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Transforming the client experience

In light of increasing client expectations of digital, convenient, personalised service delivery, and in keeping with the Government’s broader commitments to enhancing digital service delivery and Digital Service Standards, the Department continues to work to improve its service delivery arrangements and supporting technology. The Department’s Channel Strategy 2017–20 guided significant improvements to our client service channels (phone, in-person, paper and digital) across the life of the strategy and saw major changes to the way clients interact with the Department, including the development of new online services.

The Department and the ABF continue to focus on transforming the experience of our clients by delivering high quality, consistent, cross-channel experiences in line with Australia’s whole-of-government digital transformation agenda. This aims to ensure government services are simple, clear and fast to use.

Channel Strategy 2017–20

The Department’s internal Channel Strategy 2017–20 guides improvements to our client service channels, changing the way we do business and transforming the way clients interact with us.

The strategy sets out the Department’s vision for seamless service delivery interactions across all client service channels (phone, in-person, paper and digital). It positions the Department and the ABF to leverage technology advancements to provide personal services, and outlines how we will deliver high quality, consistent, cross-channel experiences that use technology and digital media for service delivery.

We are working to improve our ability to deliver user-centred, digital services to an increasing number of clients. This is in line with Australia’s whole-of-government digital transformation agenda, which ensures all government services are delivered in a simple, clear and easy-to-use manner and designed around client needs.

The Channel Strategy will be refreshed as part of our preparations for implementing our new service delivery arrangements.

Digital services

Departmental clients continue to embrace the shift to digital and online services. In 2019–20, the number of users visiting the departmental and ABF websites increased by 6.8 per cent. The number of ImmiAccounts created increased by 15 per cent and there have now been over 12 million ImmiAccounts created since its launch in December 2013.

ImmiAccount is subject to ongoing and continual improvements to support online service delivery, with multiple enhancements made in 2019–20 to support legislative, policy and business process changes, and to enable future capability improvements.

These changes benefited visa applicants and their sponsors, those seeking to depart Australia upon the expiry of their visa, citizenship applicants, and the aviation industry by allowing more services to be accessed and completed online. This included changes to better facilitate online payments for visitor visas and citizenship services.

In 2019–20, the Department also trialled an online Virtual Assistant (VA), the primary goal of which was to support clients to quickly find relevant information online. During the trial the VA responded to over 210,000 immigration and citizenship enquiries.

The VA was subsequently expanded following a successful trial to assist clients with enquiries relating to COVID-19 border restrictions, and was instrumental in assisting the Department to respond quickly and effectively to a significant increase in client enquiries. The Department is exploring further opportunities to integrate the VA into our broader client service offer.

The Department’s websites continued to play a major role in the provision of information to clients and the Australian community. During the 2019–20 summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department’s online presence was redeveloped to provide a consistent and comprehensive source of information on visas, citizenship, travel restrictions and support services.

As part of this redevelopment, in March 2020 the Department launched a new COVID-19 and the border website, covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au, which attracted more than 7.8 million unique page views. This was followed by the COVID-19 In your language website covid19inlanguage.homeaffairs.gov.au in April 2020 in response to concerns about information provision to communities whose first language is other than English.

This website hosts whole-of-Government COVID-19-related information in 63 languages and directly supports the Department’s commitment to support and enhance social cohesion in the Australian community. As at 30 June 2020, the website had more than 1 million unique page views with the most popular languages accessed being Chinese (Simplified); German; Chinese (Traditional); Arabic; and Spanish.

Telephone services - Global Service Centre

Telephone client enquiry services are provided by a single onshore contracted service provider (Datacom).

Government announcements relating to travel restrictions and support measures for industry and temporary visa holders during the 2019–20 summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic led to an overall increase in the number of enquiries handled by the Global Service Centre (GSC) during February and March 2020, with a 22 per cent increase in call demand.

The Department has continued to refine and adjust call handling processes to ensure the GSC provides a responsive and timely service during periods of heightened demand. A new Ticket Management System was introduced in April 2020 and delivers improved tracking and, where required, follow-up of all client enquiries received by the GSC. This end-to-end visibility of client enquiries will identify further opportunities to respond to client needs, especially in resolving complex case enquiries.

