Moving home to Australia can be an exciting and even a cathartic experience after living abroad. You might be looking forward to seeing your family, career advancement and even the little things like the weather or your childhood foods. When moving home to Australia, you probably also want to bring home souvenirs or household items from overseas back with you, but this isn’t always possible.
As an island continent, Australia is able to impose notoriously strict customs regulations on things entering the country. This is great for protecting the native environment but cause some inconvenience for people looking to import their belongings home to Australia. Most restrictions are focused on plant and animal pests which could devastate local ecosystems.
Shipping to Australia can be a real minefield of rules and regulation, with expensive consequences if you get things wrong. The good news is that very few things are outright banned. You will be able to bring in most items eventually, but you may need to go through a lengthy or expensive process before you actually get your things. Many plant and animal products are prohibited, but those which are allowed need to be declared to customs and may require a permit. When moving home to Australia, it’s essential to start preparing early in case you need to apply for permits. You may find that some items simply cannot be brought into the country no matter what you do; continue reading to see which things you may need to leave behind.
Certain gases which are common in some household appliances are banned in Australia. CFC (chlorofluorocarbon), HFC or HCFC (Hydro Chlorofluorocarbons) and other greenhouse gases cannot be imported into Australia due to their environmental impact on the ozone layer. Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners or anything else which uses a refrigerant may contain CFCs. Most countries stopped using CFCs in manufacturing by 2010, so newer models are more likely to be accepted than old ones. Have a look at this Department of the Environment and Energy webpage for more details. If still in doubt, contact them to have your model/serial number checked.
Vehicles may use CFC or other greenhouse gases in their air conditioning systems. CFCs were gradually phased out in different countries at various times over the past two decades or so, with manufacturers in China among those holding out the longest. For a general guide, check date and place of your car’s manufacture. For a more definitive answer, have your car’s air conditioning system looked over by a mechanic.
Even if your car doesn’t contain greenhouse cases, you should carefully consider whether it’s worth bringing back to Australia with you. Vehicle importation is subject to expensive duties and GST of up to 10% the worth of your car, which can add up to thousands of dollars. High-end vehicles have an additional Luxury Car Tax charged. Your car will need to meet Australian safety standards and you will need to apply for a permit to import your vehicle. For some, selling your old car and buying a new one when you arrive is a better option than the hassle and expense of transporting your car internationally.
Pets and live animals:
If you want to bring your furry friend when moving home to Australia, you will need to apply for an import permit (pets coming from New Zealand are the exception). The permit types are divided into animals originating in Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 and non-approved countries. Unfortunately, animals will not be allowed in from non-approved countries so you may be forced to leave them behind. China and some South-East Asian countries are among the non-approved countries, as are many African nations.
If you’re truly committed to your pet, you can work around the situation by first moving them to a Group 2 or 3 country before beginning the process of importing to Australia. For example, an expat in a non-approved country like Thailand could take their pet to Hong Kong and undergo the importation process there, before then relocating to Australia. This may be an impractical and unaffordable option for many expats, especially as the required medical checks can take several months, so start preparing in advance to see whether you can bring your pet home with you or if you need to find it at new family.
Certain dog and cat breeds are allocated ‘dangerous breed’ status and are prohibited from import into Australia. Hybrid cats are not allowed, including:
- Savannah cat, domestic cat (Felis catus) crossed with Serval cat (Felis serval)
- Safari cat, domestic cat crossed with Geoffroy cat (Oncifelis geoffroyi)
- Chausie, domestic cat crossed with Jungle cat (Felis chaus)
These pure breed dogs are prohibited:
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
- Japanese Tosa
- Pit Bull Terrier or American Pit Bull
- Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario
For more information, read this article on Bringing dogs to Australia and keep checking in with the government website as the list of proscribed pets can change.
Wooden items and furniture:
Wooden products won’t pass through customs if they fail a pest inspection. Sudden holes, tunnels, chewed timber and sawdust-like powder are all signs of insect infestation and won’t be allowed to enter the country. Check over all of your wooden furniture, toys, kitchenware and so on before you pack to make sure it’s pest-free. This is probably worth doing anyway before moving home to Australia, as nobody wants insects eating all their furniture, no matter which country you’re in!
Live plants and bulbs are definite no-nos, as are certain seed species. Some dried seeds used for cooking are allowed, but should be labelled and kept in a sealed container. Unidentified seeds are prohibited, even if they’re culinary. Certain species of dried plants and herbal medicine are outlawed, so be sure to check the specific species before you attempt to import them.
Unprocessed animal products are banned. Products made from leather and animal hides are allowed but will be inspected on arrival, as will feathers and packaged bones, horns and teeth. Much of this is obvious, but some craft or homewares like beeswax candles or woollen yarn don’t immediately spring to mind as animal products, so think carefully and cover your bases by declaring any potential rule-breakers.
When moving home to Australia, you may not at first think that Christmas decorations would pose a problem with Australian customs. However, it is easy to forget that stashed away in boxes in your spare room or shed are many decorations made from animal or plant materials such as feathers or pinecones. Christmas wreaths, blown eggs, dried holly and so on are likely to be targeted by customs officials. Sort through your Christmas or other decorations to eliminate any plant or animal products before you move. If an item has real sentimental value, you may be able to ship it to Australia and pay to have it treated for pests by customs before bringing it in.
As most food is made from animal or plant materials, it cannot be brought into the country. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not allowed, and neither are fruits and nuts, though some dried products are. Uncanned meat is prohibited, including preserved meat products. Dairy is not allowed, unless you can prove it comes from a Foot-and-Mouth free country.
Some people move internationally with minimal possessions, while others feel more comfortable moving their belongings with them around the world. Families in particular may find it worthwhile importing their furniture and other belongings when they move home to Australia. Noncompliance with customs regulations can not only harm the local ecosystem, but it inevitably leads to wasted time and money. Always prepare in advance and give yourself the time to find new homes for the things you need to leave behind.
Now that you know about the restrictions, now get some tips on getting your furniture through Australian customs quickly when moving to Australia.
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