Import permits and licences in Australia

Roberto Efflandrin

Everyday thousands of personal and commercial goods are imported into Australia. Depending on what you’re bringing in and why, you may need an import permit to be able to bring your shipment into Australia.

In this article we’ll take a look at Australian import permits and licences, including when you need one, how to get one and what it costs. We’ll also introduce you to the international payment services offered by Wise.

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What is an import licence or permit and do you need one in Australia?

In Australia there’s no requirement for businesses or individuals to hold a licence to import goods into the country.¹ That being said, there are strict importation regulations and some goods require a permit for them to be cleared in by customs.

Permits are granted by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.² It’s managed through the Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system.

Which types of goods require a permit for importation into Australia?

To see if you need an import permit you can search for your goods on the BICON website to see if something comes up.

Here’s a few examples of some of the items that generally require a permit to import them into Australia.³

  • Medicines and pharmaceutical drugs
  • Steroids
  • Weapons and firearms
  • Heritage items
  • Food
  • Plants
  • Animals (including pets and protected species)

How to get an Import permit and what are the requirements

If your goods require an import permit you’ll need to be granted one before the shipment arrives in Australia.²

To obtain a permit, start by registering for a BICON online account.² You then apply for the permit through the portal by following the prompts.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and Biosecurity Regulation 2016, the department has up to 123 business days (6 months) to process your application.² The good news is that most applications are processed within 20 days.

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What can you do if your permit application is denied?

If your permit is denied you have the right to seek a review of the department's decision.² Your BICON account will indicate the best contact point for you to send a request for a formal review, as well as the criteria for making the request.

Are there any costs to getting a licence/permit to import goods?

When you apply for a BICON permit there's an application levy of $120 as well as an initial assessment fee.⁵

The initial assessment fee is based on the category of goods you want to import. This is because the higher the category, the longer the processing time generally is. You can see the expanded list of categories here

Category Initial Assessment Fee
Category 1 $60
Category 2 $120
Category 3 $240
Category 4 $360
Category 5 $480

For every 15 minutes or part thereof that your assessment goes over the initial assessment period there's a $30 service fee.⁵ The Australian Government advises that submitting an accurate application with all supporting documents will help you to avoid this fee.

If you need to vary the information in your permit application there may be additional fees that apply.⁵

Other important things to know when importing into Australia

Obtaining a BICON permit is just one part of importing goods into Australia. Here’s a few other things you’ll need to be aware of if you going to import something into the country.⁴

  • Additional biosecurity conditions your goods may need to meet
  • Food safety or drug control requirements
  • Cost of import duties and taxes
  • If any luxury taxes or government excises apply
  • Cost of freight and handling
  • Whether any Free Trade Agreements apply
  • Your goods are correctly labelled as per government regulations

Depending on how much experience you have importing goods, you may want to consider employing a customs broker to help you out with the process.

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What happens if you import goods that require permits without one?

If you needed a permit to import your goods but didn’t get one, your shipment won’t be cleared to enter Australia. Instead, it will be direct for export back out of the country or be destroyed using an approved method.²

Who to contact for more information on importing and permits?

If you’re looking for further information regarding importing goods into Australia or obtaining a BICON permit you can take a look at these government resources.

As we mentioned earlier, you could also look at hiring a customs broker or alternatively speak to an experienced shipping company.

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If you’re importing goods into Australia it’s likely you’re making international business payments in foreign currencies as part of your personal or professional life. Wise is a secure online financial provider who specialises in sending money abroad and may be able to help you save on fees and poor exchange rates.

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Sources:

  1. Australian Border Force - How to Import: Requirements
  2. Australian Government - BICON import permits
  3. International Trade Association - Australia: Country Commercial Guide
  4. Australian Government - Importing and your business
  5. Australian Government - Charges for import permits

Sources checked on: 21 May 2022


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