Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets

The Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets (SAMS) program supports Australia's commitment to protecting its military secrets and strengthening national security.

On 8 April 2024, an amendment Part IXAA to the Defence Act 1903 was given Royal Assent. This amendment is intended to assist in addressing current and evolving foreign security threats through the introduction of a requirement for some individuals in specific circumstances to seek foreign work authorisation.

The requirement for a foreign work authorisation strengthens Australia's security by preventing individuals from disclosing or exploiting classified military or related information.

Date of commencement

From 6 May 2024, Part IXAA of the Defence Act 1903 requires the individuals listed below to assess their requirement for a foreign work authorisation.

  • Former members of the Australian Defence Force, Defence Australian Public Servants and Australian Submarine Agency, who will work for a foreign military or foreign government body.
  • All Australian citizens or permanent residents providing training to a foreign military or government body that is related to:
    • Part 1 of the Defence and Strategic Goods List
    • military tactics, techniques and procedures.

If the individual finds a foreign work authorisation is required, then they must submit a request for authorisation.

The new law is not intended to limit individuals from working for, or providing training to, a foreign military or government body. It is intended to prevent individuals with sensitive Defence information and experience, from training or working for military organisations and foreign government bodies without appropriate authorisation.

The maximum period for a foreign work authorisation is 3 years. Individuals requiring a longer period of authorisation need to request a new foreign work authorisation before their previous authorisation expires. The time taken to process a request can vary, so it is recommended that individuals request their new authorisation early to allow sufficient time for the request to be processed.

Guide for foreign work restricted individuals

A foreign work restricted individual is someone who was previously a Defence staff member, but is no longer working for Defence. Individuals assessed to be a foreign work restricted individual may require a foreign work authorisation.

Foreign work restricted individuals can submit an authorisation request from 6 May 2024. An online request form for foreign work authorisation is available on this site. A PDF document of the foreign work authorisation form is also be available on request.

As this legislation affects a wide range of Australians it is important to understand what legal obligations may apply.

The list of people who may require foreign work authorisation includes current and former:

  • Australian citizens and permanent residents
  • Australian Defence Force personnel
  • Defence Australian Public Servants
  • Australian Submarine Agency personnel.

To find out more information on who is required to submit a foreign work authorisation request, see the Authorisation requirements page.

Information for industry

Organisations and companies operating in and outside of Australia should consider if their personnel, contractors or sub-contractors are impacted by the new legislation. The requirement for a foreign work authorisation depends upon the circumstances of each individual. Foreign work authorisation may be required for any training or work undertaken for a foreign military organisation, government body or company.

To find out more information on who is required to submit a foreign work authorisation, see the Authorisation requirements web page.

Alignment with Defence Trade Controls

The Part IXAA amendment to the Defence Act 1903 is closely aligned to the Defence Trade Controls Amendment (DTC) Act 2024, which protects the technology and information of Australia and its key partners. To find out more information on the DTC Act and how it may apply, see the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Act page.

Foreign work authorisation assessments

Defence will undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of the work or training applied for by each foreign work authorisation request. This is to ensure the work does not compromise Australia's security, Defence, or international relations.

The time taken to assess a request will vary. Assessment times will depend upon the complexity of the request, the responsiveness of the applicant and the security risk posed. All requests will be assessed as quickly as possible.

Working whilst awaiting a foreign work authorisation assessment

The SAMS legislation commences on 6 May 2024. Individuals working for a foreign military organisation or government body on that date, should assess their requirement for a foreign work authorisation. Individuals can use the guidance provided on this website or contact sams.info@defence.gov.au

Individuals requiring a foreign work authorisation are required to submit their request by 7 August 2024, in line with the commencement of offence provisions in the legislation.

Once a request has been submitted, an individual can continue to perform that work until the outcome of their foreign work authorisation request has been provided to them.

After 7 August 2024, individuals that are already working and continue to work for a foreign military organisation or government body, and have not submitted a foreign work authorisation request, may be committing an offence under the legislation.

Commencing new work before receiving a foreign work authorisation

After 07 August 2024, individuals making arrangements to commence working in a role or providing training requiring a foreign work authorisation, must wait until the outcome of their foreign work authorisation request is provided.

Individuals commencing work or providing training prior to receiving a foreign work authorisation, may be committing an offence under the legislation. Individuals are encouraged to submit their foreign work authorisation request as soon as they have sufficient information to complete the form. 

Costs

There are no costs for individuals to apply for, or maintain, a foreign work authorisation. In some circumstances there may be a cost for obtaining personal information that is required as part of the assessment process. These costs may include the translation of original documents and certificates into English. These costs are borne by the requestor.