Outline of the system
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) regulates international trade in Australian native species, live animals and plants, and species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Biosecurity Act 2015 (Biosecurity Act) applies controls to the importation of all plants, parts of plants and plant products, all animals (including birds, marine animals and insects), animal products, soil and other items of general quarantine concern.
Sections of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (PI Regulations) control the importation of some animals and plants.
Apart from exports, the EPBC Act regulates:
• the import of all live animals and plants, including marine animals
• the import of non-live animal and plant specimens, including parts and derivatives, of species listed under CITES.
The purpose of Australia's biosecurity legislation is to manage the risk of introduction of pests and disease that could damage plant, animal or human health or the environment. Australia's biosecurity legislation applies to the importation of all plants, animals and their products and derivatives.
The PI Regulations control the importations of: fish caught by foreign based fishing vessels and Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish. The Regulations also control the import of raw tobacco and certain plant material containing drugs.
Nature of licensing
If Automatic, administrative purpose
If Non-Automatic, description of the notified Non-Automatic Licensing regime
Products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
The EPBC Act seeks to implement Australia's obligations under CITES, by regulating international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, to contribute to the protection and conservation of species that are endangered, or could become endangered, and to facilitate legal, sustainable trade in wildlife. The EPBC Act is not intended to restrict the quantity or value of imports.
The biosecurity legislation is not intended to restrict the quantity or value of imports but to manage the risk of introduction of exotic pests and diseases associated with importation for the purpose of protecting plant, animal and human health and the environment. The legislation also seeks to protect the Australian environment against further establishment of pest species of plants and animals by controlling the importation of certain live plants, animals and other biological material.
Questions for products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
The system applies to products originating from which country?
These systems apply to the importation of goods from all countries.
Expected duration of licensing procedure
Is the licensing statutorily required?
The controls on the importation of goods specified in this category are statutory requirements under the legislation:
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00081
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2020C00778
- Biosecurity Act 2015: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00355
- Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2021C00545
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest (DAFF) is responsible for administration of the EPBC Act and for administration of animal and plant biosecurity legislation. The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for administration of the PI Regulations.
Does the legislation leave designation of products to be subject to licensing to administrative discretion?
The legislation does not allow for administrative discretion regarding goods/items subject to import controls
Eligibility of applicants
Is there a system of registration of persons or firms permitted to engage in importation?
What persons or firms are eligible to apply for a licence?
The Biosecurity Act provides the DAFF with an option to apply a fit and proper person test to import permit applicants and their associates. The test supports the trust placed on importers who are granted import permits. Not all permit applicants will be subject to a fit and proper person test - this test will only be used at the DAFF's discretion.
All Australian persons, firms and institutions are eligible to apply for permission to import.
Is there a registration fee?
Is there a published list of authorized importers?
Contact point for information on eligibility
Submission of an application
Administrative body(ies) for submission of an application
What information is required in applications?
Applications for permission to import must be made electronically for all commodities through the DAFF BICON system. Conditions for imports into the Australian external territories of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are not contained in BICON. For information about all imports into these Australian external Territories, please visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/goods/external-territories
What documents is the importer required to supply with the application?
Importers should consult the BICON database (http://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/bicon) to determine if a commodity intended for import to Australia needs an import permit and/or treatment or if there are any other biosecurity prerequisites. Permits must be obtained prior to importation and are required on importation. Applications for permits may be lodged electronically (https://bicon.agriculture.gov.au/BiconWeb4.0). Other documentation required is dependent on the type of commodity and the import conditions of the permit or as listed on the BICON database. For the import of CITES listed specimens, both CITES export and import permits are generally required upon importation. The import of live specimens may also require an import permit.
Where the importation of the item is listed under CITES, applications for permission to import must be made electronically to the Minister for the Environment. The link to the application form can be found at: https://onlineservices.environment.gov.au/.
Window of submission of an application
How far in advance of importation must application for a licence be made?
Applications should be made well in advance of arrival of the goods to allow time for the application to be assessed against the legislation and the relevant import policy.
