Australia has always been an ideal holiday location. Not only can we tour our own backyard and experience sites and scenes not available in any other part of the world. But people from all over the globe want to travel here and explore this great country too. And one option for this is in an RV. Did you know we can import RV’s into Australia? However, RV owners and users usually get lost in understanding the right importing procedure. Well here’s a complete step-by-step guide!
The two main goals
- Choose how your vehicle will be imported
- Apply online
- Prepare and submit the required documents
- Receive your Vehicle Import Approval
- Prepare your vehicle for import
- Send your vehicle for import and complete all customs requirements
- Arrival of your vehicle in Australia
- Plate your vehicle
- Register your vehicle
Left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles
Import of vehicles from External Territories
Import of RVs that were built by converting imported vehicles
Check a vehicle’s safety history
As an RV owner who wants to import their RV into Australia, your ultimate goal would be to get a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA). The secondary is the registration with one of the state Road Registration Authorities if you live in Australia or a returning resident. Here you will learn step-by-step the ways to obtain both a VIA and the vehicle registration.
|Note:||This post is intended to guide individuals on how to import their RVs or caravans to Australia. Hence, it excludes import processes for agents and manufacturers since they are already (if not, most likely) familiar with it anyway.|
Aside from the two main goals described above, there are shipping and import requirements and fees that must be complied with and paid for. But to give you an overview, the government agencies you will have to get in touch with are the:
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications – for technical and eligibility requirements of your vehicle
- Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment – for cleanliness requirements of your vehicle and packaging materials
- Australian Border Force – for customs/logistics requirements
|Important Note:||Australia has been using the MVSA framework for determining vehicle compliance. However, the MVSA will be entirely replaced by the RVSA effective 1 July 2021. So while this transition is being commenced, expect updates to the import requirements and processes.|
As far as RVs and caravans are concerned, here are the options to choose from in accordance with the Transport Department’s guidelines:
TEMPORARY IMPORT OPTIONS
|Carnet||For visitors who are to import their vehicles for ≤12 months. This is acquired in the applicant’s country of residence. However, those in the USA must apply from Canada’s platform instead.
|You may re-import your carnet-approved vehicle using the same VIA, but only during the carnet’s 12-month validity.|
|Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)||Vehicles imported by members of a visiting force||SOFA-approved vehicles may stay in Australia only during the importer’s temporary posting.|
PERMANENT IMPORT OPTIONS
|Letter of Compliance||Vehicles that are certified to be compliant with the Australian Design Rules (ADR) when they were released outside Australia.
|The RVCS site lists the authorities that are allowed to issue a Letter of Compliance.|
|Personal Import||For migrants or returning residents planning to settle in Australia PERMANENTLY and bring in their vehicle which they have owned for ≥12 valid months.||You can file your application up to six months after arriving in Australia.
New Zealand citizens are entitled to stay in Australia permanently.
|Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle (SEV)||RVs listed in the Register of SEV. The latest list though is the Interim SEV register.
You may apply for your RV to be included in the register, but it would be tedious and impractical for an individual importer.
|This is just a pre-requisite of the RAWS option. Therefore, you cannot be approved for a VIA using SEV only.|
|Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS)
|Vehicles manufactured after 1 January 1989, and have been driven on public roads.||You basically hire one of the accredited RAWS dealers to import and certify your vehicle as “safe for use in Australia”.|
|Australian Plated Vehicles||Australia-bought vehicles that are to be re-imported to the country.||The vehicle must not have changed its plate (i.e. modified) while overseas.
|Small Road Trailers||Caravans with an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) of ≤4.5 tonnes.||Caravans originally manufactured to have an ATM of ≤4.5t are also eligible.
|Vehicles manufactured before 1989||Vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1989||Heavily modified vehicles might not be considered as fit for this category anymore.
|Vehicles older than 25 years||RVs that are >25 years old, manufactured after 1989, and with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of ≤4.5t.||If your RV’s build date identifies only the year, it is automatically presumed that the build month is December.
Note: The term “vehicle” includes both RVs and caravans.
