Australian Border Force Customs Border Holds: What You Need to Know

Customs border holds performed by the Australian Border Force (ABF) can pose a significant obstacle to importers. When the ABF needs further details, documentation, or proof to release your shipment after suspecting that your items may violate Australian customs laws, a customs border hold occurs. The ABF reserves the right to hold goods deemed to pose a threat to the environment, public safety, or national security. Let’s take a look at why there are customs border holds, how they affect your business, and how you can avoid or resolve them.

What are Possible Reasons for a Customs Border Hold?

The ABF may hold imported goods for further inspection for a number of different reasons. The type of items, the country of origin, and the degree of compliance with your shipment are all factors that can affect a customs border hold. Here are a few possible causes:

  1. Documentation Issues: ​​If the documentation for imported products is incorrect, lacking, or otherwise questionable, the ABF has the right to hold goods while it conducts more investigation.
  2. Customs Compliance Issues: If imported products do not comply with Australian customs regulations, laws, or standards, the ABF may hold the commodities for additional examination. This includes erroneous value declarations, incorrect labeling or packaging, and illegal goods like restricted or forbidden chemicals.
  3. Public Health and Environmental Risks: If the ABF has reason to believe that goods like food, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals don’t adhere to Australian rules, they may be held. Also, commodities that may include hazardous materials or are deemed to pose a biosecurity risk to the country may be held by the ABF for further inspection and evaluation.
  4. Random Inspection: As part of a random inspection program, the ABF occasionally reserves imported goods for additional inspection to guarantee public safety and national security,  on top of assuring compliance with customs laws.

How does a Customs Border Hold impact your Import Business?

When the ABF holds goods at the border, it delays the passage of goods, and this can have a significant impact on your import business.

Untimely clearance of your goods can lead to higher costs and reduced operational efficiency. A higher customs fee, a storage fee, and demurrage charges may be imposed on you. If the hold lasts for an extended period of time, the costs can quickly add up. It is likely you will be asked to provide additional documentation or compliance measures, which may require additional resources and effort on your part. 

As a result, production schedules and supply chains can be disrupted, leading to lost sales and income. Furthermore, this may negatively affect your reputation as an importer and prevent you from getting better business opportunities.

Can You Avoid a Customs Border Hold?

When the ABF determines that it needs more time to investigate and assess your goods, hold orders cannot be circumvented. The importer can be held legally responsible for attempting to get around or evade a border hold, and it is unlawful to do so.

The best way to minimise the risk of a border hold is to ensure your goods comply with all Australian customs requirements. Make sure your shipment is declared accurately, that any necessary permits have been obtained, and that all documentation is in order.

How do I Resolve a Customs Border Hold?

Although customs border holds can be inconvenient, they are not necessarily a cause for concern. It is critical to address the situation quickly if your goods are being held at the border. Providing more supporting information, proof, or compliance procedures may be necessary. Working with an experienced customs agent or broker can be especially beneficial in this case, as they can speak on your behalf with the ABF and provide additional information and proof to support your compliance. They can also guide you on how to minimise the impact of the changes on your business. A skilled customs broker can reduce your exposure to financial risk by advising you on how best to reduce additional fees, duties, or fines.


The last thing you want is a customs border hold to disrupt your shipment after you have invested a great deal of resources and effort. There may be delays, additional expenses, and financial losses as a result. A customs border hold can be prevented by understanding the cause and taking precautions to prevent it. 

Dealing with a trustworthy customs broker or agent with knowledge of Australian customs laws can can help you navigate the complex world of customs and ensure that your goods arrive at their destination without any issues. They can help reduce the possibility of a customs border hold by making sure that your shipment is properly packed, compliant, and supported by all required papers and evidence.

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