Smartgates have been a welcome introduction to the immigration process for international travellers since their introduction about a decade ago. The machines make the process of arriving and departing into the country quicker and more convenient. But passengers travelling with children under sixteen have been unable to use the gates… until now.

The signs at Australian immigration checkpoints still advise that children under the age of sixteen are not eligible to use the Smartgate. However, a new system whereby children from as young as ten may use the system if accompanied by at least two adults is being trialled.

One member was caught by surprise on a recent trip when told of the new policy.

We recently travelled to NZ and back with two kids in their mid teens (under 16) and on arrival in NZ the kids could go through the Smartgate – no age restrictions we could see. On our return to SYD on the weekend we arrived with hundreds of others in the early morning and after the unexpected Ebola survey, jumped on the nearest machine and got our tickets. We then proceeded to immigration where the Smartgate sign said “no children under 16 years” – information which would have been useful before we got our tickets.

So then we queued with all and sundry for some 30-40 minutes before getting to the immigration officer who saw our tickets and said straight away “why didn’t you go through the Smartgate?” We reported the sign said “no under 16s” to which he replied – “your kids are old enough to fool it” and then said we could have problems next time we enter or leave the country as we registered on the machine but didn’t ‘complete’. He said the Smartgate age is set at 16 to stop people with little kids trying to go through as they’d be too short for the camera – “over 10 is fine”.

As the Smartgate system uses facial recognition technology, it would seem that most children above the age of ten should be able to use the system, provided their facial characteristics haven’t changed since the passport photograph was taken.

Other members have reported success taking their children through the Smartgate.

We used the Smartgate system on arrival at SYD last night. Two youngest girls are 12 and 10. My 10yr old is pretty short for her age. It worked fine – except for me offering a few people in the queue their eyes back for staring out my mini-me.

Also being trialled currently is the use of Smartgates by Irish, Canadian and Swiss passengers. Travellers holding passports from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, United Kingdom or Singapore are already eligible.

In New Zealand, where Smartgates are available in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, children above the age of 12 may use Smartgates.

Have your children been able to use the Smartgate? Add your experience HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]