If it seems that your RV or caravan does not fit any of the options above, you may apply for Discretionary Approval. Naturally, you have to provide a letter of explanation why your vehicle must be approved. And, of course, corresponding pieces of evidence to prove your case.
Well, guess what? There is an easier way for you to decide! Take the Department’s online quiz to determine which option is best for you.
As an individual applicant, you can either lodge the application yourself or hire an agent.
- Create an online account within the Department’s portal.
- Once confirmed, log in to your account and click the “Enter New Application” tab.
- Select your desired import option, and then fill up the relevant form/s. You may always save any unfinished form/s for you to resume later on.
- Upon completion and submission of the forms, pay an application fee of $50.
- The Department will assess your application and get back to you via email for any questions or additional requirements. Failing to promptly respond may result in the rejection of your application.
- When all requirements are complete, the Department will process your application within 20 working days. Thus, occasionally check online the status of your application.
USING AN AGENT
The “agent” you may hire can either be a private or freelance agent. The first is usually a family member or a friend, and the second being customs brokers or freight forwarders.
Whichever agent you hire, the first step is the same as that for Self-Application. However,
- If you choose a private agent: Provide a letter of authorisation as proof of giving your agent the power to act on your behalf. Fortunately, the Department has provided a sample.
- If you choose a freelance agent: Do step 1 yourself and nominate there the agent you’ll hire. That’s the only time when the agent can start working. Note that this agent must have been Department-registered.
|Precaution:||The Department does not verify nor endorse “registered agents”. Thus, applicants must still check whether an agent suits their requirements and preferences.|
Such documents vary by the import option you choose. The portal provides a list of these. But to have an overview, click the import option links from step 1.
|Useful tip for visitors who plan to drive their (customs-cleared) imported vehicle to Western Australia:
You need to acquire a temporary movement permit and (at no cost) an overseas visitor’s permit.
Expect an email from the Department confirming whether your application is approved or refused.
When your application is approved, you will receive your Vehicle Import Approval along with the email notification in step 3. Read carefully the conditions described in your VIA as you have to abide by these during the entire import period.
|Useful Tip:||For vehicles approved under the Carnet and SOFA pathways, the Transport Department won’t issue a VIA. Instead, it will just issue a statement of approval of your vehicle as Carnet CPD or SOFA.|
Choose an approved arrangement site in Australia where your vehicle is supposed to land. Either your customs broker or the freight forwarder will provide the list of the Department-approved arrangement sites. The ABF suggests you hire one of the Department-registered customs brokers especially if it’s your first time importing a vehicle to the country.
Now the next step primarily involves the cleanliness requirements for your RV or caravan. Why? In order to prevent any foreign bio-contaminant from entering Australia. Besides, isn’t it but natural to clear your vehicle of rubbish prior to transport? Anyway, as previously mentioned, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment regulates these requirements.
Conditioning your vehicle for import (usually as break-bulk goods) is not easy but is a must.
- Steam clean your vehicle and remove anything that may cause biosecurity risk. Take special attention to your:
- Wheels, muffler, wheel/mudguards (replace cracked tyres)
- Engine bay and radiator
- Vehicle’s nooks and crannies
- Vents and window/door seals
- Storage compartments
- Clean the interior of your vehicle, making sure that there aren’t any soil, mud, twigs, etc.
- Remove the gas from your air conditioner. Check if you require an import licence for ozone-depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases.
- Test your vehicle for asbestos and remove if there are any. Visit the ABF guidelines.
- Empty your water reservoirs except for the radiator.
If you declare your vehicle as “new”, then all its parts must also be new. You won’t have to steam clean it unless you find any contaminant. In addition to the Used Vehicles requirements, you must back your declaration with the evidence required by the Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON).
