I thought I should join up and contribute seeing a few members from here have now been in contact with me regarding importing, and given that many of you seem to be asking the same questions, I thought it best to jump on and keep everything in the one spot so it can be discussed. So here are the FAQs related to bringing your car with you to Australia as a personal import :)
1. Firstly the relevant legislation (abridged to suit PIO members):
The Personal Imports Scheme allows migrants settling in Australia, to bring their personal vehicles with them.
The Personal Imports Scheme is outlined at regulation 13 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989. Mandatory criteria apply under the scheme. These criteria are outlined below. The criteria are strictly enforced. If you fail to meet the criteria, you will not be eligible to import a vehicle under the scheme.
Criteria, ownership of the vehicle
Applicants must satisfy each of the following ownership requirements. You must:
• own the vehicle when submitting the application; and
• have acquired ownership of the vehicle from overseas; and
• have owned the vehicle while overseas; and
• have owned the vehicle for a continuous period of at least 12 months. This is the “qualifying period”.
The qualifying period must have occurred immediately before you (permanently) arrived in Australia.
Criteria, use of the vehicle
The vehicle must have been available to you for use in transport. This means that the vehicle must have been available to be driven by you, at all times during the 12 month qualifying period. The vehicle should be registered (in your name) and garaged (proximate to your residence) throughout the 12 month qualifying period, so that you could, if needed, drive the vehicle. In addition, you must have held an appropriate licence to drive the vehicle overseas.
Criteria, citizenship and visa requirements
Applicants must fall into one of the following categories. You must:
• have applied to become an Australian citizen; or
• be an Australian permanent resident (eg, hold a permanent visa); or
• have applied to become an Australian permanent resident (eg, applied for a permanent visa); or
• hold a visa that allows you to apply to become an Australian permanent resident (eg, hold a temporary visa that allows you to apply for a permanent visa)
In addition, applicants must intend to change their residence. Applicants must have been resident in a foreign country (throughout the qualifying period of 12 months’ ownership and use of the vehicle) but now intend to become Australian residents on a permanent basis and remain in Australia indefinitely.
Documents to be provided by the applicant
To apply for a vehicle import approval under the Personal Imports Scheme, you should provide the following (to the Department) in the first instance:
• a completed Application for a Personally Imported Vehicle;
• the application fee – $50 Australian dollars, by cheque, money order or credit card (MasterCard or Visa only). If paying by cheque from overseas, please seek advice from your bank on the correct procedure;
• a copy of your driver’s licence;
• a copy of the purchase documents for the vehicle, in your name;
• a copy of the registration documents for the vehicle (for the qualifying period), in your name;
• a statement of travel. The statement of travel is prepared by you, and itemises any international travel you undertook during the qualifying period. In particular, the statement sets out any absences from your country of residence. If travel was for business reasons, you should supply a letter to that effect from your employer; and
• a copy of your passport (this includes a copy of every page, including blank pages). If you hold dual passports, you should produce a copy of both passports.
Applicants may substantiate an intention to remain in Australia indefinitely, by establishing:
• your employment details, such as a letter from your Australian employer;
• a rental agreement / purchase agreement for your residential property in Australia;
• the shipment of your household goods to Australia;
• the enrolment of your children in an Australian school;
• your Australian telephone / electricity accounts;
• the sale of your residential property in your former country of residence;
• the cancellation of your residential rental property in your former country of residence; and
• your resignation from employment in your former country of residence.
In addition, foreign citizens settling in Australia may substantiate an intention to remain in Australia
indefinitely, by providing evidence that they have:
• applied for an Australian Tax File Number;
• registered with Medicare;
• applied for Australian medical insurance;
• applied to open an Australian bank account; and
• applied for an Australian driver’s licence.
Importing Vehicles to Australia – Information Brochure (VSB10) 18
These lists are a guide. You may also be required to provide further evidence, including:
• a copy of insurance documents for the vehicle;
• copies of other documents that support your purchase of the vehicle (such as bank statements,
receipts from vendors); and
• copies of other documents that show you used the vehicle (such as receipts for any maintenance orrepairs made to the vehicle).
You may be required to submit original documentation (not photocopies) to confirm eligibility under the scheme.
Form to use for applying for a Personal Import
All Import-related information is in here, if you'd like more info:
Importing Vehicles to Australia - General Information
Is importing worth it? This is the $64m question of course! Going through the importing process for cars is not for the faint hearted, mainly because of the red tape you have to conquer.
If you absolutely love your car and can't bear to part with it, then obviously you're going to choose to import it regardless of what I say, and that's fine, I've brought in many cars over the years that don't make any sense from a financial standpoint.
If you've heard rumours that bringing cars to Australia is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, then I would encourage you to do some further research before going through the rigmarole of applying for import approval.
