3401.0 - Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, Oct 2014 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/05/2015   
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1 This publication 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 departures (STRD). Statistics on permanent and long-term movements (i.e. one year or more) are also available, however, permanent and long-term movements in this publication are not an appropriate source for migration statistics. For information on Net Overseas Migration (NOM) refer to Migration, Australia (cat. no. 3412.0) and for quarterly NOM data Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0).

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 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 publication. For more information and a complete list of variables available see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 36 and 38.


5 Persons arriving in, or departing from, Australia provide information in the form of incoming and outgoing passenger cards (see Appendix 1). Incoming persons also provide information in visa applications (apart from people travelling as Australian or New Zealand (NZ) citizens). These, and other information available to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) serve as a source for statistics of overseas arrivals and departures (OAD).

ABS statistics on overseas arrivals and departures (OAD) are calculated using administrative data collected and compiled by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) under the authority of the Migration Regulations (Migration Act, 1958). The main source of data on overseas movements is incoming and outgoing passenger cards, which are matched with data from passports and visas. Information from these sources are collected, compiled and matched by DIBP and then stored with movement records on the Travel and Immigration Processing System (TRIPS). Each month these matched OAD records are supplied to the ABS and then processed within the OAD system.


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 OAD statistics are derived from a combination of full enumeration and sampling. All permanent movements and all movements with a duration of stay of one year or more are fully enumerated. The number of movements where the duration of stay is less than one year are fully enumerated, however their characteristics are sampled. From January 2005, about 5% of all short-term movements have been selected for sample. Statistics relating to these movements are therefore estimates which may differ from statistics which would have been obtained if details of all these movements had been processed. Sample standard errors can be found under Standard Errors in the Explanatory Notes tab of this publication.


10 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. 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 and missing information on the following records: age, category of movement, country of birth, country of embarkation/disembarkation, country of residence/stay, duration of stay, passenger card box type, reason for journey, sex and state of stay; are imputed using the information that is available for other similar records (known as hot deck imputation). More information is available in the Data Quality Issues (Appendix) in the Explanatory Notes section of this release.

11 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.


12 In 2013, the ABS completed a rebuild of the system which creates OAD data. The primary aim of this project was to improve the quality of OAD data, given its importance as an input to a broad range of statistical outputs. The new system has been thoroughly tested by processing over ten years of data. Imputations for missing traveller data have been improved, in particular the duration of stay and the country of birth variables. Detailed information on the changes and improvements arising from the rebuild of the OAD system appears in the Data Quality Issues (Appendix) in the Explanatory Notes section of this release.

13 The rebuild of the system has 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 is from July 2004.


14 The classification of countries in this publication is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries, 2011, Version 2.3. For more detailed information, refer to the ABS publication Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0) or the Country Classification excel spreadsheet in the Downloads tab of this publication. The entire times series has been backcast using this version of the classification.

15 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, thus England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are often combined to be the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man (UK, CI & IOM).


16 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. Other Territories includes Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. OAD data for Other Territories are not available prior to February 1995.


17 Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of short-term overseas movements are shown in tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8.

18 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 departure series, these calendar related effects are known as seasonal (e.g. increased travel in December due to the Christmas holiday period) and trading day influences (arising from the varying length of each month and the varying number of Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. in each month). Each influence is estimated by separate seasonal and trading day factors which, when combined, are referred to as the combined adjustment factors.

19 From November 2004, ABS has introduced an improved 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. This change in methodology has resulted in revisions to seasonally adjusted and trend estimates.

20 From July 2003, concurrent seasonal adjustment methodology has been used to derive the combined adjustment factors. This means that data from the current month are used in estimating seasonal and trading day 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.

21 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).

22 The ABS implemented improved methods of producing seasonally adjusted estimates from July 2007, 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 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 movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. Trend estimates take these irregular influences into account.

24 The trend estimates of short-term overseas visitor arrivals and short-term Australian resident departures are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson weighted moving average to all months of the respective seasonally adjusted series except the first and last six months.

25 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).