VEHICLES FOR TEMPORARY IMPORT
The BICON lists additional special requirements for temporary import vehicles (e.g. carnet import).
|Useful Tip:||You may choose offshore vehicle cleaning instead by hiring a Department-approved treatment provider. You will then have to submit a manifest endorsed by that treatment provider prior to shipping. Acquiring this service does not allow your vehicle to skip the inspection in step 7, but gives you a discounted inspection fee.|
Consequently, your container and packaging must be clean as per BICON requirements.
|Advisory:||Vehicles shipped by sea between 1 September 2020 and 30 April 2021, and arriving in Australia by 31 May 2021 must meet additional seasonal requirements.|
By this time you must complete customs fees before your vehicle arrives in Australia. If you opted to not hire a customs broker, you can personally submit either an:
- Bill of lading or air waybill
- Commercial documents (invoices)
- Evidence of your identity
- Permits or approvals for the goods
- Other relevant documents.
Additionally, you may edit or withdraw your transaction by mailing to email@example.com. Remember also to keep all the presented documents for 5 years.
TRANSPORT FEES, TAXES, INSURANCE AND IMPORT DUTIES
The ABF determines these fees by valuating your vehicle after you have submitted these:
- All purchase documents
- Bills of sale
- Registration papers
- Service records
- Bill of Lading, and
- Any other supporting documents
Conversely, concessional rates may apply to special cases, for example:
- Australian Plated Vehicles. See items 17 and 20 of the list.
- SOFA vehicles. See item 11 of the list.
- Vehicles imported by diplomats and similarly privileged individuals
Goods and Services Tax may also apply.
|Note:||You don’t have to calculate the above fees. Instead, the ABF will issue an Outstanding Payment Advice upon processing your N10/N20.|
Please contact the ABF as there might be additional requirements specific to your case.
- Present all relevant documents to customs.
- A biosecurity officer will inspect your vehicle at your chosen arrangement site. After that, the officer will declare your vehicle either risk-free, lightly contaminated or heavily contaminated. Whichever the case, extra costs incurred will be charged to you.
- Lightly contaminated vehicles will be cleaned again onsite.
- Heavily contaminated ones will most likely be sent back to the country of origin.
- Moreover, customs officers will secure your vehicle if you have declared your vehicle as “new” but was found otherwise. They will then apply the inspection criteria for “used vehicles” and not those for “new vehicles”.
- The Environmental Department provided guidelines for the charges on their services – for instance, the biosecurity inspection mentioned above.
- When everything is clear, your vehicle can now be released.
If your importing RV under the Personal Import or Letter of Compliance options, then register your RV after importing. This will enable you to legally drive your vehicle on the public roads of the Land Down Under.
But even before registering, you must change first the plate of your vehicle to an Australian one.
This applies to some temporary import vehicles and to all permanent import vehicles.
VEHICLES UNDER THE PERSONAL IMPORT OPTION
- Obtain and fill in the Endorsement of Compliance Certificate.
- Acquire the services of an AVE (CVC, for example) to inspect and certify the compliance of your vehicle to Australia’s national standards.
- Accomplish any other requirements relayed to you by your relevant state or territory upon contacting them.
- Submit the signed endorsement to the plate supplier either by post or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Attach this with the information below. The name of the applicant shown on the plate must be the same as that in the VIA. In case not, inform the plate supplier ahead of time.
- Change of address form (Letter of Authority/Payments Options also, if applicable)
- Photo ID – either driver’s licence or passport
- Phone number
- Payment of $102.30 either via Visa, MasterCard, Amex, direct deposit or money order
- Wait for the compliance plate to be delivered to your nominated address.
- Install the plate as per the issued instruction manual.
|Useful Tip:||The Department will most likely require your (left-hand drive) vehicle to be converted to right-hand drive. Just a heads-up: this is an expensive modification work!|
VEHICLES UNDER THE LETTER OF COMPLIANCE OPTION
The procedure is the same as that for vehicles under the personal import option, except that:
- You won’t need to submit an Endorsement Certificate and an AVE certification, and
- You’ll have to pay $83.60 instead
Although a guideline is available below, I urge you to know what exactly will be needed by contacting the Transport Department of your relevant state or territory of residence.
