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8 Things You Need to Know About International Removals to Australia

Posted by By Bournes International Moves - June 29, 2017

Moving house locally is hard enough, but packing up your things and moving to the other side of the world is a whole different ball game! So, here's some of the key things you need to know before you get started. 

Household Goods are usually eligible for Duty Free Entry when you're moving to Australia.

aeroplane in the sky moving to Australia

Providing you meet the eligibility criteria you are usually able to import your household goods as unaccompanied personal effects (UPE's) without having to pay customs duty or Goods and Services Tax (GST) when moving your permanent residence to Australia. In summary this is usually the case when the items are:

  • Your personal property
  • that will be used by you in Australia
  • and have been owned/used by you overseas for at least 12 months (generally) prior to moving.

Cars, tobacco products and alcohol are not eligible for duty free concession as unaccompanied personal effects.

Australian Customs are REALLY fussy about what personal effects you bring in.

three sisters - Australia Image sourced from: freeimages.com/Gavin Terpstra

And quite rightly so, they are an island nation with an abundance of wonderful wildlife and nature, and they want to protect it.

When your goods enter the country they are subject to Bio-security control and may be inspected by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The have a pretty strict list of restricted and prohibited items as well as a number of common items of bio-security concern which may attract the interest of the Department of Agriculture and Water resources for inspection and if found not to comply with regulations may require treatment, re-export or disposal at your expense.

When you're deciding what to take you should always check the items you want to ship against these lists and take action accordingly. This might mean obtaining special paperwork or simply making sure items are really clean with no traces of mud.

Find out more about Department of Agriculture and Water resources rules and regulations and tips for preparing your items here.

There are Fees and Charges applicable for Bio-security inspections.

australian customs inspection for bio security and household goodsImage Sourced from: Wikimedia Commons

These are charged by the Department of Agriculture and Water resources for the inspection of your goods to ensure they comply with import regulations and will be based on the amount of time it takes a bio-security officer to inspect your goods and any action that needs taking (e.g. treatment).

If you're using a professional removal company it's important to check how the paying of these fees is handled. Some ask you to pre-pay this for a fixed fee (which won't always change if the actual cost is less / more or if your shipment is not inspected) others will let you know this is excluded and ask you to pay on arrival once the actual cost is known, usually the reason for this is that it is not a fixed fee and can vary depending on your individual shipment, the time it takes to inspect and department decisions regarding treatment prior to release, if applicable.

More information on Quarantine fees associated with the clearance of personal effects can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website - Deparment of Agriculture and Water Resources fees.

You can keep these costs down by:

  • following the advice on the Department for Agriculture and Water Resources website
  • not packing anything that is prohibited entry into Australia
  • not packing anything that will require a treatment of some kind, unless that item is of particular significance and you are willing to pay treatment fees
  • ensuring your packing list is accurate and clearly identifies contents and matches the numbered boxes
  • packing items subject to quarantine inspection in the same box
  • clearly identifying boxes that may contain items of quarantine concern
  • ensuring that items that have been in contact with animals, plants and soil are thoroughly cleaned and free of quarantine risk material before they are packed.

You'll need to make sure everything in your shipment is well numbered, labelled and inventoried.

bournes international removals labelling items for shipping to australia

You will be required to provide a detailed inventory of your shipment including clear labelling. If your removals company are providing packing services they will complete this on your behalf and provide you with a copy. If you are doing this yourself ensure you label your boxes clearly so the removal company can reference these properly on the inventory with a list of items contained in each box.

If you have identified any items that the Bio-security inspectors may be interested in it is a good idea to pack these items together and separately from the rest of your items that are not of concern. This way the inspectors do not need to unload/unpack your entire shipment to perform their inspection.

If you are using your own packing boxes be sure that these do not pose a concern on their own – for example used food packaging that may have been in contact with organic substances and do not use straw/sawdust or wood products for packing or filler. Ensure any previous labelling on boxes is removed or covered if you are using second hand boxes to avoid misunderstandings or confusion during inspection.

