Personal effects and household goods are the unaccompanied items transported into Australia, by a returning resident or a new resident of Australia, via sea or air freight.
To import goods under the tariff code for personal effects, you must be arriving from a place outside Australia, and the goods must be your personal property that you owned while overseas.
The movement of your household goods could allow the entry of pests and diseases, therefore personal effects entering Australia are subject to biosecurity control. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) assesses documents accompanying personal effects imports and often requires the goods to be inspected. The department always undertakes an assessment of the B534 form and packing list to determine if there are any goods of potential biosecurity concern. This allows the department to decide how much of the consignment will need to be presented for inspection. Some items may require treatment or may be destroyed or exported at your expense.
There are a number of steps you can take to facilitate the release of your personal effects from biosecurity control with the least costs and time delays.
Preparing your personal effects for packing
The department will be interested in any item that originated from an animal or a plant (including timber) or contains part of an animal or a plant.
The department will also be interested in any good that has been in contact with animals, plants, water, food or soil.
Check import requirements
You cannot bring the following as personal effects:
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- live plants, bulbs, tubers, corms and cuttings
- prohibited and restricted seeds
- unidentified seeds (including spices)
- khapra beetle high-risk plant products
- live animals (including pets) that require an import permit
- biological products including some plant based, herbal medications
- unprocessed goods of plant or animal origin
- soiled goods, or goods containing organic residues
- goods knowingly infested with pests or a disease.
If in doubt and you want to determine if your goods are allowed into Australia, check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). Don’t pack anything that cannot be brought into Australia.
By searching BICON you can find if an item is permitted entry into Australia, whether it requires an import permit or treatment, or if there are any additional requirements. Don’t pack anything that will require treatment, unless that item is of particular significance and you are willing to pay treatment fees, noting that some items require treatment to be undertaken prior to arriving into Australia. To assist you when packing, please view the list of common items of biosecurity concern.
Goods that require an import permit, but arrive without one, will be directed for export from Australian territory or required to be destroyed in an approved manner.
Documentation for importing personal effects is lodged through Australian Border Force (ABF). Check the ABF website for information about the personal effects clearance process.
Empty, drain, clean and dry
Before packing, ensure that goods that have been in contact with food, soil, plants, animals, or their products are clean and dry. This includes but is not limited to:
- All used equipment and machinery – drain all standing water, and ensure the equipment (for example barbeques, lawnmowers and quad bikes) is free from contamination.
- Garden furniture, fencing, pots and ornaments, outdoor toys, tools and implements – remove all soil, animal and plant debris and thoroughly clean all surfaces.
- Animal beds and bedding, cages, tanks, saddlery and grooming equipment – wash and vacuum animal bedding, and clean grooming equipment and cages to ensure all residual pet hair has been removed, drain and clean fish tanks. Check BICON for import conditions for horse equipment.
- Waste bins, brooms, vacuum cleaners – remove all waste, thoroughly clean the equipment and empty and clean vacuum cleaner bags.
- Kitchenware - ensure all containers and appliances are clean.
- Fresh water sporting equipment – completely drained and dry reservoirs, and dry equipment including jet skis, boats, wetsuits, gumboots and fishing tackle.
- Camping and sporting equipment - thoroughly clean camping equipment (including tents, poles and pegs, and backpacks), footwear and sports equipment (for example pushbikes, football boots, cricket sets, golf clubs, climbing equipment).
- Farm goods, vehicles and equipment including clothing, footwear, animal equipment, ATVs, tyres, items used in agriculture, horticulture, aquiculture and hydroponics - thoroughly clean and dry.
- Carpets, rugs and mats - vacuum.
Timber and wooden items
- Wooden artefacts and toys, musical instruments, furniture, kitchenware, timber, and items with wooden components- check surfaces of your timber items for any signs of insect infestation (sawdust–like powder, fresh holes, chewed timber or tunnels).