Personal Import vehicles need not comply with all applicable ADRs as with a normal Australian vehicle. Even so, each state/territory defines the minimum compliance standards for registration. This is called the “roadworthiness” requirements which are based on important ADRs and on VSB14.
|Useful Tip:||You have to hire an approved vehicle examiner (AVE) to examine and certify your vehicle as “roadworthy”. Having this certificate means that your vehicle can be registered in your target Australian state/territory of residence. Further, states and territories refer to AVEs using different terms. For instance, VSCCS in New South Wales and VASS in Victoria.|
CVC is an Approved Vehicle Examiner and can provide certification to all Australian states and territories for a wide variety of vehicle types, including RVs and caravans.
To give you a general idea of how an AVE will inspect and certify your RV as roadworthy, the Department has provided a fillable vehicle inspection report. But for any imported vehicle, one of the main concerns RV owners ask is,
“Will the state or territory accept a left-hand drive vehicle?”
Details for this are provided in the next section.
Listed here are links to the registration fees per state/territory.
|SA||ACT / JBT|
The Department generally accepts only SOFA and Carnet LHD vehicles in the case of temporary imports. While for permanent imports, conditions apply (see table below).
In order to properly interpret the table below, familiarise yourself with these terms first:
- Light vehicle (LV) – a motor vehicle with a GVM of ≤4.5t, or a trailer with an ATM of ≤4.5t
- Heavy vehicle (HV) – a motor vehicle with a GVM >4.5t, or a trailer with an ATM of >4.5t
GVM means “Gross Vehicle Mass”, while ATM means “Aggregate Trailer Mass”.
|Note:||Contact also the NHVR for any additional requirements if your RV or caravan falls under the “heavy vehicle” category.|
||IMPORT MEANS OF THE LEFT-HAND DRIVE VEHICLE||IMPORTED LHD HEAVY VEHICLES
|Pre-1989 Vehicle||Personal Import|
|NSW||Allowed only on LV ≥30 years old|
|SA||Allowed only on LV ≥30 years old||Contact the state|
|VIC||Allowed only on LV ≥30 years old||Allowed under the carnet import, provided that you put a signage in your vehicle indicating this condition|
|NT||Allowed only on LV >25 years old*||Allowed for LV||This is an exception for the meantime only|
|QLD||Allowed only on LV ≥25 years old||Contact the state||Allowed under the carnet import.*||You need to acquire a LHD permit as well from the NHVR.|
|TAS||The state advises to contact them for details|
|ACT||Contact the territory for details|
|WA||The state advises to contact them for details|
* means “see Notes column”
|Useful Tip:||In WA, Australian residents may import left-hand drive light vehicles that are 16 to 29 years old.|
A VIA is still required when importing RV from Australian external territories to Australia. Conversely, it’s not a requirement anymore when importing RV from Australia to an external territory.
Note though that Christmas Island, Cocos Islands and Norfolk Island have their own biosecurity requirements when importing RV to those territories.
RVs that fit this description must comply with the Transport Department’s Administrative Circular 0-4-12.
The Transport Department continues to process vehicle import applications but prefers to have customer queries sent via email rather than phone calls. To know which email address to send your query to, proceed to their webpage.
Check a vehicle’s safety history
Now, if you’re planning on sourcing your RV for North America, here’s what you need to do first before buying any vehicle. A MUST do is this cool platform to check a vehicle’s safety called, VINCheckPro. What it does is that it provides you with a detailed report on the safety history of a specific vehicle. For example: car owner details, past accident involvements, safety issues encountered in the past, and even cost-related details.
It’s helpful especially if you’re planning on buying a new vehicle, including RVs and caravans. That is because most of the time, vehicle manufacturers publicly provide only the basic specifications. But through VINCheckPro you can see all the important information you need to know about the very vehicle you want to check.
As people say,
Prevention is better than cure.
So a little cash out for vehicle information is nothing compared to the guaranteed safety you can obtain as a result. Just enter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and you’re all set!
Having had to lay all these for you, I can see the great benefit in hiring agents to do the work. This approach is truly useful especially if it’s your first time importing your RV or if you don’t have that much free time. There’s just nothing you should miss out on in all stages of the import process. Still, it is a great feat to be able to successfully import your vehicle to the country and register it!