If you're using an international removal company they will handle the official processes for you.

an international removals move manager

Your removal company will make sure you've got everything done in advance, make all the arrangements for shipping and import and on arrival of your belongings in Australia they will handle the process of clearing the customs and bio-security inspections on your behalf, using all the correctly completed paperwork so your belongings can be delivered to your new home. Which brings us to..... 

Get a quote for Removals to Australia

There will be documentation to complete.

documentation and paperwork for removals to Australia

As with every international move there is paperwork. Depending on your individual move circumstances and what you are shipping the forms may vary, but it will almost certainly include the Australian Customs Service B534 'Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement'. This is used to clear your belongings through customs and is a legal declaration made to the Department for Immigration and Border Protection AND the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This form should be provided to you by your International Removals Company and they should be able to guide you in completing it properly.

If you are insuring your goods for shipment (which is strongly advised due to the level of risk involved in international transportation) then you'll likely need to complete an insurance application and valuation too. Again, your move manager should talk you through what you need to do and make sure you have all the right paperwork.

Australia is quite far away and you'll be without your belongings for a while.

container ship moving household goods to australiaImage Sourced from: freeimages.com/Karen Winton

We know you know Australia is a long way away... but our point is, it can take quite a while for your belongings to reach you by sea. The actual transit time on the water can vary depending on which shipping line your removal company uses, there are fast and slow options available which can vary the price you pay too. Once your items reach Australia there is a bit of time on top of that for being unloaded from the ship, processing through customs and being collected by your shipping company for delivery to your new home. This can take around 2 weeks.

So, door to door you could be without your belongings for a while. If your using an exclusive service with your own container you could be looking at around 8-10 weeks for most major cities like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide etc. or up to 11 weeks for areas like Hobart. You'll need to add on more time if you're moving farther from a major port. If you're using a shared container service then typically you'll need to add some time at the beginning for your removal company to consolidate other shipments to go in the container with yours, each company has different timescales for this but with Bournes this timeline moves to around 12-16 weeks door to door.

This means you'll probably need to find temporary furnished accommodation while you wait. Some people stay with family before departing, arranging a new home in advance and timing their arrival closely with the arrival of household goods, others (more typically) find a temporary furnished rental or short term let (sometimes even a holiday home or serviced apartment) when they first arrive which gives them time to find a more permanent home before all their belongings arrive.

If you need a few items quickly small air freight shipments can be a great idea.

..but it's like Christmas when you get them back!

christmas present Image Sourced from: freeimages.com/T. Al Nakib

Don't underestimate the impact of having your own things around you when you move to a completely unfamiliar life. We hear from lots of our customers how great it is to be re-united with their own things and how it finally made Australia feel like home. This 'familiarity' is important to take into account when you're deciding how ruthless to be with what you ship and what you leave behind.

* Speaking of Christmas, that reminds us - Christmas decorations are a common area of problems for shipments to Australia, make sure not to pack an untreated wood (like pine cone decorations) or anything containing real plant or food matter (like handmade wreaths). It's a really easy one to overlook so take extra care! 

You'll probably want to consider using a professional international removals company. 

international removal company carrying box up stairs

As we said at the start - moving house locally is hard enough, but moving internationally is a whole different ball game! It's pretty complex for a novice, but professional international removals companies have the knowledge and experience to guide you smoothly through the process and make sure everything gets to your new home safely, reducing the risks of damage, hidden costs and headaches!

Most companies providing international removals to Australia offer a range of services to suit a range of timescale and budget requirements, from exclusive full containers big enough for your whole house contents and cars to shared containers for those who are only shipping a few key items.

Download our guide to Choosing a Reputable International Removal Company to find out everything you need to know to get the best company for you, make the most out of your budget and importantly - avoid rogue traders.

Click here to request your free, no obligation quote


Topics: Australia

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