Skip to main content
Page load in progress

Notice for Brokers: Importation of Rapid Antigen Tests

08.23am 11 March 2022

As you are aware only Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) that have been approved by the Ministry of Health can be imported.

  • All other RATs that are imported are unlawful imports and may be seized under the Customs and Excise Act 2018.
  • There is no personal use / non-commercial shipment exemption for unapproved tests (except up to 20 tests as accompanying luggage for international travellers).
  • MPI undertake the initial triage of these imports, as they have a general biosecurity oversight of these and a range of similar diagnostic tests.
  • RATs which are not on the approved list maintained by Health are then referred to Customs (so compliant goods are cleared with as little delay as possible).
  • To minimise delays to approved RAT brands, Customs is holding for further enquiries, RATs which have failed the initial triage by MPI.

When a consignment of RATs is imported, one of three processes may occur;

  • The type of test is specified on the ICR/MPI Declaration/Entry and sufficient identifying documents are provided.
    1. This results in almost no delays in the clearance of approved imports – likely zero Customs involvement.
  • The type of test is not specified on the ICR/MPI Declaration/Entry and sufficient identifying documents are provided to identify the brand of test.
    1. This causes delays as it requires some checking
    2. Delays could increase if MPI has to request the information (i.e. identifying information not uploaded with the entry)
    3. Identified probable unapproved brands are then referred to Customs, where a further check occurs, including with the Ministry of Health if necessary
  • The type of test is not specified on the ICR/MPI Declaration/Entry and no/insufficient identifying documents are provided.
    1. This causes the largest delay for all parties as this results in MPI requesting information on the brand of test
    2. If the information is not forthcoming on first request, the entry is referred to Customs to further request documents from the broker / importer to identify the brand of RAT
    3. If established that the tests brand is on the approved list, the RATs are released.
    4. Those that are not approved or unknown are referred for Customs inspection and potential further enquiries.


Once an unapproved brand of RAT has been identified after a Customs documentation triage (which may include a check with the Ministry of Health to confirm test is in scope of restriction), the goods are referred for a Customs inspection and the goods may be seized.

The volume of non-compliant importations of these goods has caused delays.

To reduce delays, we recommend the following in respect of imports of RATs;

  • Offshore Freight forwarder to check type of test, and remove from export any shipments of RATs not approved in NZ.
  • The ICR/MPI Declaration/Entry has the brand of test in the detail line.
  • The documents are attached to the line in the ICR (this can be done via TSW Online if your system does not have this feature).
  • Contact with the importer is to be initiated if the RAT brand is unspecified on the invoice / initial documents presented, before the ICR/MPI declaration/Entry is lodged.
  • Do not forward BACC referrals until two weeks after the MPI Referral BACC was issued unless the test is, as far as you can ascertain, an approved brand in New Zealand.
  • A Representative from each freight forwarder is to contact when the two week period of MPI referral has concluded to get an update if no information has been received and provide the necessary BACC. Requests in bulk form are more suited than individual emails.
  • If you consider that the RAT is an approved brand based on the list issued by the Ministry of Health, provide sufficient documentation to support that. Rapid antigen testing (RAT) | Ministry of Health NZ

Key Points:

  • Customs and MPI are committed to facilitating the clearance of imports of approved RATs.
  • There are delays should MPI have to seek the brand information from the broker.
  • Multiple daily emails from brokers seeking updates from Customs on BACCs of likely unapproved imports is causing further delays.
  • Customs is currently processing a large number of likely unlawful consignments.
  • Your cooperation with the above recommendations will improve our timeliness, and reduce delays you may be experiencing.

The cooperation of your overseas counterparts in not shipping unapproved RATs to New Zealand will greatly assist. Their help will enable quicker delivery of legitimate goods with less intervention and provide better use of scarce cargo space.

We are looking to streamline the process above and would seek your cooperation with it. We welcome any feedback on the process. If not, we look forward to your company’s compliance as soon as possible.