Are there any limitations as to the period of the year during which application for licence can be made? If so, explain
Permits may be issued at any period of the year.
Issuing the license
Can a licence be granted immediately on request?
In the case of most importations in this category it will not be possible for permission to be issued immediately on request.
Can licences be obtained within a shorter time-limit or for goods arriving at the port without a licence
Under the EPBC Act, once a permit application is received, there is a 40-business day statutory timeframe in which a decision regarding the application must be made. Not all goods require an import permit and clearance to import can be given at the point of entry provided the import conditions have been met. The Biosecurity Act does not prescribe a specific period of notice required but does note that relevant regulations may prescribe different requirements for notices for different classes of goods.
Which administrative body is responsible for approving application of licences?
Applications for permission to import most animals, animal products, plants and plant products into Australia involve an approach to a single agency – the DAFF.
Must the applications be passed on to other organs for visa, note or approval?
Are there any other conditions attached to the issue of a licence?
Biosecurity import permits often have end use restrictions placed on the goods (e.g. for human consumption only) and/or types of treatments they have to undergo prior to or after the goods arrive in Australia (e.g. product has been heat treated at 100 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes).
Conditions may be applied in respect of such issues as custody, end use, disposal or distribution of imported goods as well as pre-export treatment, testing, certification or on-arrival treatment or quarantine.
Fees and other administrative charges
Is there any licensing fee or administrative charge?
Information on fees and charges may be found at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/fees and http://www.dcceew.gov.au/environment/wildlife-trade/permits/fees.
What is the amount of the fee or charge?
Is there any deposit or advance payment required associated with the issue of licences?
There is no deposit or advance payment requirement associated with the issue of licenses, although assessment fees apply for most DAFF permit applications.
Amount or rate?
Is it refundable?
What is the period of retention?
What is the purpose of this requirement?
An application (processing) and assessment fee for a DAFF permit is charged automatically when a permit application is accepted, regardless of whether or not the permit is issued.
Refusal of an application
Under what circumstances may an application for a licence be refused other than failure to meet the ordinary criteria?
An application to the DAFF for an import permit may only be refused under the ordinary criteria for such applications.
Are the reasons for any refusal given to applicants?
Reasons for refusal will be advised.
Have applicants a right of appeal in the event of refusal to issue a licence?
There are legislated structures in place that allow applicants to request a review of a decision to refuse to grant an import permit. For permit decisions under the EPBC Act, applicants may appeal on the merits of the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) .
If so, to what bodies and under what procedures?
Alternatively, an appeal may be made on the decision-making process itself under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.
Are there any limitations as to the period of year during which importation may be made?
Permits may be issued at any period of the year.
What documents are required upon actual importation?
Where the importation of the item comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, an Australian import permit is required unless the specimens are considered to be personal and household effects, or they are pre-CITES and non-live. In most cases of CITES-listed specimens, CITES documentation from the country of export is required. Original documents must travel with the goods.
Are there any other administrative procedures, apart from import licensing and similar administrative procedures, required prior to importation?
Conditions of licensing
What is the period of validity of a licence? Can the validity be extended? How?
The period of validity of a permit depends on the nature of the importation: specific details to be supplied on enquiry. Legislation will normally not allow for continuing permission. Individual assessments of permit applications will determine the appropriate validity period, which is generally one or two years for biosecurity permits. From time to time, a permit will be issued with a different validity, such as short-term importation of artefacts for a museum exhibition. CITES permits are valid for up to six months. The period of validity cannot be extended.
Is there any penalty for the non-utilization of a licence or a portion of a licence?
There is no penalty for the non-utilisation of a permit or a portion of a permit.
Are licences transferable between importers? If so, are any limitations or conditions attached to such transfer?
Biosecurity import permits are not transferrable between importers. Permits issued under the EPBC Act may be transferred under very limited circumstances.
Is foreign exchange automatically provided by the banking authorities for goods to be imported?
Is a licence required as a condition to obtaining foreign exchange?
Is foreign exchange always available to cover licences issued?
What formalities must be fulfilled for obtaining the foreign exchange?