Frequently asked questions

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What’s the difference between Customs and the Department of Agriculture?

The Department of Agriculture protects Australia from exotic pests and diseases, while the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service intercepts illegal goods, such as drugs and weapons. The Department of Agriculture and Customs work together at airports, seaports and mail centres to detect and deter the unlawful movement of goods into Australia.

More about the Department of Agriculture's role
More about Customs

What can I bring or send to Australia?

Australia has strict laws relating to the importation of certain goods. This ensures that the biosecurity risk to Australia’s agricultural industries and unique environment is minimised.

You must declare certain food, plant material and animal products. When you declare these items they will be checked by a Department of Agriculture officer who will determine whether they are allowed into Australia.

Some products may require treatment to make them safe. Other items may be restricted due to pest and disease risks.

For further information please read, What can I bring or send to Australia?

When to tick ‘yes’ on your Incoming Passenger Card

You will be given an Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) before you arrive in Australia. This is a legal document. You must tick Yes if you are carrying certain food, plant material or animal products.  You can take these declared items with you to the clearance point where they will be assessed by a Department of Agriculture officer.

Alternatively, you may dispose of food, plant material or animal products on arrival in the bins located in the terminal.

On arrival your baggage may be assessed by x–ray, detector dog or inspected by a Department of Agriculture officer. If you fail to declare or dispose of any biosecurity items, or make a false declaration:

  • you could be fined $AUD340 on the spot, or
  • you could be prosecuted, fined more than $AUD66,000 and risk 10 years in jail and a criminal record.

What happens to items that I declare?

In many cases items you declare will be returned to you after inspection. However, any items that present a biosecurity risk will be withheld. Depending on the risk, you can:

  • pay for the item to be treated (for example fumigation, irradiation)*
  • store the item at the airport for collection upon departure from Australia (only available where your arrival and departure airport are the same)*
  • export the item*, or
  • have the item destroyed.

The Department of Agriculture makes every effort to minimise the risk of damage caused as a result of treatment, but does not accept liability for any damage that may occur to your goods.

*These options are subject to fees and special conditions may apply.

Why can’t I bring or send goods into Australia that are already available in Australia?

The items you buy in Australia have been commercially produced and imported under strict biosecurity conditions. Similar items that are home-made, traditionally produced or purchased overseas could carry biosecurity pest or disease risks and cannot be imported.

Why do I have to declare on my return to Australia items that I took overseas with me?

It may be possible for pests and diseases to contaminate your items while overseas. This is why Department of Agriculture officers must inspect certain articles arriving into Australia irrespective of where they originally came from.

Where do I go for more information on items to declare?

For information about bringing or sending items to Australia, visit Arriving in Australia - Declare it!

If you need more information on items that need to be declared or that require an Import Permit, visit ICON.

ICON is the Department of Agriculture’s import conditions database, which provides information about Australian import conditions for more than 20,000 foreign plant, animal, mineral and human commodities. It can be used to determine if a commodity intended for import to Australia needs an import permit and/or treatment or if there are any other  biosecurity conditions.

The information available on ICON is the same information that Department of Agriculture officers use when inspecting items arriving into Australia. Import conditions within ICON are regularly reviewed, so please ensure you check the conditions each time you travel or send items.

Can I take food or other items from Australia through an airport to another country?

Each country has specific requirements as to items that are allowed to be imported. The Department of Agriculture does not keep a record of other countries’ requirements. For further information you should contact the relevant country’s consulate or embassy in your nearest capital city.

Once I’ve cleared biosecurity at an airport, can I take food or other items to another state within Australia?

Please note that some states prohibit the entry of a range of items from other parts of Australia.

Further information is available on the interstate quarantine page.

Why can it take so long to get through the airport?

The Department of Agriculture organises its resources at international airports to match scheduled flight arrival patterns. However, a range of factors including airport infrastructure and baggage transfer arrangements can influence the time it takes for passengers to move through the baggage reclaim area and the examination area.

For faster clearances through Australian airports, make sure you are not carrying any fresh fruit, vegetables, plants, seeds, and meat, animal or wood products. You should also ensure that your footwear, sporting and recreational equipment is dry and soil free – including golf clubs, bikes and prams.

Why do dogs work for the Department of Agriculture?

The Department of Agriculture uses detector dogs as part of a range of tools to intercept biosecurity risk material at the border. Detector dogs teams are highly mobile and can screen large volumes of arriving passengers, mail and cargo quickly and effectively.

More about the Department of Agriculture's detector dogs

What will happen if there’s an outbreak of a disease in Australia?

Australia is well prepared to handle pest and disease outbreaks because of its excellent health system, well–tested emergency response plans, past experience and international connections. The Government regularly assesses its ability to manage an outbreak through regular planning and exercises involving people at the highest levels of both government and industry. This allows for an informed approach to any complex and/or serious incident that may arise. More about national pests and disease outbreaks. 

More about national pests and disease outbreaks

Why are we sometimes sprayed on international aircraft flying to Australia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), certain insects can act as transmitters or vectors of pathogens or parasites that are responsible for spreading a number of human diseases such as Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Ross River Fever and Malaria.

