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Import Permit: What Is It and Do I Need One In Australia?


Import Permit: What Is It and Do I Need One In Australia?

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 one.

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.

You can easily search the specific goods you’re importing on the BICON database to see if you require an import permit.

Some examples include foods such as dairy products or fresh fruit and vegetables (you can read more about this on our blog on importing food into Australia).

What goods require an import permit in Australia?

Here are some of the prohibited import goods that require an import permit in Australia:

  • Biosecurity risk items: plants, seeds, animal products, soil, woolpacks, certain breeds of pets, fresh foodstuffs like un-canned meat, eggs, fish, fruits and dairy, and any products that could pose a threat to Australia’s environment or agriculture. Some products such as straw objects, potpourri, and pine cones, used agricultural machinery and anything with soil or biological residue need to be treated for hygiene before entry, presenting a cleanliness certificate.
  • Medicines and pharmaceuticals: steroids, animal growth hormones, medicines and drugs require permits to ensure they meet safety standards.
  • Hazardous goods: pesticides, explosives, mercury, radioactive substances.
  • Firearms: including accessories, firearm parts, firearm magazines, ammunition, imitation firearms, paintball markers and airsoft firearms.
  • Weapons: daggers, blades, spikes, karambits, throwing knives/blades/axes, push knives, and non-metallic, ceramic knives, pepper sprays, extendable or telescopic batons.
  • Other items: tobacco, lighters, vaping goods, glazed ceramic ware, certain incandescent lamps, body armour, laser pointers, pornography and objectionable materials, tablet presses and encapsulator machines.

Air cargo is even more restrictive than sea cargo, including gases (e.g. lamp bulbs), all things flammable (e.g. perfume, some mobile phones), toxic or corrosive items (e.g. batteries), magnetic substances (e.g. speakers), oxidizers and biochemical products (e.g. chemical medicines), and public health risks (e.g. untanned hides).

Find the complete list of prohibited imported goods in Australia here.

How do I apply for an import permit?

If you need an import permit, you’ll need to first register an account with BICON. Ensure you review BICON’s registration guidelines as there are multiple types of accounts in the BICON system you can apply for. When registering, you’ll be asked if you’re registering as an individual or company, and you’ll need to provide all relevant contact details.

Once you’ve registered your account, you’ll be able to start the application for the import permit and attach any documents that may be necessary. There is no automatic issuing of a permit simply because your goods require a permit. The Department will look at your application and decide to grant you a permit, and they may impose certain conditions to make sure your goods arrive in Australia safely. You’ll also need to pay a fee.

Most applications are decided within 20 days, but the process may take longer if your application is complicated. The Department has a maximum of six months to determine your application.

How much does an import permit cost?

At the time of writing (March 2024), you’ll need to pay a $122 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 – $74. This is the fee for standard goods.

Category 2 – $148. This is the fee for certain non-standards goods, including but not limited to canned pet food, cosmetics, food items for human consumption, fruit, human vaccines, soil samples and water.

Category 3 – $296. This is the fee for certain non-standards goods, such as herbal teas, plant pollen for in-vivo use or wood chips for cooking food.

Category 4 – $444. This is also for some non-standards goods, including bird seed, live animals, dried pet food or organic fertiliser.

Category 5 – $592. This fee is for non-standard goods like certain veterinary vaccines.

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.

What happens if my goods arrive without a permit?

If your commodities are imported without a valid import permit, the Department will direct your goods for export or destruction. You will not be able to apply for a permit retrospectively.

You may also be charged with a criminal offence. It is an offence under section 186 of the Biosecurity Act to import goods into Australian territory without an import permit if those particular commodities required a permit to have been issued. There are several different offences in that section you may be charged with, with the maximum penalty being 10 years’ imprisonment or 2,000 penalty units (or both).

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.


If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the process, it’s always best to engage an experienced freight forwarder to answer all your questions. At International Cargo Express, we have decades of experience helping importers with permits and legislation.

Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or request a quote. We’d be more than happy to speak with you about your business and whether you require an import permit.

Request A Quote

or call us on 1300 227 461

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