- If you find signs of insect infestation, consider either not bringing the item, or treating it for the timber pests prior to shipment.
Products containing plant material
- Decorations, hats, artefacts, jewellery, ornaments, picture frames, photo albums, handmade paper, pot pourri, dried flowers - check for plant material including pinecones, vines, moss, flowers, leaves, seeds, bark, banana leaf as it may require treatment or destruction at your expense (Christmas decorations containing plant material are one of the most common items volunteered for destruction at the owner’s expense).
- Heat bags - check to see what they are filled with and record this on the packing list. Treatment may be required if they are filled with seeds or plant material.
- Furniture, baskets containing bamboo, banana leaf, cane, rattan, water hyacinth, wicker or willow - check import conditions on BICON.
Foodstuffs and medicines
- Foods - check import conditions on BICON. Some foods are permitted but others may be prohibited or require treatment.
- Do not pack fresh food.
- Do not pack opened packages of dry foods, herbs and spices that may be harbouring insect pests that are difficult to see.
- Pet food, treats and medicine - check import conditions on BICON. They may require an import permit.
- Consider whether you really need to ship any natural plant or animal product that has not undergone some form of manufacturing process. These items may need expensive treatments, at your expense.
- Cheap tourist souvenirs made of untreated plant or animal products, that need to be treated once they arrive in Australia, can end up costing more than you would expect.
- Animal skins or rawhide items, bone, feathers, antlers and animal hair may need treatment - check import conditions on BICON.
Packing your personal effects
To assist in the release of your personal effects from biosecurity control, consider the following tips and refer to the Checklist when packing and labelling your goods. Reducing the time it takes the department to inspect your consignment on arrival will help keep costs to a minimum as biosecurity inspection charges are based on time.
Clearly record what is in each box on the packing list. When packing your personal effects, prepare a list that includes all the goods in your consignment. This should include clear labelling (for example 'Box 1 of 12') and a list of goods contained in each box. Include in the description what the goods are made from - for example metal bed frame, wooden chair(s), plastic picture frames, cane basket.
This list will be required by the authorities in Australia.
Labelling and numbering
Number the packing boxes and match the numbers on your packing list. Only write one number for each box or large item. Number similar items consecutively, such as numbering 3 children’s bikes as 56, 57 and 58.
If second hand boxes are being used, ensure that any previous labelling on your packing boxes is covered or removed completely. Make sure you use a permanent marker/felt pen to write on boxes (sticky labels can fall off in transit).
Cartons and packing materials
Some second hand boxes that were intended for other uses may pose a biosecurity risk.
Do not use second hand boxes or bags that have previously been used to carry animal and plant material and soil for example fruit and vegetable cartons, meat boxes, egg cartons, fertiliser bags.
Do not use straw, sawdust, wood shavings or any other plant material as packing or filler.
Pack items in groups
Take time to consider the goods the biosecurity officer may be interested in. Pack these goods together and put them in boxes separate to those that you consider clearly not to be of biosecurity concern. For example, ensure goods that pose a biosecurity risk, such as footwear, food items or garden tools, are packed together.
If you are bringing food items, show on the packing list where the food items have been packed or what containers the food items have been packed in.
Pack for safety
To ensure the safety of everyone involved in the movement of your goods:
- securely wrap the blades of any knives or sharp instruments, or any glass or ceramic items
- insulate boxes containing fragile items
- do not pack flammable items such as fireworks, aerosols, solvents and paint thinners.
Label your boxes to identify cartons containing medical items, dangerous goods, or any items that may compromise the safety of people handling your goods.
Biosecurity clearance at the border
You can arrange to have your goods cleared yourself, or you can use an agent or representative to arrange to have your goods cleared on your behalf.
Here are some terms you may encounter:
- A customs broker will help process your goods through ABF and the department.
- A freight forwarding company will transport your goods.
- A bond store or depot is a storage facility.