26 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. Indonesia) a consequence is that breaks are also applied to the regional total series (e.g. Total South-East Asia) and the total series. Breaks currently included in the trend series are as follows:
  • July 2004; STRD - Ireland
      • Effect on trend and reason - Increase in STRD movements, due to rebuild of the OAD system and changes to methodology.
  • October 2005; STRD - Indonesia, Total South-East Asia and Total
      • Effect on trend and reason - Decrease in STRD movements; Bali Bombing of 1 October 2005.
  • December 2006; STRD - Indonesia, Total South-East Asia and Total
      • Effect on trend and reason - Increase in STRD movements; Return to levels closer to, but still lower than, those experienced prior to the Bali Bombing of 1 October 2005.
  • April 2009; STRD - Total STRD, as well as individual countries and totals in the following regions; Oceania and Antarctica, North-West Europe, South-East Asia, North-East Asia, Southern and Central Asia, Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa
      • Effect on trend and reason - Increase in STRD movements; Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and initiatives introduced to combat the GFC (e.g. Australian Government stimulus packages of October 2008 and February 2009), cut-price air fares and travel packages, and the high Australian dollar.
          • Comments - Breaks in series were clearly observed for Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Further, smaller breaks were applied to the remaining specified country series.
  • July 2009; STRD - Fiji, Total Oceania and Antarctica
      • Effect on trend and reason - Increase in STRD movements; Increased flights, cut-price fares and the high Australian dollar.
          • Comments - The break in series for Fiji was illustrated in specific commentary, tables and graphs on Fiji and Total Oceania and Antarctica. However, although Fiji is included in the total series its impact is minimal for this series and not observable amongst other volatility during this time. Therefore, it was not illustrated in commentary, tables and graphs at this level.
  • February 2011; STRD - Egypt, Total North Africa and the Middle East
      • Effect on trend and reason - Decrease in STRD movements; Ongoing political instability in Egypt.
          • Comments - The break in series for Egypt was illustrated in specific commentary, tables and graphs on Egypt and Total North Africa and the Middle East. However, although Egypt is included in the total series its impact is minimal for this series and not observable amongst other volatility during this time. Therefore it was illustrated in commentary, tables and graphs at this level.
  • March 2011; STRD - Japan, Total North East Asia
      • Effect on trend and reason - Decrease in STRD movements; Major earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 in Japan and subsequent nuclear radiation exposure incidents.
          • Comments - The break in series for Japan was illustrated in specific commentary, tables and graphs on Japan and Total North East Asia. However, although Japan is included in the total series its impact is minimal for this series and not observable amongst other volatility during this time. Therefore it was illustrated in commentary, tables and graphs as this level.

27 An improved correction method has been implemented in the seasonal adjustment process to remove the effects of Chinese New Year and Ramadan from the seasonally adjusted estimates.
  • Chinese New Year - Chinese New Year often falls in February but on some occasions falls in January. The movement of Chinese New Year between the boundary of January and February can cause biased seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. The Chinese New Year proximity adjustment method takes into account the graduated increase in activity in the days leading up to the holiday period followed by a graduated return to the normal activity levels in the days following. 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' (ABS, 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 and Indonesia associated with the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. The estimates for Total South-East Asia were also corrected as a consequence of the Malaysia and Indonesia series corrections. Other time series did not have a significant Ramadan effect and were not corrected.

Biennial seasonal adjustment re-analysis

28 The seasonally adjusted and trend series are generally updated biennially following a review of the seasonal adjustment process. This review confirms the extent to which movements are affected by seasonal or irregular influences. As a result, the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of a number of series are revised.

29 Unreliable seasonal adjustment: In using the seasonally adjusted series, care should be exercised because of the difficulties associated with reliably estimating the seasonal pattern, for the following short-term resident departure series: Other North-East Asia, United Arab Emirates, French Polynesia and East Timor. These series will be revised during the next biennial seasonal adjustment reanalyses.

Effect of new seasonally adjusted estimates on trend estimates

30 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 (displayed in the Main Features section) 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.

31 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).

32 For further information on the seasonal adjustment process contact the Assistant Director, Time Series Analysis on Canberra (02) 6252 6345 or by email at <time.series.analysis@abs.gov.au>.


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. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.

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.


35 The statistics in this publication 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 publication is based on un-rounded data. Calculations made on rounded data may differ to those published.


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. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

37 To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique is used to randomly adjust cell values. This technique is called perturbation. Perturbation involves small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics. After perturbation, a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables. However, adding up cell values to derive a total will not necessarily give the same result as published totals.

38 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/intend to spend most time abroad
      • Duration of stay, i.e. intended/actual time away from Australia
      • State or territory of residence
  • Category of movement (eg: short-term visitor arrival, short-term resident departure).
  • Country of birth
  • Country of Citizenship (nationality)
  • Country of embarkation/disembarkation
  • Marital status (not available for Australian and New Zealand citizens)
  • Main reason for journey (not available for permanent movements, residents returning 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/future country of residence
      • 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)


39 Users of these statistics may also wish to refer to the following ABS products:
40 Recent publications released by the National Migration Statistics Unit (ABS) include:
41 Related statistics are also published by:
42 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, additional demographic information is available on the ABS website, <https://www.abs.gov.au>; click Topics @ a Glance, then under People click on Demography. Users can also access the full range of electronic ABS data free of charge on the ABS website.

43 The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details the products to be released in the week ahead.


44 This publication draws extensively on information provided by the Australian governments Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). 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.