Importing plant research material

​Types of plant research material

Plant research material may include:

  • seeds, plants, tissue cultures and fresh or dried plant material (including genetically modified plant material)
  • preserved plant material
  • plant pathogens (infectious microorganisms that cause disease in plants, including bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, phytoplasmas, viroids and viruses)
  • plant material infected with plant pathogens
  • diagnostic kits
  • microorganisms for in-vivo use in plants
  • DNA and RNA from plants and plant pathogens
  • biological control agents (BCAs) for plants and plant pests (invertebrates or microorganisms used to control weeds, plant pathogens or invertebrate plant pests)
  • plant symbiotic microorganisms
  • Drosophila fly
  • invertebrate and nematode species known to be plant pests or with the potential to be plant pests (organisms that cause disease, spoilage, or damage to plants)

Plant research material is often imported for either in vitro or in vivo use.

  • In vitro use: laboratory/glasshouse research where material is analysed (and may be grown) but is not exposed to live plants or animals.
  • In vivo use: laboratory/glasshouse research where material is exposed to plants, animals or microorganisms.

How to import plant research material

Prior to import

Permits issued will specify the conditions that must be met, including whether the imported material must undergo any treatments or whether the material may only be used in an approved arrangement site.

Sending the material

  • Securely package and label the material according to the permit requirements. Some research material will need to be labelled with the scientific name.
  • Mark consignments “Attention Biosecurity” on the outside of the package.
  • Attach all required documentation securely to the outside of the package or present it at the time of clearance. The documentation required will be specified on the import permit and/or in BICON, and may include a permit (or a permit number), an invoice, manufacturer’s declarations, supplier’s declarations and/or other certification.
  • Declare all consignments of plant research material (as per the table below)

Arrival mode



Accompanied baggage through the airport

  1. Declare the items on your ‘Incoming passenger card’.
  2. Present the goods to a biosecurity officer for inspection, along with a copy of your import permit.
  3. Ensure you are given a Quarantine Entry from the biosecurity officer if your import permit has this as a permit requirement.


Mail, airfreight and sea freight

Fill out the appropriate declarations when sending the consignment.


Ensure imported material arrives to you with a Quarantine Entry. If it doesn’t have one, secure the material and contact your Regional Office.


After arrival

The biosecurity requirements for research material do not end once the material has arrived in Australia. You will need to read and comply with all import permit conditions. Permit conditions may specify details including:

  • Treatments: Some imported material may require treatment prior to use, or whilst in the QAP to minimise their biosecurity risk. The import conditions for any mandatory treatments will be listed in the import permit and must be followed.
  • Post-entry containment: Import permit conditions for plant material and seeds for research purposes may require containment in an approved arrangement site​, such as a laboratory or glasshouse. The required level of containment will be stated on the import permit.
  • End Use: Imported material will be approved for a particular end use (based on the information you provide in the permit application) and can only be used according to permit conditions. Importers must apply to plant imports for any change in end use.
  • Inspections: Some imported material may need to undergo mandatory inspection by biosecurity officers during its use in your QAP. Your import permit will specify if you need to arrange any inspections with your Regional Office and when these need to occur.
  • Releasing material: In some circumstances, imported materials undergo treatments or procedures within the QAP that reduce their biosecurity risk. Under such circumstances the imported materials might be approved for release – your import permit will specify whether the material you import is approved for release.
  • After permit expiry: most imported material can continue to be used past the permit’s expiry date subject to the conditions listed on the import permit.