- Some High Volume Specialist Operators (HVSO), or moving companies, specialise in moving personal effects, and sometimes offer a total movement and clearance service.
Fees and charges
You may be required to pay some fees up-front, including for the creation of a manual entry, documentation screening charges and a minimum half hour up-front inspection fee. Your final inspection fee will be dependent on the time it takes for a biosecurity officer to inspect your goods, and you may need to pay the full amount before your goods can be released from biosecurity control.
Additional charges will apply if your goods require treatment.
Your removalist company or freight forwarder may deliver your goods to an Approved Arrangement (AA) site, which will incur additional fees. These may include a facilitation fee that includes port charges, transport, administration and container unpacking costs. The site holding your goods may also charge storage fees. These fees may be termed 'quarantine fees' on your invoice, but they are not fees imposed by the department. It is recommended that if you are using a removalist company or freight forwarder that you confirm the fees that you might incur.
Note: Special requirements apply to inspecting personal effects that belong to either military or diplomatic personnel.
Ensure you discuss the fees and charges that apply to your consignment with your agent or the department.
- The ABF fact sheet on Sending your personal belongings to Australia has information about the personal effects clearance process.
- Complete an Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement (B534 form), available on the ABF website. There are penalties for providing false or misleading information on this form.
- Contact the ABF office in your state, to arrange customs clearance of your goods.
- If ABF wishes to retain your copy of the Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement (B534 form), ensure you obtain a copy to present to the department.
- If someone else will be clearing your goods they will need to sign a statutory declaration indicating that they are doing so on your behalf.
- Lodge your documents via email:
- your packing list
- your completed Unaccompanied Effects Statement (B534 form)
- your Bill of Lading or Air Way Bill
- delivery order
- your statutory declaration (if required)
- any valid offshore treatment certificates.
- Items of potential biosecurity risk will require an inspection. Goods coming from countries with identifiable biosecurity risks may require a higher level of inspection. After examining your documentation a biosecurity officer will notify you of the inspection requirements for your goods. See information on how to book an inspection.
- If your personal effects need inspection, you will need to pay for an entry (a legal document issued under the Biosecurity Act 2015) to be created and you will need to make an appointment for the inspection of your goods.
- At the inspection you (or your agent) will be required to open and unpack your consignment. You or your agent need to provide tools such as crowbars and hammers to open your consignment. In your/your agent's presence, a biosecurity officer will inspect your goods. You or your agent should record the box numbers for any declared risk goods so they can be easily located for the inspection. This will reduce your inspection time and costs. Goods that have been in contact with animals, plants and soil and have been thoroughly cleaned and free of biosecurity risk material before they are packed, will still be checked for any biosecurity risk material and subsequent treatment.
- Documentation charges for a manual entry and inspection of your goods will be charged as per the department’s charging guidelines.
- Following inspection, if nothing of biosecurity concern has been found, your goods may be released. You are responsible for arranging the transportation of your goods once they have been released.
- If items of biosecurity concern are found and cannot be released immediately, your options may include (at your expense):
- treating the goods, providing a suitable treatment is available
- exporting the goods from Australia, or
- destroying the goods.
- If treatment is an option, you or your representative may be asked to agree in writing to have the goods treated.
- Treatments include:
- steam cleaning or washing to remove soil contamination (note: a second inspection is required in these cases)
- fumigation gas treatment to kill live insect pests in timber goods, or untreated timber
- gamma irradiation treatment for goods with risk material that cannot be removed
- heat treatment to devitalise plant material including bark.
- If treatment is required, you must use a department approved treatment provider (who will charge you), or the site facilitating the treatment service.
For general biosecurity enquiries or further information about importing personal effects please contact:
Phone: 1800 900 090 (+61 3 8318 6700 from outside Australia)
For general customs clearance enquiries about importing personal effects, contact the ABF:
Phone: 131 881 (within Australia only)
Website: ABF - Contact us