97-2020 – Extended: temporary changes to import certificate requirements for imported animals, biological and animal-based goods commodities

25 June 2020

Who does this notice affect?

Importers of animals, biological and animal-based goods.

This temporary change relates to the import of goods where there is currently a reliance on original paper health certificates (HCs). It does not apply to imports of goods where exporting countries already provide original HCs in electronic format.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the movement of airfreight and courier mail in multiple countries.

The department has received notice from some exporting country Competent Authorities advising that they are unable to provide original paper-based health certificates with consignments of animals, biological and animal-based goods exported to Australia.

Interim arrangements

We are extending our interim changes to import certification requirements for importers of animals, biological and animal-based goods commodities until 1 October 2020.

Where an importer has previously supplied original paper health certificates from the exporting country Competent Authority and is now 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 lodgement process.

Our assessors 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.

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

We will advise stakeholders of any further extension to these interim arrangements closer to the 1 October 2020.

Please note:

  • Please do not email individual HC copies to the department.  Our assessors will access them from our Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS).
  • If the assessor requires verification of documentation, they will:
    • request, via the importer or 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, we recommend that it is attached to the goods and/or consignments to minimise potential delays at inspection.

Eligibility for interim arrangements

This arrangement applies where the exporting country Competent Authority does not already use an electronic means of transferring HCs, and

  • the exporting Competent Authority has asked to use alternatives to original paper HCs, and
  • they have provided a point of contact or an online tool so that we can verify the electronic copy before releasing the goods.
  • Point of contact information (not Health Certificates) can be emailed to us at imports@agriculture.gov.au (note, we 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
  • Phone (from within Australia): 1800 900 090
  • Phone (from outside Australia): + 61 3 8318 6700

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

Last reviewed: 25 June 2020
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