In-person services

In 2019–20, the Department completed the roll out of an appointment-only operating model for visa and citizenship in-person services. A key enabler for these changes has been the redevelopment of the Department’s websites, a more efficient and effective Global Service Centre, and the development of enhanced online services including the Department’s new VA. All these initiatives allow more clients to self-service without the need to attend a departmental office, increasing convenience, and saving them time and cost.

When attendance is required, the appointment-only model eliminates the need for clients to queue for service and allows us to better prepare for, and comprehensively respond to, individual client needs. Special arrangements are in place to ensure vulnerable clients who may need urgent assistance from the Department are not turned away.

There were 36,923 unscheduled walk-ins recorded in 2019–20, a 67 per cent decrease on the previous year and an overall 86 per cent drop since the commencement of the strategy in 2016–17.

Client feedback

We obtain regular feedback to ensure that the Department understands the needs of our clients and is continually improving service delivery. This includes in-page feedback across the Department’s websites from the newly-introduced VA and through more formal complaints, compliments and suggestions mechanisms.

The Global Feedback Unit (GFU) is the Department’s central point for receiving, tracking and facilitating responses to formal client feedback and aims to acknowledge feedback within two working days of receipt. During 2019–20, the GFU managed 21,074 feedback cases. To support the Australian Government response to COVID-19 the GFU focused on vulnerable clients and maintaining an escalation pathway for clients with urgent needs.

Service Delivery Partners

The Department has service delivery arrangements with overseas companies to provide visa lodgement support services.

At 30 June 2020, the Department had contracts with three commercial partners to deliver services at Australian Visa Application Centres and Australian Biometric Collection Centres in 55 countries. COVID-19 has impacted the operations of the commercial partners, who are required to comply with local government restrictions on business operations in the relevant host country.

Service Delivery Partners (SDPs) provide administrative services, including:

  • information services (for example, pre-lodgement enquiries)
  • visa lodgement (including a quality assurance completeness check)
  • visa fee payment
  • biometric enrolment
  • data input
  • courier services.

SDP staff do not make visa decisions. Applications are provided to the Department for processing. SDPs operate on a user-pays basis, with visa applicants paying for the cost of the service.

Translating and interpreting services

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an essential service provided by the Department. It delivers high quality, cost-effective and secure interpreting services for people with limited to no English skills, and for government and non-government agencies, businesses and emergency services that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

TIS National supports the key objectives and purpose of the Department and the Australian Government’s Multicultural Access and Equity Policy 2018, enabling all Australians equitable access government policies, programs and services.

In 2019–20, TIS National facilitated 1,070,187 phone interpreting services and 135,380 on-site services by 2854 independent contracted interpreters. This was an increase from 1,044,637 phone interpreting services and 130,165 on-site services provided in 2018–19.

Service standards

In 2019–20, TIS National continued performing strongly across all its services channels. Throughout the year, there was an overall increase in demand for interpreting services. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, there was a slight reduction in on-site services across Australia in the final three months of the reporting period.

During the year, TIS National continued to support increasing demand for priority interpreting services, including emergency services. Overall, there was a slight decrease in the Grade of Service across all but one category, which can be attributed to the restrictions associated with COVID-19.

During 2019–20:

  • 74.69 per cent of calls were answered within 30 seconds, a decrease from 88 per cent in 2018–19
  • 97.7 per cent of all on-site bookings were assigned within three days of receipt, a decrease from 99 per cent in 2018–19
  • 98.51 per cent of all TIS National calls were assigned to an interpreter within three minutes, a decrease from 98.57 per cent in 2018–19
  • accredited interpreters were supplied for 94 per cent of all jobs being performed by a National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters credentialed interpreter, an increase from 93.60 per cent in 2018–19.

Call centre performance metrics include average handle time, average speed to answer and calls per open hour. Table 12 shows that the TIS National call centre’s average handling of telephone services reduced slightly in 2019–20 as compared to the previous year.

Table 12 – TIS National Call centre performance (telephone interpreting)

Financial year

Call type

Calls offered

Calls accepted

Calls per open hour (%)

Average handle time (mm:ss)

Average speed to answer (mm:ss)

Grade of service1


Emergency calls (000)







Total calls (including emergency calls)








Emergency calls (000)







Total calls (including emergency calls)







1 Percentage of calls answered within a specific timeframe.