All aircraft arriving into Australia are required to undergo a process called disinsection. This process eliminates these vectors of concern (e.g. mosquitoes) from the cabin and holds of aircraft.

Preparations of chemicals currently used in aircraft disinsection are based on two active ingredients, permethrin and d–Phenothrin, currently recommended by WHO. The difference between permethrin and d–Phenothrin is principally one of residual effect; permethrin is a residual pyrethroid and d–Phenothrin a non–residual pyrethroid. 

More about disinsection

I want to buy something over the internet from overseas—what do I need to know?

The Department of Agriculture assesses international mail items sent to Australia. Biosecurity requirements apply to items ordered on the internet or through mail order.

More about Mail and Internet Orders
Or submit your query using the Passengers and Mail Enquiry Form

What is the procedure and costs involved in importing my dog or cat to Australia?

Conditions for importing dogs and cats vary depending on the country of origin. However, all animals entering Australia require an import permit, issued by the Department of Agriculture. To obtain an import permit, an application to import your pet must be completed and returned to the quarantine station of your choice. Your application must include your pet’s microchip number. The import permit contains Veterinary Certificate A and B which must be completed and endorsed by an official veterinarian in the country of export prior to the arrival of your pet in Australia.

The owner or importer must pay all fees associated with the import and quarantine accommodation of your dog or cat in Australia.

More about bringing dogs, cats and other pets to Australia

What is the procedure (including fumigation) for importing wooden items to Australia (including wooden crates and packaging)?

Timber/wood may be imported in a highly processed state such as high quality furniture, picture frames, tool handles, composite wood material etc. or as sawn timber or wood packaging (including dunnage). The latter represent a significant risk for the introduction of quarantine pests if not properly treated.

More about the importation of timber and timber products, or contact Timber Imports

Why do we import goods that we produce here in Australia?

Australia exports almost two thirds of its agricultural produce and promotes fair and consistent trading rules for all countries around the world. We cannot expect trading partners to take our produce if we are not prepared to apply the same rules to their products.

If we import goods, doesn’t the risk of diseases and pests entering Australia increase?

The Australian Government takes a very conservative approach to biosecurity and through Government policy aims to reduce the risk to a very low level, but not to zero. It would not be practical for Australia to take a ‘zero risk’ approach, as it would mean no tourists, no international travel and no trade with other countries. Other countries could then apply the same policy and our products would not be accepted overseas.

Can I bring protein powders to Australia?

An import permit is not required for commercially prepared and packaged protein powders in quantities of no more than 10 kilograms or 10 litres, provided that they are manufactured in one of the countries specified on the Department of Agriculture FMD Approved Country List and intended for human consumption only;

Commercially prepared and packed protein powders for personal use only are permitted to contain enzymes and/or egg proteins without requiring a permit.

Note: For products which contain ingredients sourced and or manufactured in a country NOT listed in the FMD approved country list, please refer to the ICON case for Dairy Products (excluding cheese) from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) - Unapproved Country List for Dairy Products

Can I bring health supplements into Australia?

Health Supplements (plant based)

An Import Permit is not required, provided that:

  • The article is a human therapeutic dietary supplement or natural medicine containing ingredients of plant origin only (this may be supported by product labelling, an accompanying brochure or internet printout, or a letter from a doctor); and
  • The product is imported into Australia (whether personally or by post) by a person who intends to use it for their own personal use; and
  • The product is imported in a quantity of no more than three months supply. Three months supply can be determined by:

    - The label dosage advice; or
    - A letter in English from a medical practitioner, naturopath or alternative health provider; or
    - A statutory declaration by the importer stating that the product is for personal use only and is less than 3 months supply; and
  • The product is commercially prepared and packaged. The product must be in one of the following forms: capsules, tablets, vials for injection, liquid, powder, ointment.

Herbs

Personal consignments of all dried plant parts (including seeds, fruits, herbs, bark and roots) and plant part mixes for human consumption or human therapeutic end use weighing no greater than 1 kg per product type are permitted if they meet the following import conditions. Products weighing more than 1 kg must comply with commercial conditions, or be re-exported or destroyed.

All material in the consignment must be thoroughly dried and not capable of propagation.

Each consignment will be subject to an inspection to verify that it is free of prohibited seeds, live insects, soil and other quarantine risk material.

If the consignment is not botanically labelled, the dried herbs are not listed on ICON, or the officers cannot identify the plant matter and the consignment does not contain seeds, then the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:

  1. heat treatment (T9569); or
  2. gamma irradiation (T9651); or
  3. export; or
  4. destruction
    at the importer’s expense.
If seeds are found on inspection the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:
  1. gamma irradiation (T9651);or
  2. export; or 
  3. destruction
    at the importer’s expense.

After inspection and treatment, all consignments that meet the above import conditions will be released from quarantine.

For more information on buying medicines online or from overseas please visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.

Last reviewed:
25 Nov 2013