Moving to Australia

By Jason Mueller


The only country that spans an entire continent, Australia is known for its diverse wildlife, gorgeous beaches, and warm weather. If you’ve been thinking of moving down under, this could be a wonderful new place to call home. Becoming a citizen is even possible if you’re a permanent resident, and dual citizenship is permitted. All of these features make Australia a good choice for expats – especially if you don’t want to reside in a country where English isn’t the first language.

Before settling in to enjoy your new life in Australia, you’ll first have to do all the work necessary to move there. International relocation can be complicated and time-consuming, and you’ll have far better results if you know what to expect. While an international moving company should help you along, you still need to know the paperwork you must file and the import fees that you’ll pay.


Import Duties For Your Belongings


Paying steep import duties and taxes just for the privilege of bringing your belongings into a country, can make moving an expensive undertaking. Fortunately, Australian customs is quite gracious on this point – as your household goods can be imported without paying any duty at all. The only prerequisite that you must follow, is that these belongings be both owned and used by you for a minimum of 12 months. This is a straightforward requirement, and simpler than many other countries around the world.


Regulations For Your Belongings


Though Australia’s requirements for import duty exemption are easy – their customs clearance process is far more involved. The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (or AQIS for short), have the authority to examine every shipment passing through the nation’s borders. Since Australia is a closed ecosystem, they’re extremely careful about introducing new organisms into the country. This makes customs quite strict about the importation of living things like plants and animals.


After relocation to Australia, you'll see the Sydney Opera House


AQIS agents will hold your goods in a specially designated facility, and it can take as long as two weeks for them to be granted entry. Though the exact time can vary, shipments arriving by air are usually cleared much faster, with 5-7 business days being the norm.


Clearance Before Arrival


It is possible to have your belongings cleared for entry into Australia, before your shipment even arrives. You’ll need to submit all the required paperwork to agents at your point or port of entry into the country, a minimum of 10 days before your goods reach Australia.


Filing Requirements


Even if you aren’t going to clear your goods for entry before they arrive, you’re still required to file certain paperwork in advance. If shipping your goods over the water, then your Original Bill of Lading must be submitted to customs a full 7 days before your shipment arrives. If shipping your goods via air instead, then customs must have your Air Waybill 48 hours in advance of your shipment’s arrival.


Physical Address


When bringing your household belongings into Australia, a real physical address is required. Using an email address or P.O. Box isn’t acceptable. Australian Customs Service must receive this information, a minimum of 48 hours before your shipment of goods arrives in the country. If you fail to provide this – you could incur substantial fines.


Paperwork For Your Belongings


After relocation to Australia, you'll see Sea Cliff Bridge


Having covered the fees and regulations involved in importing your household items, it’s now time to discuss the paperwork you must provide. You’ll need a valid visa and your passport, along with customs form B534 (Unaccompanied Effects Form). This document is to be completed by you, once your shipment arrives in Australia. It’s important to note, that your signature on this form is required to match the one on your passport (more info).


Copy of Passport


When submitting a copy of your passport to customs, they need to see that the first page bears your signature and the date. You may also need to provide a copy of every page in your passport (this depends upon the port or point of entry). In addition, customs requires that you write out a statement, attesting that it’s a true copy of your passport.


Comprehensive Inventory


Australian customs also requires a comprehensive inventory or packing list, and this should be written in English. You must provide a full list of any items, that you’ve not owned for a minimum of one year (the requirement for duty exemption). Also, if any of your belongings are less than a year old, you must include receipts for these items.

Finally, receipts are required for all electronic goods in your shipment, regardless of their age.

Bear in mind that you’re not allowed to use abbreviations or summaries on your detailed inventory, such as the common terms “miscellaneous” or “packed by owner.”


Additional Documentation


Your Original Bill of Lading or Air Waybill should also be given to customs, as well as an Australian Commercial Invoice. This document is used to calculate the import duties and taxes owed on your shipment.


Import Duties For Your Vehicle


After relocation to Australia, you'll see kangaroos :)

One of the primary considerations when deciding whether to ship your car to a new country, are the import duties and taxes which will be charged. Unfortunately, vehicles are not granted any duty or tax exemption by Australian customs. The one exception to this rule, are vehicles that are at least 30 years old.

In addition to import duty, your vehicle will incur Goods and Services Tax (GST). Both duty and GST are based upon the value of your vehicle, as determined by Australian customs. Further, if your vehicle is quite valuable, then you’ll be forced to pay the added Luxury Car Tax as well.


Regulations For Your Vehicle


After relocation to Australia, you'll see the Twelve Apostles


Importing a vehicle into Australia isn’t an easy process, as it’s tightly controlled. Your vehicle is required to adhere to Australian Design Regulations – which are quite strict. These regulations typically mean that you must modify your vehicle, before it’s acceptable for import. When modifications are required, only an accredited Australian mechanic is permitted to do the work – and this can be expensive.


Import Permit


The Federal Office of Road Safety in Canberra must issue you a permit to import your vehicle, before you’re even allowed to ship it from the origin country. Whether this is in addition to the vehicle import approval that must be obtained from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development isn’t clear. Therefore, the best course of action is to speak to Australian customs directly.


Consequences For Failure To Comply


If your vehicle shows up in an Australian point or port of entry without the required vehicle import approval – the consequences will be severe. At best, the vehicle will be denied entry and shipped back to the origin country. At worst, it will be destroyed. You could also be fined as much as $13,000 Australian dollars.

If you fail to obtain vehicle import approval, this cannot be issued once it arrives in the country. You must get this paperwork squared away beforehand, to avoid any issues.




The vehicle’s exterior is required to undergo a full steam cleaning, and be sure that the undercarriage is cleaned as well. The interior must also be vacuumed, and the vehicle will be fully examined by Australian Quarantine Inspections Services (AQIS) once it reaches the country.


Owner Requirements


You must meet certain requirements as the vehicle’s owner, for it to be eligible for importation. First, you must have owned it for a minimum of the last year. Second, you must be at least eligible (if you don’t already have one) for a driver’s license. Third, you cannot have imported any other vehicles within the last year. Fourth, you must either have started the process to become a citizen of Australia – or have applied for permanent residency.


Road Safety Regulations


The vehicle being imported is required to fulfill the current road safety regulations before it can be registered for operation on the roadways within Australia.


Paperwork For Your Vehicle


First, you’ll need to obtain a vehicle import permit from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. According to experienced international vehicle shipping company A1 Auto Transport, due to the complexities involved – you’ll also need to work with a Registered Automotive Workshop member or an individual approved by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Next, you’ll need to submit the purchase invoice or receipt for the vehicle and the registration from the origin country. Your international driver’s permit, valid Australian visa and passport are also required. You’ll also need an import declaration, which the moving company or third-party broker you’re using should fill out. Additional documentation showing your ownership of the vehicle may also be needed.

The vehicle’s title from the origin country and proof of insurance are required as well. A report detailing the vehicle’s current condition and a police report (both from your origin country) should also be provided. Finally, a Formal Customs Entry and your log books detailing any vehicle maintenance and other such records should be given to customs.

For help moving to Australia, contact A-1 Auto Transport.

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