What You Need to Know About Customs When Moving to Australia

by | Thursday 18th January 2024

Whether you’re shipping a few boxes or your luggage or managing a full household removal to Australia, understanding the Australian customs process is crucial. This guide is for individuals and families moving or shipping their personal belongings to Australia, ensuring that your transition is as seamless and stress-free as possible.

We delve into the essential aspects of the Australian customs process. We’ll explore the critical steps involved, from understanding the necessary documentation to smoothly clearing your items to the nuances of quarantine and biosecurity regulations that safeguard Australia’s unique environment. Our guide aims to demystify the process, providing you with clear, actionable advice on navigating these waters.

Moreover, we address the important considerations regarding prohibited and restricted items, offering insights into what you can and cannot bring into Australia. Whether it’s your cherished personal effects or the entirety of your household, our guide ensures you’re well-prepared for every step of the customs process. Join us as we embark on this journey, equipping you with the knowledge to confidently manage the logistics of your move to Australia.


1. The Customs Process

Moving to Australia is an exciting venture, but it comes with its fair share of hurdles, including the customs process. To make your transition as smooth as possible, it’s important to understand what to expect and how long it usually takes.

Document Preparation

Before your journey to Australia, you must ensure that all of your essential documents are in order. These documents usually include your passport, visa and any other immigration related paperwork that you need. It’s a good idea to start this process well in advance, as obtaining the necessary visas and permits can take several months.

Declare Your Items

When you arrive in Australia, you will need to complete a Passenger Arrival Card. You should declare any items you bring into the country on this card. It’s important to be honest and transparent during this part of the customs process, as failing to declare items or providing false information can lead to penalties and delays.

Quarantine Inspection

Australia is known for its strict biosecurity measures, and your belongings may be subject to inspection. This inspection is a key part of preventing the introduction of pests and diseases that could harm the country’s agriculture and environment. It’s important to note that not all shipments undergo inspection, but many do and you should be prepared for the possibility.

Customs Duties and Taxes

Most of the time, personal items you bring with you – such as clothing and personal belongings – are duty free and tax free. However, for certain items, such as high value goods or items that exceed your duty free allowances, you may be required to pay additional custom fees. These fees are calculated based on the value of the items and can be significant, so it’s essential to budget for them.

Timeline and Duration

The timeline for the customs process can vary depending on factors such as the volume of passenger arrivals and whether your belongings are subject to inspection. On average, the process can take a few hours, but in some cases, it may take several days if your belongings are flagged for inspection.

2. Required Forms and Documentation

Australian customs process

One of the most important aspects of moving to Australia is ensuring that you have all the necessary forms and documentation in order.

List of Essential Forms for Moving to Australia

Visa Application Forms

The very first step in your journey is to get the appropriate visa to enter and live in Australia. The type of visa you require will depend on your circumstances, such as whether you’re moving for work, study, family or retirement.


Ensure that your passport is up to date and has enough time remaining for your intended stay in Australia. You should check this in advance, as you might need time to go through the UK’s passport renewal process.

International Shipping Forms

If you are planning to ship your belongings to Australia, you will need to complete shipping and customs documentation. This is something that your chosen removals company, such as United International Removals, will be able to provide. We will then guide you through the process.

Australian Customs Forms

Upon arrival in Australia, you will need to complete a Passenger Arrival Card. This form requires you to declare items you are bringing into the country. It’s important to be truthful and accurate in your declarations to avoid any problems further down the line.

Tax and Financial Forms

Depending on your financial situation, you may need to complete forms related to tax, bank accounts and financial institutions. This is something that a financial advisor can help you with.

Where and How to Obtain and Complete Forms

Visa Application Forms

Visa application forms are available online on the official Australian Department of Home Affairs website. You can complete and submit most visa applications online. For more complex visa types, you might want to consult with a professional agent who can assist in completing the forms accurately.

Shipping and Customs Forms

United International Removals will help you with obtaining and completing your shipping forms.. We will provide you with the necessary international forms, guide you on how to complete them, and answer any questions you may have.

Passenger Arrival Card

You’ll be provided with this card during your flight to Australia, and you can also obtain it at the airport before landing. The instructions on the card are straightforward, and it’s essential to complete it honestly and accurately.

Tax and Financial Forms

For tax and financial forms, consult with your financial institution or a tax advisor. They can provide you with the relevant forms and help you complete them as needed.

Tips for Filling Out Forms Correctly

  • Talk to your Move Coordinator or Move Manager at your shipping company your shipping company – they will be able to guide you through the process and answer your questions.
  • Ensure that all of the information you provide is accurate and up to date. Any discrepancies can lead to delays or legal issues.
  • Take your time to read and understand the instructions on each form. It’s better to spend more time filling them out, than having to correct mistakes later on.
  • If you are uncertain about any aspect of the forms or your eligibility, seek assistance from immigration experts. There’s a lot of help online, as well as companies who are dedicated to helping expats move abroad.
  • It’s a good idea to make photocopies or digital scans of all forms and documents for your records. These will be invaluable if you lose the original copies.

