There are strict regulations to follow when importing goods into Australia. If you’re looking to import certain commodities, an import permit may be required. These permits are administered by the Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system, run by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Failure to present an import permit in some circumstances can lead to the destruction of your goods. If you’re concerned about whether you need one, this is the right article to read.
Below we’ll take a detailed look into the import permit, including what it is and when you’ll need it.
What is an import permit?
An import permit is a document issued by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in circumstances where you are required by law to have a permit to import certain commodities.
This is because some products are subject to biosecurity conditions under federal legislation such as the Biosecurity Act 2015, meaning they are prohibited from entering Australia without permission from the Department.
How much does an import permit cost?
You’ll need to pay a $120 lodgement fee for submitting an application and an additional permit category fee, the amount of which is determined by the category of the goods you’re seeking to import.
The categories are as follows:
- Category 1 – $60
- Category 2 – $120
- Category 3 – $240
- Category 4 – $360
- Category 5 – $480
The fees you have to pay may increase if your application is particularly complex.
You’ll need to review the above categories in detail to make sure you know the correct fee. The Department will not start looking at your application until all the correct fees have been paid. We recommend looking at the Departmental Charging Guidelines so you know exactly what you must pay.
Categories of goods
All goods requiring an import permit that are not listed under Category 2-5 below.
- A product to which an approved arrangement applies
- A cell line derived from laboratory animals
- A cell line derived from a non-laboratory animal
- A fermented product that is not a veterinary therapeutic product or a stock food product
- A parasite
- Canned pet food
- Cats or dogs, other than the first cat or dog in a consignment
- Food items for human consumption
- Genetically modified plant material
- Herbarium specimens not infected or infested
- Hides or skins
- Human therapeutics (private and commercial)
- Human vaccines
- Laboratory material (proteins, DNA, animal sera)
- Natural fibres and fibre products
- Non-organic fertiliser (bulk)
- Nursery stock
- Plant material, seeds or grains, or both, for in vitro use
- Seeds or grains for processing or human consumption or both
- Soil samples
- Herbal teas
- Herbarium specimens infected and infested plant material and seeds or grains for in vitro use (infected or infested)
- Plant pollen for in vivo use
- Aquaculture feed or bait
- Wood chips or charcoal for cooking or smoking food
- Wine barrels
- Animal reproductive material
- Biological control agent
- Bird seed
- Live animals, including the first cat or dog in a consignment, but not subsequent cats or dogs in a consignment
- Plant-based stock feed
- Plant pathogens for in vivo or in vitro use
- Seed or plant material for processing into pet food
- Bulk culture (medium)
- Dried pet food
- Organic fertiliser
- Biological material for in vivo use
- A single new master seed
- An additional new master seed which is part of a live or inactivated veterinary vaccine
- A single new veterinary vaccine that is live or inactivated with a single master seed
- A single veterinary vaccine renewal that is live or inactivated
What happens if my goods arrive without a permit?
The Biosecurity Act states that conditionally non-prohibited goods must not be brought or imported into Australian territory unless the specified conditions (including conditions for administrative purposes) are complied with. It is a criminal offence pursuant to section 186 of the Act to bring or import goods into Australian territory that require an import permit, without one.
The Act does not allow for permits to be issued for goods that have already been brought into Australian territory.
The department does not facilitate the clearance of conditionally non-prohibited goods that arrive without the required import permit. Goods that require a permit but arrive without one, including where an application is currently under consideration, will be directed for export from Australian territory or required to be disposed of in an approved manner.
What if the Department refuses my import permit application?
If the Department decides to refuse, vary, suspend or revoke your import permit, you are able to challenge that decision under the Biosecurity Act.
You can first choose to have the decision reviewed internally by the Department and, if that still does not result in your application being granted, you can apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for further review.
Timeframe for assessing permit applications
The service charter for permit applications is that 90% will be processed and a decision made within 20 business days. Permit applications may take longer if the application for an import permit is complex, the information provided is incomplete or it is a novel product.
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and Biosecurity Regulation 2016, the department has a maximum of six months (123 business days) to assess a permit application and decide whether to grant or refuse a permit. This does not mean that every permit decision will take six months. The department will continue to apply existing service standards. The six month maximum assessment period was introduced to provide greater certainty to applicants around the closure of the administrative process for permit decisions and a pathway to review the decision efficiently. The decision making period may be extended when the department is:
- awaiting additional information requested from the applicant or other relevant persons
- determining whether the applicant is a fit and proper person
- awaiting scientific advice, testing or expert review to assess the biosecurity risk associated with the goods
- assessing facilities used for purposed relating to the goods
- assessing processes used in relation to the goods
- negotiating or liaising with government authorities of a foreign country in relation to the management of the biosecurity risk associated with the goods
- waiting for payment of fees associated with the application.
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