For some people, moving to Australia can be an administrative nightmare with Australian customs requirements. In this article, we review the restrictions Australian customs and quarantine impose, and what you can do when moving to Australia to get your belongings through Australian customs quickly and efficiently with the least amount of headaches.
Moving to Australia – Tips for Getting Your Furniture through Australian Customs Quickly
Every country has its own regulations on what can or can’t enter its borders, and it can be a tricky process navigating all the rules when moving. Australia’s isolated geography makes it vulnerable to introduced pests, and customs restrictions are in place to avoid ecological devastation. Australian customs rules can seem complicated at first, and even a small mistake can result in lengthy delays receiving your belongings and unexpected financial costs if your things need to be destroyed or treated by officials. Moving to Australia should be the adventure of a lifetime, not a bureaucratic nightmare. If you’re moving to Australia after living abroad, you probably want to bring back souvenirs. Avoid customs hassles by planning carefully and keeping accurate records throughout the packing and shipping process. Here are a few tips to help you get your things through customs quickly and easily.
Furniture or household items made from wood are likely targets for inspection upon arrival at Australian customs. Wood can be a target for mites and other insect infestations and nobody wants these pests spreading through your new neighbourhood. If your furniture is found to have an infestation, you will have to foot the bill to either destroy your furniture (not a desirable option for antiques or expensive pieces) or a pesticide gas treatment.
Check all wooden furniture for pest colonies before you pack, to avoid the time and expense of fumigation. Look out for little holes which suddenly appear, fresh holes, tunnels, chewed timber and sawdust-like powder. These are all evidence of potential infestation, so if you see anything resembling these signs either have your furniture fumigated before you pack (make sure to get documentation as proof) or leave the particular object behind.
Unfortunately, if one item in your house is being used as a home for insects, there’s every chance that those mites have migrated into your other wooden furniture. Check every piece and if you see any indication of pests, re-check all your items again! As well as furniture, don’t forget other wooden items including toys, kitchenware, musical instruments and any objects with a wooden element.
Items made from plant or animal matter
Unless you’ve decided to decorate in chrome and plastic, there are probably more plant and animal derived products lying around your home than you realise. Heavily processed and chemically treated items like commercially produced paper have become devitalised or lost their ‘life force’, so you don’t need to worry about every book you want to bring (although do check your books for insects before you pack). Things like homemade paper are another matter though, as it retains enough of its natural structure to carry pests or any present seeds may still be able germinate eventually.
It’s easy to forget that a commonplace household item could be restricted, so here are some household objects that are frequently overlooked by people moving to Australia which may contain plant or animal material:
- unsealed food packets,
- hats (with things like flowers as decoration),
- craft materials (such as woollen yarn),
- photo albums, picture frames,
- pot pourri,
- heat packs (many are filled with seeds),
- fur, leather or animal skins, and
- Christmas decorations (in fact, Christmas decorations which contain pine cones, holly berries and so on are the common items given up to be destroyed by customs).
Furniture or baskets made from natural materials like wicker, bamboo, rattan and so on will need to be checked and possibly treated.
Outdoor Furniture and Equipment
Australian Customs officials don’t like anything which has come into contact with soil overseas. Objects covered in soil are definitely not going to pass inspection, so anything which has spent time outdoors will need a thorough clean before being moving to Australia. Soil and natural water sources are home to billions of tiny microbes, fungus and life forms which, even though you may not be able to see them, can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Whether you’ve been exploring the wilderness or just lounging in the garden, these objects need careful cleaning before moving to Australia:
- Camping gear such as tents, hiking shoes, backpacks and so on.
- Sports equipment: footballs, golf clubs, climbing equipment, cricket sets, shoes, bicycles etc.
- Outdoor furniture: garden chairs, plant pots, tools, outdoor toys, barbeques, lawnmowers etc.
- Freshwater sport equipment: fishing rods, wetsuits, gumboots, and so on.
Any of these categories are prone to contamination and will need to be free of soil and other particles before passing customs requirements.
Thoroughly Clean and Dry Everything
All items need to be empty, clean and dry, especially things that have come into contact with plant or animal material. Depending on the amount of dirt your things have accumulated, outdoor furniture or sporting equipment may benefit from a blast from a pressure hose to make sure you remove every speck of dirt. Shoes in particular can collect mud in the soles; this is a prime spot for customs checks.
Pet beds, cages and other animal equipment should be free of hair and other waste. Wash and vacuum everything to remove residual dander. Fish tanks should be drained and thoroughly cleaned.
Kitchenware, rubbish bins and other household supplies should be washed and dry. Brooms and vacuum cleaners mush be free of waste, clean and dry. Open your vacuum cleaner up to remove your bag or waste material.
Packing Technique and Materials
Packing is often a tiresome process and it can be tempting to just throw all your stuff randomly in boxes and forget about it until it’s time to unpack. That’s not a wise move when you’re sending your things through customs; taking the time to pack methodically can dramatically reduce your hassles later on. Consider all the items you’re transporting and decide which ones might attract attention from customs officials. Any likely candidates should be packed together in the same boxes, so that inspectors only need to open one or two boxes to do their job, rather than dig through all your boxes to fish out one thing from each. Australian customs charges biosecurity inspection fees to you based on the amount of time spent on checking your belongings, so aim to keep that time as short as possible with efficient packing.
Make sure any dangerous things like knives are safely packed and fragile items are well-cushioned. Don’t use stickers to label the boxes as these can fall off during transit, but write directly on the boxes in permanent marker. Second-hand boxes can be used as long any previous labelling is covered or removed. Don’t use boxes which have been used to transport plant or animal matter like egg cartons, fruit or vegetable boxes or meat boxes. Don’t use plant-based packing materials like sawdust, wood shavings or straw as these will contaminate your whole shipment!
Get your documentation in order
Proper record keeping will prevent bumps in the Australian customs process and keep things running smoothly. A packing list is required, with detailed labelling of the items in each box. Number each of your boxes clearly and create a list which corresponds to the numbered boxes. For example, ‘Box 1 of 10,’ followed by a detailed list of the contents. Also list the materials which the items are made from, like ‘wooden chair’ or ‘metal lamp,’ ‘wicker basket,’ etc.
Some items like firearms and pets require a permit to bring them into the country. This should be done before you begin the shipping process, and can take months to get, so start as early as possible if you need to get a permit.
To collect your items, you’ll need to present a series of documents including the packing list, an Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement (B534 form), certificates if you had any items treated before shipping and others. If you used an agent service to complete the shipping process for you, you’ll need a statuary declaration proving their status.
Preparing ahead of time is really the key to avoiding Australian customs delays and fees when moving to Australia. Think carefully about what things you want to bring with you and ask yourself if there are any items which are likely to carry ecological hazards. As a general rule, biological matter is the biggest concern for customs, so if you need to bring natural materials, label them clearly and prepare yourself for potential inspections. Efficient packing and accurate paperwork are the biggest things you can do to make the customs process as quick and easy as possible. For full details on the shipping and customs process, check out this Department of Agriculture website.
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