Biological Products frequently asked questions

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Import Procedure​s

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How do I know if I need an Import Permit?

Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). This database lists the Quarantine conditions under which various commodities may be imported into Australia. If an Import Permit is required, or if any other specific conditions apply, BICON will specify this. The information available on BICON is the same information that the Department’s border staff use when inspecting and clearing goods arriving into the country. It is therefore essential that importers refer to this database regularly to keep up to date with any policy changes by the department.

What do I do with my Import Permit when I get it?

When you receive your Import Permit, please read it carefully to ensure you understand all the conditions. The Import Permit is generally valid for two years and may be used any number of times during this period. The Import Permit will dictate conditions under which the product may enter Australia. It is important that the importer reads these conditions before importing. To arrange clearance of imported goods, the Import Permit (or a means of identifying such as the Import Permit number) and all associated documentation must be submitted to the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) or to Self Assessed Clearance (SAC) for goods under $1000.

Can you give my Import Permit application priority?

The Biological Imports Program receives hundreds of import permit applications each day . The program will only prioritise applications if there is a medical emergency or where the importer has a valid Import Permit on which the Biological Imports Program has made an error. The department treats each application equally and processes applications in the order that they are received. In instances where an importer is having trouble meeting a condition, the importer should either:

  1. request (permanent) amendment to their Import Permit; or
  2. request special dispensation. In this case the Import Permit will not be amended and all future consignments being imported under that Permit must meet all conditions.

In both instances the requests will be processed within 10 working days as per our service charter. Importers/exporters should ensure that all paperwork is in order before the product leaves the exporting country.

The department is not releasing my goods. Why not?

If the department has not released your goods, it could be for several reasons. It may be that an Import Permit and/or other documentation is required, or the product may be required to undergo post-entry treatment or inspection. If in doubt, check the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) for current import conditions. Even if an Import Permit is not required, there may still be conditions required for importation.

If you are still not sure why your goods are being held, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia). When you do so, please have available a reference number for your consignment (e.g. Quarantine Entry number, seizure notice). If your goods are handled by a freight clearance agent or air courier (e.g. FedEx, TNT, UPS, etc.), you should ask them to provide you with the quarantine direction, or specific BICON condition that applies to your goods. Please note that the department will authorise the release of your goods as soon as acceptable documentation is provided and/or goods are cleared by inspection. Any subsequent delays would be due to the logistics of transport, rather than extended detainment.

Does my product need to be kept at an Approved Arrangement site (AA)?

AA sites are registered for the storage, use or further processing of high-risk products that are subject to quarantine. Examples of biological products that may require AA site containment include: highly pathogenic/exotic microorganisms; samples for laboratory analysis (food, water, soil, etc); agricultural products requiring further processing. Your Import Permit will specify if your product needs to be held at an AA site , and the class of the AA site required.

How do I transfer material between AA sites?

Goods subject to continued quarantine must be contained at an AA site unless prior written approval is obtained from the department. For transfer of biological products between AA sites, an Application for transfer of biosecurity material must be submitted to the Biological Imports Program.

Why aren't XYZ listed on my Import Permit?

If a product listed on an application does not actually require an Import Permit (as specified on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), this product will not be listed on an Import Permit. It is important to note that BICON conditions still apply. If you have received an Import Permit that appears to be missing some commodities, first check BICON to see if a permit is actually required. If you still believe that the commodity should be listed, or you are unable to meet the BICON conditions, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

Can someone else take my Import Permit to clear the product?

An Import Permit is the financial and legal responsibility of the importer. It cannot be borrowed, hired, lent, or given to another party. The documentation on imported goods (importer details, exporter details) must correspond exactly to those listed on the permit. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

What does it cost to have my goods inspected/tested?

There are a number of different types of inspection, testing and treatments that the department uses to mitigate potential quarantine risk. A general guide to the costs involved is available from the fees and charges section of the website. If you are still having difficulty working out the costs, email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

Where and how do I get these government veterinary certifications?

Government Veterinary Certification is issued by the government of the exporting country. In order to obtain this certification, you will need to contact the relevant government authority in that country. The local embassy or consulate of your exporting country will be able to provide you with further details of their export authorities

What if I'm just bringing samples or small quantities for my company/buyers to try? Do I still need certification for these?

Unless you are able to satisfy the 'non-commercial' import requirements as specified on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), commercial samples are treated in the same manner as commercial quantities. This means that they will be subject to the 'commercial' conditions as specified on BICON. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

Import Permit Application Process

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I've got the application form but I don't know how to fill it out! Can you help?

Please refer to the Checklist for importing biological materials and How to fill in your permit application form.

Where do I send my application?

The Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) will usually specify where your permit application can be lodged. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

How long does it take to receive my Import Permit after submitting an application?

Most import permits will be issued within 20 working days of completed applications being received and paid for in full.

Applications may take longer if:

  • they require complex technical assessment
  • incomplete or incorrect information is provided by the applicant
  • additional information is required to continue the assessment (applicants will be notified of this by the assessing officers. You do not need to take any further action unless advised)
  • it is a novel good (product) or has been prepared in a novel manner

You will be notified of the outcome of the assessment once complete.

How much does it cost for an Import Permit?

