Customs in Australia are highly regulated when it comes to importing items and products, especially food, regardless of your destination city. Some products are strictly prohibited, others are authorized but may need to be declared upon arrival on Australian soil. If you do not declare a product that needs to be declared, even if it is not voluntary, customs may stop you during the inspection. You risk is to receive a very high fine, and have the products concerned confiscated. Not great for your arrival in Australia! To keep you as informed as possible, here is a short guide for authorised and prohibited products at the Australian borders.
Going through customs
Your first contact with customs will generally be on the plane where you will be given an “Incoming passenger card” by the flight crew. This card allows you to declare the goods and products that you take on Australian soil. It must be carefully filled in by each passenger with honesty. This involves ticking the YES box for each category of product you are taking with you to Australia. If you have any doubts about the products you are bringing back, you are strongly advised to declare them.
NB: If you do not speak English well, it is possible to find this passenger card in many other languages. You can find it upon arrival at the airport, before going through customs.
When you arrive at the airport, the passenger card must be presented to the customs along with your biometric passport. A biosecurity officer from the department will check the items declared and may ask you questions to ensure that the item complies with the regulation.
If the officer thinks the goods are low risk, you can keep them. On the other hand, if he considers that they present a high risk, you will have three options: pay so that they are processed and then recover them, send them back to the country of origin, send them for destruction. All these operations are of course at your expense.
Before your departure, we advise you to read the regulations in force on the Australian Border Force website.
Products totally banned
Weapons, drugs and counterfeits
Certain products, as in most countries of the world, are completely prohibited: drugs, weapons, fireworks, firecrackers, sharp objects, counterfeits. These products are prohibited in checked baggage and hand luggage at all airports.
Animal products and plants
There are also regulations on animal products and plants. You are not allowed to bring corals, hunting trophies and ivory products. You are therefore not allowed to bring souvenirs made of animal bones for example.
For live plants and seeds, they are close to not allowed to be imported. Seeds can be sent or brought to Australia if they meet a number of requirements (must be a permitted species, be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate, etc.)
While you can import meat products if they are canned (see below), uncanned meat products (including sealed items) are not permitted in Australia unless accompanied by an import permit.
Natural species, especially protected species (both animal and plant) are also prohibited.
Homemade food and fresh products
When you arrive on Australian soil, you will not be allowed to bring fresh fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.) and in general any fresh product likely to contain micro-organisms. Thus eggs, most plants/seeds, fresh herbs, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds are prohibited. Also forget the homemade cakes and other small dishes that you would have prepared for the trip. Note that you will also not be able to keep food from the plane or boat that takes you to Australia.
You do not need to declare all commercially prepared and packaged products intended for your personal use and consumption such as:
- coffee and tea
- chocolate and sweets (candy, cookies, chewing gum, etc.) (commercial products and not homemade)
- cosmetic products – up to 10kg per person
- chips and industrial spreads
Products to declare
When it comes to importing food, problems can arise if we are not careful. Here is a list of the main foods that you can import for your personal consumption but that you will have to declare:
Meat products are authorized provided they are commercially manufactured and retorted. They must be in sterile cans, jars or retort pouches and must be shelf stable (not require refrigeration or freezing to maintain quality). The products will be inspected by customs officers who will verify that they meet these criteria. Forget ham, bacon, salami, sausages in your luggage!
Cheeses, butter and dairy products are allowed if they are in industrial commercial packaging. The label must clearly mention the country of origin.
Honey is permitted but must be declared. It will need to be inspected by a biosecurity officer on arrival, to confirm the honey items are free from contamination. Note that Western Australia has a higher quarantine status for bees and bee products.
Tobacco and alcohol
These products should be reported at your arrival. You have the right to carry a certain amount (preferably, in the carry on luggage).
For the cigarettes industry, you can’t have more than 25 cigarettes on you, and per person. For rolling tobacco, 25 grams per person is allowed. Finally, chewing tobacco is limited to 1.5 kg per person. The electronic cigarette should not be an issue if it doesn’t contain nicotine.
Alcohol is allowed within the limit of 2.25 L per person.
Cash and goods of value
You must declare on arrival if you have more than AUD 1,000 in cash on you when going through customs.
Any merchandise with a value of more than 1,000 AUD must also be declared. You may have customs fees of 5% of the total amount on these products. These declarations can be made via the internet, on the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) website or via a paper document, Form B650.
All camping items can be inspected. It can go as far as the walking shoes you used for a previous trip. The main goal is to prevent unknown bacteria from the land of other countries from entering Australia. So be sure to clean all the equipment that has already been used elsewhere if you plan to take it.
Any drug requiring a prescription should be reported to your arrival. The customs may inspect and request a prescription that allows you to have this treatment. Don’t forget to translate it into English before your departure! But the drugs that do not require a prescription, such as aspirin, do not need to be reported.
Certain medications need to be declared before the flight. These are the ones that can be used in dangerous, abusive, or addictive ways: steroids, pain relievers, cannabis for medical use only.
It will obviously be necessary to make a request for your animal before your departure in Australia! You will need to apply for a permit from the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Your pet will be required to be quarantined when you arrive in Australia (duration may vary). Declare this very early before the start of the trip as the procedure can be quite long. In addition, you will have several steps to take at certain specific periods before the trip: make one or more health checks with your veterinarian, apply for an animal import permit, reserve the place in quarantine, etc.
In addition, you will have to declare all products related to the animal: dog basket, food, collars, bird cages …
Finally, certain species of animals are not authorized on the territory, so it will be the same for any object related to this animal. This is particularly the case for domestic birds or rabbits which are not allowed in Australia, unless they come from New Zealand.
For more information or if you want to see if your animal is authorised in Australia, visit the dedicated site.