Australian Government - Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

To protect Australia's borders and foster lawful trade and travel.

Ships Masters and Agents


In December 2005, the Australian Government announced the introduction of a Maritime Crew Visa (MCV) from 1 July 2007 for foreign crew of non-military ships.  The MCV will replace the current Special Purpose Visa (SPV) for foreign crew, which is granted by operation of law on arrival if foreign crew hold a valid passport and have been issued with a document that establishes their employment on the vessel (eg. seaman's book).  To simplify the implementation of the MCV, its design largely follows the existing SPV arrangements for foreign crew and their accompanying spouse and dependent children (where travelling with crew).  However, the MCV will require a formal visa application to be made outside Australia.  This will allow security checking of foreign crew and align them with other categories of temporary entrants who travel to Australia.

The Australian Customs Service (Customs) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have been working together to implement the Maritime Crew Visa (MCV).  As a result of the introduction of the MCV there will be a number of changes to current Customs processes relating to crew and passengers in Customs Seaports, this will affect all crew/passengers at: arrival, departure, sign-on and sign-off. These guidelines have been developed to outline the relevant changes to current arrangements that exist for the reporting and processing of crew and passengers on non-military ships.  These guidelines and the processes outlined in this document will apply from 1 July 2007.

While Customs hopes that this document will prove helpful for ship's masters and agents as they interact with Customs, it should be noted that while these guidelines are accurate as at 1 July 2007, further changes may occur at any time.  Where changes occur, Customs will make updates on the Customs website.  In all cases these guidelines should be read in conjunction with the relevant legislations as required (in particular the Customs Act 1901).  While this document does cover the majority of MCV related responsibilities and requirements for both Customs and ship's masters/agents alike, it does not cover all aspects of Customs general requirements (eg. cargo reporting is not covered).  For further information on Customs issues not covered by this document please contact your local Customs office or visit our website at 

Maritime Crew Visa Policy and Applications

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is responsible for all policy advice regarding the Maritime Crew Visa.  To apply for a Maritime Crew Visa or to obtain further information in relation to visa requirements for sea crew please visit the Immigration website at

Transitional Period

Applications for the MCV will commence from 1 July 2007. There will be a 6 month transitional period until 31 December 2007 to allow industry time to comply with the MCV requirements.  During the transitional period, the SPV arrangements will continue to ensure that foreign crew who arrive without an MCV may still arrive lawfully in Australia. However, Customs and Immigration officers will increasingly be advising operators, ship agents, and ships' crew in cases of non-compliance to promote MCV compliance prior to 1 January 2008.

Despite the fact that the MCV will only become mandatory for sea crew from 1 January 2008, the guidelines outlined in this document will apply from 1 July 2007 for all crew, regardless of whether they have an MCV or SPV.