There are two components that make up the permit cost: an application/administrative fee, and an assessment fee. The administrative fee is standard across all commodities. The assessment fee​ covers the costs associated with the assessment of individual commodities, and varies according to the type and number of products on the application form.

When do I need to pay for my Import Permit?

Payment should accompany your application form. Your application will not be processed until full payment has been received.

How can I pay for my Import Permit?

You can pay by mailing a cheque/money order or by faxing a completed credit card payment form to the Biological Imports Program.

How can I get a receipt for my payment?

The department will issue a letter of acknowledgement that we have received your application. This will be sent to the fax/email details listed on your application form. This letter includes the ABN and is to be used as an official tax receipt. The Biological Imports Program can also send out a receipt to an alternative contact person, if specifically requested on your application form.

How do I amend a current Import Permit to add extra commodities or change importer/exporter details?

The importer will need to send a request in writing to amend the Import Permit. The request should refer to the Import Permit number and clearly describe the amendment required. Please note that an amended permit will have the same expiry date as the original.

For the fees associated with an Import Permit amendment, importers should email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

How do I apply for a new import permit that has expired (or soon to expire)?

Prior to issuing a new Import Permit, the Biological Imports Program must undertake a new assessment of the quarantine risks associated with the products. This means that a new application form must be submitted to the Biological Imports Program. The new application form should state that the application is a renewal of a previous Import Permit and should provide reference to the old Import Permit number.

However all relevant product information (ingredients, manufacturing processes, etc.) must accompany the application. Please remember to allow at least 20 working days  when submitting your application to ensure that the new Import Permit is ready before the old one expires.

How do I know if more than one application is required for the products I want (eg. high risk products from different exporters, or different types of commodities/end uses on the same application)?

Please refer to 'How to fill in your permit application form' and the 'Checklist for importing biological materials'. If in doubt, it is preferable for the products to be listed on separate application forms.

Can I have an Import Permit with more than one exporter?

An Import Permit can often be issued listing more than one exporter, however this is dependent on the type of commodity. When submitting your permit application please request ‘various exporters’ or list them on a separate attachment.

If my application is rejected, can I get my money back?

Under the existing fee schedule, Import Permit applications have two associated charges: an application (or administrative) fee and an assessment fee. The administrative fee covers the costs associated with logging the application into a database, ensuring correct payment is received, typing, faxing and mailing the Import Permit. The assessment fee covers the costs associated with the assessment. The following rules apply to refunds that can be issued by the Biological Imports Program:

  1. If an application is received, logged into our database and payment processed (but has not yet been assessed), only the assessment fee can be refunded. The application fee will not be refunded.
  2. If the application has been assessed (more information requested, application rejected etc), no money will be refunded.

How do I arrange a refund for excess payment?

In the instance of a credit card payment, only the required fees based on the import permit application will be deducted. If payment is made by cheque or money order a refund can be arranged. Refunds will only be issued in exceptional circumstances, when a written request is submitted to the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia). A request for refund must refer to the application number or Import Permit number, and clearly explain why a refund is necessary.

Do I have to answer the genetically manipulated material question? How?

This question only needs to be addressed if the product is for in vivo or environmental end use. If the product is genetically manipulated, the manufacturer or supplier will be able to provide you with the necessary details.


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What is an approved arrangement site?

A Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP) is a specific facility approved by the department to receive quarantine goods of a high risk nature. This type of premise must be audited by departmental staff on a regular basis, as part of a comprehensive risk management process. Further information regarding QAPs, including how to apply for registration, is available from the QAP information section of the department's website, or email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

Who do I contact regarding Australian food safety requirements?

The Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS) within the department monitors imported food safety. If you have any queries regarding food safety issues please contact IFIS.

Importers and brokers should be aware that all imported food must comply with the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992, as well as Australia's quarantine laws (Quarantine Act 1908). The applicable standards for food under the Imported Food Control Act 1992 are those set down in the Australian Food Standards Code (FSC), and these same standards apply to foods manufactured in Australia. The FSC is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and they publish the code on their website. It is the importer's responsibility to ensure that all imported food complies with the Food Standards Code

Who is the Competent Authority for seafood export certification?

The Competent Authorities for seafood export certification for various countries are listed on several ICON cases. For example refer to the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) for the specific details of your exporting country.

How do I arrange an audit/inspection of overseas manufacturing facilities?

Audits and inspections of overseas facilities can only be conducted once the facility has satisfied a Quality Assurance assessment conducted by the Canberra Office. All costs associated with the audit and inspection are borne by the importer. For full details, email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).

Where can I find information regarding emigrating/moving to Australia?

If you are moving to Australia and importing many different types of goods, it is important that you understand all of import requirements. A professional clearance agent or broker may be able to provide assistance for large amounts of goods. Also refer to ICON for details on specific products. Further information is also available from our webpage: Emigrating/Moving to Australia.

I think the inspection is wrong—what can I do?

If you disagree with the results of an inspection of your goods, you will first need to email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia). You may be able to arrange further inspection, or treatment of your goods to address quarantine concerns. If you are unable to reach an agreement, your local office can contact the Biological Imports Program to discuss alternative arrangements.The Biological Imports Program will only consider exceptional circumstances, and will not over-rule the decision of the Inspection Officer.

Do you have another question about importing biological products? For assistance please email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).