas Arrivals and Departures (OAD) statistics are compiled from administrative data provided by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. The main source data are incoming passenger cards completed by persons arriving in Australia. Data from passports and visa (entry permit) applications and approvals are also provided from Home Affairs' Travel and Immigration Processing System (TRIPS). These data sources are collected, compiled and matched together by Home Affairs.

For information on the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

OAD data provides information on all recorded movements across Australia's borders, both in-bound and out-bound, by category of movement and numerous other variables (listed towards the end of the Explanatory Notes under Additional Statistics Available). The three main categories of movement are:

  • permanent movements;
  • long-term movements (one year or more); and
  • short-term movements (less than one year).
     

These data (while refined further) are used as inputs into international tourism, net overseas migration (NOM) and through NOM into the estimated resident population (ERP) of Australia and its states and territories.

Geographically, OAD data are available at the Australia and state and territory levels. For all arrivals, state and territory data are based on the state or territory of intended address. Compilation of OAD statistics use the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0).

Care should be taken when interpreting OAD movement data as 'people' as these statistics relate to the number of movements of travellers rather than the number of travellers (i.e. multiple movements of individual persons during a given reference period are each counted separately). The statistics exclude the movements of operational air and ships' crew, transit passengers who pass through Australia but are not cleared for entry, passengers on pleasure cruises commencing and finishing in Australia, and unauthorised arrivals. Users requiring data on the number of travellers (people) who stay within (or away from) Australia for at least 12 months may find NOM estimates more suitable to meet their needs. For more information on NOM see the Explanatory Notes in Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0).

International tourism contributes to estimates of the direct economic contribution of tourism to the Australian economy. The estimates are included in the tourism satellite account linked to the Australian system of national accounts and to Australia's international trade in goods and services on a balance of payments basis.

Timeliness

OAD statistics are released monthly, approximately 6 weeks after the end of the reference period.

Accuracy

OAD statistics are derived from a combination of full enumeration and sampling. From July 2007, all departures are fully enumerated. All permanent arrivals and all arrivals with a duration of one year or more (long-term arrivals) are also fully enumerated. However, all arrivals with a duration of less than one year (short-term arrivals) are sampled. The sample is a fixed skip based on a threshold selected by country of citizenship. The sample is designed so that countries of citizenship associated with a small number of movements are fully sampled, while countries with a larger number of movements tend to have a higher threshold. This approach minimises the effect of sampling error associated with the available statistics. From July 2007, about 5% of all short-term arrivals have been selected for sample. Statistics relating to these movements are therefore weighted estimates.

Two types of errors are possible in an estimate based on a sample; non-sampling and sampling:

  • Non-sampling errors: These arise from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise such errors, both through careful design of the passenger cards and through checks on the information once it is received. During the edit process some items are corrected where they conflict with other known information. Missing replies to certain items such as age, state and country of previous residence and main country of intended destination are also imputed by reference to other related items. For further information on non-response rates and data imputation see Appendix - data quality issues.
  • Sampling errors: Some statistics relating to these movements are therefore estimates which are subject to sampling variability, that is, they may differ from statistics which would have been obtained if details of all these movements had been processed. The sampling error associated with any estimate can be estimated from the sample results and one measure so derived is the standard error. It would be impractical however, to publish estimates of standard errors for all figures from OAD statistics in individual tables.
     

Coherence

OAD data measure crossings of Australia's borders. The data are available from 1901, for various categories of traveller (e.g. permanent, long-term and short-term arrivals and departures) and periods (e.g. annual, quarterly and monthly). Electronic data are available from this website for categories of traveller on a monthly basis from January 1976, with selected variables available from January 1991.

To provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, this administrative data has required careful and continuing maintenance and development to protect the integrity of the data and the efficiency of the collection. Changes that have occurred over the collection period include: sampling methods, estimation methods, concepts, data item definitions, classifications and time series analysis techniques. For example the change in boundaries and existence of various countries can affect their comparability over time.

Interpretability

All published OAD data are available as original series estimates. Trend series estimates and seasonally adjusted series estimates, for short-term visitor arrivals are available from January 1991. Trend series estimates and seasonally adjusted series estimates, for short-term resident returns, are available from July 2007. Additionally, for these two categories, trend and seasonally adjusted estimates are available by country of previous residence and main country of destination from July 2007.

Seasonally adjusted estimates allow users to analyse short-term movements including irregular impacts on the series while trend estimates provide a better method to analyse and monitor the underlying direction of the short-term movement series. In most cases the trend series is the best source of information on the long-term direction of these statistics.

Further information can be obtained from the Explanatory Notes and Appendices in this release.

Accessibility

OAD data are available in a variety of formats on the ABS website.

The Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (cat. no. 3401.0) release provides the most comprehensive source for statistics on OAD in Australia, particularly for short-term movements. Over the years OAD data have been released via various outputs including .pdf, ABS.stat datasets, spreadsheets and data files. Currently, this publication is released as a monthly web-only release (e.g. Key Figures, Main Features, Methodology, etc.) with an associated 11 time series spreadsheets (Excel format) and 2 ABS.Stat datasets available below the Data downloads section in the topic page of this release.

Graphs on the monthly change to short-term visitor arrivals and short-term resident departures (Trend) are available in Key Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1345.0).

More detailed or customised tabulation of OAD data is available through ABS Consultancy Services. A list of variables for OAD data is available towards the end of the Explanatory Notes under Additional Statistics Available. For inquiries contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or email client.services@abs.gov.au

Abbreviations

Show all

ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
ARIMAauto regressive integrated moving average
Aust.Australia
DIBPAustralian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection
ERPestimated resident population
GFCGlobal Financial Crisis
GSTGoods and Services Tax
Home AffairsAustralian Government Department of Home Affairs
IPCincoming passenger card
LTRDlong-term resident departure
LTRRlong-term resident return
LTVAlong-term visitor arrival
LTVDlong-term visitor departure
MEDBMedicare Enrolments Database
necnot elsewhere classified
nfdnot further defined
NOMnet overseas migration
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
NZNew Zealand
OADoverseas arrivals and departures
OPCoutgoing passenger card
PApermanent arrival
QldQueensland
ROADSrebuild of the OAD system
SASouth Australia
SACCStandard Australian Classification of Countries
SARSpecial Administrative Region
SARSSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome
STRDshort-term resident departure
STRRshort-term resident return
STVAshort-term visitor arrival
STVDshort-term visitor departure
Tas.Tasmania
TRIPSTravel and Immigration Processing System
UKUnited Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man
USAUnited States of America
Vic.Victoria
WAWestern Australia