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Alerts provide information about significant changes to import conditions. Keep informed of alerts by following individual import cases.

Temporary changes to document requirements for imports of animals, biological and animal based goods

Effective from 10 April 2020

Who does this alert affect:
Importers of animals, biological and animal based goods.
This temporary change is relevant to the use of original paper health certificates (HCs). It does not apply to countries that already provide original HCs in electronic format.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the movement of airfreight and courier mail in multiple countries.

This has led some exporting country Competent Authorities to advise the department that they are unable to provide original paper-based HCs with import consignments of animals, biological and animal based goods.

Interim arrangements:
Where an importer has previously supplied an original paper HC from the exporting country Competent Authority but is now unable to do so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s biosecurity officers will accept an electronic copy of the HC as lodged by customs brokers through our standard lodgement process.

Our biosecurity officers may in some cases request verification of documentation directly from the exporting country Competent Authority or use an online tool provided by that authority to authenticate documents.

This temporary arrangement will be in place until 30 June 2022. Stakeholders will be notified of any extension to this arrangement closer to this date.

The department will pursue any evidence of fraudulent documentation as per our standard practice.

Please note:

  • Please do not email HC copies to the mail box. Our inspection officers will access documents submitted through our Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS).
  • If the department requires verification of documentation, biosecurity officers will:

    • request, via the importer or customs broker, that the exporting country Competent Authority email documents directly to our relevant regional office, or
    • use an online tool managed by the exporting country Competent Authority.
  • Where a paper original is issued by the exporting country Competent Authority, we recommend that it is attached to the goods and/or consignments to minimise potential delays at inspection.

Eligibility for interim arrangements:
To be eligible, your import consignment must meet the following conditions:

  • the exporting country Competent Authority does not already use an electronic means of transferring HCs, and
  • the exporting country Competent Authority has asked to use alternatives to original paper HCs, and
  • they have provided a point of contact, or an online tool so that we can verify the electronic copy before releasing the goods. This information can be emailed to us at (note, we will only accept information provided by an official government email address).

Further information:
If you have questions or need further information, you can contact our Import Services team on:

  • email at
  • phone (from within Australia): 1800 900 090
  • phone (from outside Australia): + 61 3 8318 6700.

Also visit the department’s COVID-19 information hub for current information and advice on changes to our services due to COVID-19.

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