Temporary changes to certification requirements for imported animals, biological and animal-based goods

9 April 2020 

Who does this notice affect? 

Importers of animals, biological and animal based goods. 

This temporary change is relevant to the use of original paper health certificates (HCs). It does not apply to countries that already provide original HCs in electronic format.


The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the movement of airfreight/seafreight and courier mail in multiple countries. 

This has led to some exporting country Competent Authority advising the department that they are unable to provide original paper-based health certificates with import consignments of animals, biological and animal-based goods

Interim arrangements

Where an importer has previously supplied original paper health certificates from the exporting country Competent Authorities and is unable to do so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s assessors will accept an electronic copy of the health certificates as lodged by customs brokers through our standard lodgment process.

Our assessment officers may in some cases request verification of documentation directly from the exporting country Competent Authority or use an online tool provided by that Authority to authenticate documents.

This temporary arrangement will be in place until 1 July 2020. Stakeholders will be notified of any extension to this arrangement closer to this date.

The department will pursue any evidence of fraudulent documentation as per our standard practice.

Please note:

  • Please do not email health certificate copies to the imports@agriculture.gov.au mailbox.  Departmental assessment officers will access documents lodged through our Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS). 
  • If the department requires verification of documentation, assessment officers will:
    • Request, via the importer or customs broker, that the exporting Competent Authority email documents directly to our relevant regional office, or 
    • use an online tool managed by the exporting Competent Authority. 
  • Where a paper original is issued by the exporting Competent Authority, the department recommends that it is attached to the goods and/or consignments to minimise potential delays at inspection.

Eligibility for interim arrangements

To be eligible, your import consignment must meet the following conditions:

  • the exporting country Competent Authority does not already use an electronic means of transferring health certificates, and
  • the exporting country Competent Authority has asked to use alternatives to original paper health certificates, and
  • the Competent Authority has provided a point of contact, or an online tool so that the department can verify the electronic copy before releasing the goods. This information can be emailed to the department at imports@agriculture.gov.au (note, the department will only accept information provided by an official government email address).

Further information

If you have questions or need further information, you can contact our Import Services team on:

  • Email at imports@agriculture.gov.au
  • Phone (from within Australia): 1800 900 090
  • Phone (from outside Australia): + 61 3 8318 6700

Also visit the department’s COVID-19 information hub for current information and advice on changes to our services due to COVID-19.

Last reviewed: 9 April 2020
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