Importing Vehicles into Australia

COVID-19 and Vehicle Imports

The following is an update on the department’s arrangements surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The department is working to protect and support staff while continuing to deliver the critical programs and services of this department and portfolio agencies.

While we will continue to provide our essential services and keep things as normal as possible, we are conscious that things need to change as we adapt to new ways of doing business.

The department has a robust continuity plan in place and we have been testing our arrangements to ensure work from home measures are effective and provide minimal disruption to you and to the services we provide.

The department remains open and we have implemented measures to mitigate risks arising from Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly as we increasingly move ta home-based workforce.

  • We will continue to receive applications, undertake assessments and issue approvals via the:
    • Road Vehicle Certification System (RVCS),
    • Vehicle Imports System (VIS); and
    • Registered Automotive Workshop system (RAWS)
  • We are testing our ability to run these systems remotely and are confident we can continue to provide a similar level of service while working remotely.
  • Remote working will impact our ability to manage our call centre, and we ask that you email your enquiries to the relevant area (see email links below), rather than make phone calls. Our client services team can assist you with your enquiry and call you back if required.
  • We will also continue to monitor our other email inboxes that support your business as usual activities.

We thank you for your support and understanding as we work through these challenging times together. We will continue to maintain an open line of communication, and will provide timely updates if there are any material changes made tour working arrangements.

Do not import a vehicle into Australia before obtaining a vehicle import approval

The importation of a road vehicle (that is nonstandard or does not have an identification plate) without a vehicle import approval is prohibited under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. It is an offence with a maximum penalty of 120 penalty units (refer to the Crimes Act 1914 Section 4 for current penalty unit values).

The importation of vehicles to Australia is prohibited except in very specific circumstances. Most vehicles are imported by large manufacturers that invest substantially in research and development to ensure that every new vehicle meets minimum safety standards that maintain the safest possible environment for all road users and our community. Manufacturers wanting to import vehicles to Australia for supply must first obtain an identification plate approval. Information on this process is available from the Department’s Road Vehicle Certification Scheme website.

Approved companies known as Registered Automotive Workshops (RAWs) may import a limited range of used vehicles on behalf of individuals. To find out if your make and model of vehicle is currently eligible for processing by a RAW, search the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) register. If your vehicle type is on the SEVS register you may be able to find a RAW that will import it for you by using the Search for a RAW facility on the RAWS Website. If your vehicle type is not on the search for a RAW or the SEVS register you could contact a RAW that processes similar vehicles to yours or apply to have the vehicle added to the SEVS register. Instructions for applying for SEVS is available on the SEVS website. Eligibility for SEVS is only the first step in the process of having your vehicle imported to Australia. Please be aware that vehicles imported by RAWs must undergo a range of modifications and maintenance procedures to ensure that they meet minimum safety and environmental standards. You will be charged for this work and the costs of importation by the RAW.

Individuals can also apply to import vehicles to Australia. The Department administers legislation setting out when an import approval may be issued. More information is available on the Import Options and Eligibility Assessment pages.

A Vehicle Import Approval is required to import a vehicle. The vehicle will not be released from customs control by the Australian Border Force (ABF) unless it has a Vehicle Import Approval. All costs incurred in this process are the responsibility of the importer. Please note that some vehicles from overseas may contain components that include asbestos. The importation of asbestos is prohibited in almost all circumstances. For more information, please refer to the ABF website. It is important to note that these requirements relate to vehicles designed soley or principally for the transportation of people, animals or goods on public roads. For vehicles that are not designed for road use, import approvals are not required, however a positive assessment of this through the Vehicle Import application process will ensure the clearance of your vehicle by the ABF.

An application for a Vehicle Import Approval, with all necessary supporting documentation will generally be assessed by the Department within 20 working days of receipt (including payment of the lodgment fee). This process will take longer if the necessary supporting documentation is not initially provided, if the original application is incomplete or any further information or clarification is required.

Obtaining a Vehicle Import Approval is only one step in the process of importing a vehicle into Australia. Depending on the type of vehicle, the processes may be complex, involve several organisations, and take many weeks. For an overview of the process, read the 8 steps to import a vehicle.


The information provided on this page should be used as guidance material only for importing a vehicle into Australia. Please familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation prior to lodging an application.

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