4. Shipping Your Belongings: International Removals

Choosing the right international removal company is one of the most important parts of planning your move abroad. You need to look for a removals company with a solid track record in international relocations, such as United International Removals. Reading reviews and seeking recommendations will give an insight into what other people have thought about their service. Choose a company that’s experienced in the regulations and requirements for shipping to Australia. Knowledge of the destination country is a significant advantage, and it can make the entire process a lot simpler.

Before you finalise your move, ask your chosen removals company about the extent of insurance coverage provided for your belongings during transit. It’s essential to have adequate protection for your possessions. Though things rarely go wrong, it’s important to be protected just in case.

Packing Tips for Safe and Secure Shipping

Start Early

Packing always takes longer than you think. Start well in advance to ensure a stress free experience. You don’t want to be rushing around and packing at the last minute.

Quality Packing Materials

Invest in high quality packing materials, such as sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape and protective covers. This will keep your belongings as safe as possible throughout shipping.

Organise and Label

Label each box with its contents and room destination in your new home. This will make unpacking a lot quicker and easier.

Fragile Items

Properly cushion and protect fragile items, to avoid breakages and damage. Use plenty of padding and consider double boxing for extra protection.

Valuables and Important Documents

You might want to consider carrying valuables, important documents and sentimental items with you, rather than shipping them.

The Process of Customs Clearance for Shipped Belongings

You will need to declare the items that you’re bringing into Australia accurately. Provide honest information on your passenger arrival card. Though not all shipments undergo inspection, it’s important to be prepared for this possibility. The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment may inspect your belongings to ensure they comply with strict biosecurity laws.

Possible Customs Fees and Charges for Shipped Items

While personal items like clothing and personal effects are usually duty free and tax free, some items may incur customs fees and charges. These fees can vary depending on the value of the items and your circumstances. Be prepared to budget for these expenses, and consult your chosen removal company for guidance.

5. Restricted and Prohibited Items

Understanding which items you can’t bring into Australia, the items that may require special permits or conditions, and the potential penalties for importing banned or restricted items is key for a seamless move.

List of Restricted and Prohibited Items

Australia’s stringent biosecurity laws are in place to protect the country’s unique environment and agricultural industries. Certain items are restricted or prohibited to prevent the introduction of pests, diseases and invasive species.

Food and Agriculture

Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products and other organic materials are often restricted due to their potential to harbour pests and diseases.

Animal Products

Many animal products are prohibited, especially those that may carry diseases or pests. This category includes items like feathers, tusks and certain animal hides.

Plants and Plant Products

Bringing plants or plant products into Australia is carefully regulated. Some plant species are prohibited, while others may require permits and special conditions.


Seeds are considered high risk items that could introduce invasive species or diseases. Importing seeds may require detailed documentation and compliance with strict regulations.

Items Requiring Special Permits or Conditions

In addition to banned or restricted items, some items may be allowed under specific conditions or with special permits. For example, pets. Bringing pets to Australia can be a complex process. You will need to follow strict conditions, including vaccinations, microchipping and quarantine, and you may require permits. Some historical and cultural Items could also require a permit. Antiques, artwork and items of cultural significance may require documentation and permits to ensure they’re not of illicit origin.

Penalties for Importing Banned or Restricted Items

Attempting to import prohibited or restricted items into Australia can result in significant penalties, including fines. Individuals who breach importation laws may face substantial fines, and customs officials may confiscate the items, which may not be returned. Some items may be subject to quarantine, resulting in costly and time consuming processes. In severe cases, attempting to import prohibited items can lead to legal action, including criminal charges.

6. Biosecurity Measures

australia airport arrivals

Australia is renowned for its unique environment, and these laws are in place to protect it from invasive species, diseases and pests. Australia’s strict biosecurity laws exist for several reasons.

Protecting the Environment

Australia’s distinctive environment, including its native flora and fauna, is vulnerable to exotic pests and diseases. Biosecurity laws help safeguard this unique biodiversity.

Safeguarding Agriculture

The country’s agricultural industry is vital, and invasive pests and diseases could cause significant damage to crops and livestock. Biosecurity laws protect this sector.

Health and Safety

Some foreign pests and diseases can also pose risks to human health. By enforcing biosecurity laws, Australia ensures public safety.

Global Trade

Australia’s biosecurity laws are in line with international standards, which is essential for maintaining trade relationships with other nations.

Role of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment plays a key role in managing and inspecting biosecurity risks.

Sets Regulations

It establishes and enforces the regulations and standards that govern biosecurity in Australia.

Inspects and Manages Risks

The department conducts inspections, risk assessments and risk management activities to ensure that biosecurity risks are minimised.

Quarantine and Border Control

The department manages quarantine and border control activities, including the inspection of incoming shipments and travellers’’ belongings.

Research and Monitoring

It conducts research and monitoring to stay updated on emerging biosecurity risks and improve the effectiveness of biosecurity measures.


The department collaborates with other government agencies, industry stakeholders, and international partners to ensure a comprehensive approach to biosecurity.