If your car is sold in Australia already, then I suggest you check what it is worth here on this website:
Car Prices - Search Car Prices & Values Online - Red Book
You may well find that you go to an awful lot of effort and expense to bring a car here, only to find that it is worth less here than what it owes you, particularly if it is a fairly basic model.
If you're bringing over something more upmarket, then there is potential for profit, particularly if the car you happen to own is a model that can't enter the country any other way and is therefore desirable to astute collectors here. Feel free to ask if you aren't sure whether your car falls into this category.
Why are Australian governments such ar$eholes? Dealing with them on a daily basis, I regularly wonder this myself!
The personal import regulations have been tightened recently in response to dodgy businesses here rorting the system to make as much money as possible, by contacting ex-pat Aussies living overseas and effectively paying them to have cars registered in their names. This, of course, is not the intention of the scheme - it's not set up so that Aussies can send back cars every year and make money on them.
Like most governments, Australian governments have never met a dollar they didn't like, and so when you import any goods over $1000 into Australia, you're going to get hit with 5% stamp duty on the cost of the car and its shipping charges THEN get another 10% GST charged on the cost of the car, its shipping charges and the 5% stamp duty - yes, you pay tax on a tax...
Not only that, the state government will also get you for stamp duty of approximately 4% of the vehicle's value when the time comes to register it here. As you can see, they all do quite nicely out of importers.
When should I apply for import approval? As soon as you've met the criteria for importing, or as soon as you have your visa. DON'T make the mistake of waiting until you're about to come over to Australia! Our government has a long history of making running changes to legislation without letting anyone know.
On the DIT website you'll see something written about 17 working day turnaround times - this is rubbish, expect up to 5 or 6 weeks. The section that processes applications is terminally (and in my opinion deliberately) understaffed, and you see that the 17 day processing time doesn't include peak periods, and they always manage to find a reason for slower processing (at the moment, it's the strong AUD v USD making everyone buy US cars...)
Which companies do insurance for personal imports? When most mainstream insurance companies in Australia hear the 'i' word (import), they will smile and show you the door. If your car is a model already sold in Australia, do NOT mention it is a personal import. There's nothing underhanded or illegal about doing this, so don't worry you're not breaking the law, you're just avoiding confusion on their end.
If your car is rare or unusual, I recommend Car Insurance for car enthusiasts and owners of classic and vintage cars - Shannons , or if you're under 25 Car Insurance for Young Drivers and Modified Cars - Just Car Insurance In the interests of ethical probity, I have all my cars insured through Shannons - they offer big reductions if you have multiple vehicles or home insurance through them too.
Air conditioning - what needs to be done? When you read the Department of Environment and Heritage's website, you'll read that no vehicle can be imported into Australia with R12 gas, which doesn't apply to many people these days.
Most of us have R134a, which is still regarded as an ozone-depleting substance, and therefore, to bring a car in with R134a still in the aircon system, the importer must have the appropriate licence to do this - back in the old days, it was only $50 to get the licence, but because of recent changes, it has now jumped to $600. I should point out that the wait to actually get a licence is horrendous too.
The alternative is to make sure your air-con is de-gassed before it leaves the UK. I'm not sure what your local mechanic would charge you to do this, but I doubt it would be much more than 20 or 30 pounds. From there, they need to sign the relevant paperwork to show that it has been done (I can send you the form for this), and then you give this form and the tax invoice from the mechanic to your customs broker in Australia. Re-gassing costs around $100AUD so you still end up miles in front compared to getting the $600 licence.
Market value vs customs value -
For personal imports, cars are generally valued independently once they arrive in Australia. This is done by a licenced valuer, at a cost of $200 or so (nice work if you can get it!).
There is a good reason for this - if you paid $50,000 for your car and had owned it for 5 years, it would be unfair to tax you on the original purchase price. So it makes sense.
The valuer is required to provide a customs value, not a market value. In virtually every case, the customs value is a much lower figure than market value.
Just for fun, I'll do a hypothetical scenario with a 2007 Jaguar XK convertible, purchased new by whoever is bringing it in.
Market value for one sold new in Australia is now $105,000-115,000AUD
Customs value (I'm no expert at this, but I know these are the rough figures used for depreciation!)
Purchase cost - £69,900 ($158,000 AUD based on an exchange rate of 1AUD=44p back in 2007)
Three years' depreciation at 22% per year brings the value down to $75389, THEN another 20% approx is reduced to take into consideration an imported vehicle being worth less than its equivalent locally sold model in Australia.
Customs value is $60,311.
Like I said, don't quote me on those percentages I've used, but they're in the right ball park, which should help some of you with your calculations for taxes and customs duty.