7. Preparing your Items for Shipping

Preparing your items for shipping to Australia involves more than just packing them securely. It also includes the crucial step of cleaning and disinfecting. This process is important, due to the country’s strict biosecurity laws, which aim to prevent the introduction of pests, diseases and invasive species. By thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your belongings, you help to ensure that they don’t carry any contaminants that could pose a risk to the unique environment, agriculture or public health. This step not only helps you comply with regulations but also contributes to the preservation of the country’s remarkable biodiversity and contributes to a smooth and efficient customs clearance process upon arrival.

8. Luggage To Take With You

What to Expect When Arriving in Australia with Personal Luggage

When you arrive in Australia, you will typically disembark at one of the country’s international airports. As you proceed through immigration and customs, your personal luggage will be subject to inspection. Customs officials are there to ensure that all arriving passengers comply with Australia’s strict biosecurity and customs laws.

Declaring Items at the Airport

Upon arrival, you will be required to complete a Passenger Arrival Card. This card is a critical document that requires you to declare any items you are bringing into Australia. It’s essential to declare all items honestly, as there are strict regulations in place to protect Australia’s environment, agriculture and public health. Not declaring items accurately can lead to penalties, delays and problems further down the line.

Tips for Packing Your Luggage to Make the Customs Process Smoother

Keep Documentation Handy

Keep all receipts and documentation for valuable items that you are bringing into the country. This can help customs officials assess the value of your possessions.

Be Organised

Make sure your luggage is well organised and items are easily accessible. This will make the inspection process more efficient.

Follow Biosecurity Regulations

Familiarise yourself with Australia’s biosecurity laws and ensure that your luggage complies with these regulations. For example, remove any food items, seeds or plant materials from your luggage.

Declare All Items

If you’re unsure whether an item should be declared, it’s best to err on the side of caution and declare it. Being truthful is essential to avoid potential penalties.

IATA Rules for Items You Can’t Transport by Air

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sets rules and regulations for items that cannot be transported by air. These rules are in place for safety and security reasons. Items typically prohibited for air transport include flammable materials, explosives, corrosives and certain hazardous substances. If you have these items, they will need to be declared and may be subject to special handling or may need to be transported via other means.

9. Customs Fees and Charges

Fees You Might Encounter

Import Duty

Import duty is a tax levied on certain goods imported into Australia. The rate is typically a percentage of the item’s customs value, which can vary depending on the type of goods and their country of origin.

Goods and Services Tax

GST is a value added tax that applies to most goods and services in Australia, including imports. The GST rate is currently 10% of the customs value of the item, including the cost of shipping.

Customs Processing Fees

These fees cover the cost of processing your goods through customs. They can vary depending on the complexity of the customs clearance process.

Quarantine Fees

If your belongings are subject to inspection by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment due to biosecurity concerns, you may incur quarantine inspection fees.

How Fees Are Calculated

The calculation of customs fees can be complex, as it depends on various factors.

Customs Value

The value of the item being imported, including the cost of the item, insurance and shipping.

Type of Goods

Different goods have different customs duty rates, and some may be duty free or have reduced rates based on trade agreements.


Goods and services tax is calculated based on the customs value, which includes the item’s value, insurance and shipping costs.

Tips for Budgeting and Planning for These Expenses

Research and Consult

Conduct thorough research on the specific fees and charges that may apply to your items. Consulting with your chosen international removal company or customs expert can provide valuable insights.

Create a Budget

Calculate the potential customs fees and charges based on the value of your items. Include customs duty, GST, processing fees and any quarantine fees in your budget.

Plan Ahead

It’s essential to factor these costs into your overall moving budget. Knowing what to expect will help you avoid financial surprises upon arrival in Australia.

Maintain Documentation

Keep detailed records of all documents, including receipts, invoices and customs forms, as these will be necessary for customs clearance and may help in reducing fees.

Explore Exemptions and Concessions

Some items may be eligible for exemptions or concessions. Research whether your personal items or certain belongings may qualify for reduced fees.

10. Preparing for Your Move to Australia from the UK

Australia customs clearance

The success of your move from the UK to Australia depends on careful planning, adherence to customs and biosecurity regulations, and having an informed, proactive approach. When you understand the customs process and are aware of the fees and regulations, you can avoid unnecessary complications and ensure a smooth move from beginning to end.

Whilst Australian customs can seem intimidating, when you choose a reliable shipping company like United International Removals, we’ll guide you every step of the way and take of the clearance process for you.

We provide you with a dedicated Move Coordinator, an expert in navigating these complexities. They will be your point of contact, ready to answer all your questions and handle the customs clearance process on your behalf. This ensures a smoother transition, allowing you to focus on the excitement of your new life in Australia, while we take care of the details. Join us as we explore the key aspects of moving to Australia, ensuring your journey is as seamless and stress-free as possible.

When it comes to customs and international removals, it’s beneficial to seek guidance from experts who understand the intricacies of the process. By enlisting the help of United International Removals, you can benefit from having an expert guide through the shipping process, ensuring that you are well prepared for your move to Australia. We can provide specific advice on what items can and cannot be shipped, as well as help you properly prepare your belongings to go through customs.

We help lots of people make the move to Australia and we are ready to help you too. Check out our removals to Australia page or  Contact us to find out more.

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