Steps to importing veterinary medicines
Veterinary medicines have strict importing requirements to ensure they are properly authorised. The requirements ensure they don't cause public health problems, jeopardise trade in primary produce, harm animals, or be a source of pests or unwanted organisms. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
To import veterinary medicines successfully you need to know:
- what your product is, what it contains, where it is from, who made it, and how it was made
- whether or not the product is authorised for importation under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act
- if there are requirements under other legislation that must be met
- if there are any forms to fill out
- if there will be any fees or charges.
Buying products from overseas or online
Overseas brands may look just the same as over-the-counter veterinary medicine products on sale in New Zealand, but most of the time they're not. Only products that are authorised for use in New Zealand can be imported.
Registered products must show the ACVM registration number on the label in one of the following ways:
- "Registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997, No. ...." (number)
- "ACVM Registration No. ...." (number)
- "ACVM No. ...." (number).
You can import exempted products but you may need a class determination letter to show the border inspector. More information about class determinations are in Step 2.
All products are inspected at the border and if import requirements are not met, products are confiscated and destroyed by MPI, or returned to the sender at your expense.
Check with other agencies
Check with other agencies before you start importing. They may have extra restrictions or requirements to MPI. Visit the NZ Customs website to:
You should also check with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for importing requirements:
Identify if your product falls under the ACVM Act
Veterinary medicines are a type of agricultural compound. You need to be sure your product is an agricultural compound that comes under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997.
Read our guidelines
To help you better understand our requirements, MPI has produced guides to products regulated under the ACVM Act and product exemptions:
Download a guide to ACVM products and exemptions [PDF, 465 KB]
Guidance on the ACVM Act [PDF, 217 KB]
If you're unsure whether your product is subject to the ACVM Act, you can ask MPI to determine this for you. It's called a class determination. Fees apply. More information about class determinations are on this page.
Find out what authorisation is required
After you've determined your product is an agricultural compound, the next step is to decide what type of authorisation it must have.
Veterinary medicine products must be authorised before they can be imported. Authorisation is usually one of 3 types:
- Current New Zealand registration of the product of the product – this applies to most veterinary medicine products.
- Exemption from registration (subject to conditions) – this applies to some types or groups of low-risk products.
- Approval given in special circumstances – this is mainly for veterinarians who must meet strict conditions before approval to import an unregistered product is given.
If your product does not meet any of the types of authorisation, then you will need to apply to MPI to get authorisation for your product. If registration is required, it will take several months and importing will not be permitted until the process is completed.
Find out if your product has a current New Zealand registration. Registration means that MPI has assessed the product, it meets New Zealand's ACVM Act requirements, and can be imported. Border clearance officials check the product label to clear the product for entry into New Zealand.
You can check current registration by:
- looking for the ACVM registration statement on the product label. This should give the registration status.
- searching the ACVM register to check that your product has a New Zealand registration.
Veterinary medicines labelled 'restricted'
If a New Zealand-registered veterinary medicine is labelled 'restricted', it can only be imported by:
- the registrant (business or person who registered the product)
- an MPI-approved seller of restricted veterinary medicines
- a registered veterinarian.
Anyone else would have to have a veterinary authorisation (or 'prescription') from a veterinarian registered in New Zealand.
Some low-risk veterinary medicines, such as topical skin preparations and non-medicated shampoos, do not need to be New Zealand registered. Check the flowchart in the guide to ACVM products to see if your product is included in one of the product groups exempted from registration.
Download a guide to ACVM products and exemptions [PDF, 465 KB] [PDF, 465 KB]
Conditions of exemption are in the ACVM (Exemptions and Prohibited Substances) Regulations 2011 (Schedule 2).
During the border clearance process, officials inspect the product for evidence that it is exempt from registration. Officials will not clear the imports if they're not sure.
You may have to request MPI to determine the 'exempt' status before the product will be cleared.
We recommend that you request a class determination before you start importing if you're unsure if it's exempt. Fees apply. More information about class determinations are further down this page.
Importing exempt products related to veterinary medicines
Processes for importing products related to veterinary medicines are elsewhere on the website. Follow these steps if you're importing:
Therapeutic claims on products
If a product has a therapeutic claim on the label, it is classed as a veterinary medicine and must be registered. Examples of claims are 'treats arthritis' or 'prevents disease X'.
Pet food, animal feeds, dietary supplements or other ACVM products with therapeutic claims are not exempt from registration.
The special circumstances option is not available to most importers.
You can apply to import veterinary medicines in special circumstances if:
- you are a veterinarian treating a specific animal and there is no suitable registered product in New Zealand*
- you want to do certain types of research
- you have certain types of MPI-approved operating plans, for example, managing exotic organisms.
Authorisation may be given but specific requirements must be met.
MPI has written a guide explaining when MPI is likely to approve a special circumstances application:
You'll have to complete an application form.
*If you are a New Zealand registered veterinarian, follow the 'cascade' (hierarchy of choice) of use before applying to import a special circumstances veterinary medicine.
Veterinary medicines needed for animals in transit or live animal imports
To import veterinary medicines that accompany live animals or animals in transit, you need to complete a declaration form and comply with any other requirements for your type of animal.
If your product contains organisms or ingredients of animal/plant origin, you must have a biosecurity clearance.
For product registrants only
Registered products that are incorrectly labelled
If you are the registrant of a product and want to import it without the approved New Zealand label, complete the approval application form.
Include a batch certificate for manufacturing, if required
If you are importing veterinary medicines with a registration condition requiring batch certification from a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) country (Australia, Canada, European Community and Switzerland), you must also supply a batch certificate to accompany each batch. This certificate is in addition to a full qualitative and quantitative analysis of all active and other relevant constituents.
The batch certificate must attest that the batch meets the specifications and has been manufactured in accordance with New Zealand's requirements, detailing the specifications of the product, the analytical methods referenced, and the analytical results obtained. It must contain a statement that the batch processing and packaging quality control records conform with good manufacturing practice.
It must be signed by the person responsible for releasing the batch for sale or supply/import at the fabrication/manufacturing site.
Request a class determination, if needed
Ask MPI for a class determination if:
- you're unsure you can import your product or what requirements you need to meet
- you need proof your product is not regulated by the ACVM Act
- you need proof your product is exempt from registration under the Act.
MPI will send you a class determination outcome letter about your product.
A class determination letter is valid for 3 years and must be shown to border clearance officials.
Prepare documents before your consignment arrives
You need to make sure you have all the necessary approvals and documentation before your goods arrive in New Zealand. The documents you may need include:
- a current class determination outcome letter
- a copy of your approval to import in special circumstances
- a biosecurity clearance.
Comply with on-arrival inspections
An MPI inspector will check your product and documentation when your consignment arrives in New Zealand.
If your consignment doesn't comply on arrival
If your product arrives without meeting the requirements, it will be held at the port of arrival.
Following assessment, the quarantine inspector will advise you whether your product will:
- not be cleared unless authorisation status is confirmed (class determination)
- be returned to sender
- be confiscated and destroyed by MPI.
Costs will apply.
Your veterinary medicine will be cleared for entry into New Zealand when you have:
- completed all of the steps that apply to your consignment
- had your products inspected and given clearance by border officials.
Who to contact
If you have questions about importing veterinary medicines, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about biosecurity clearance of veterinary medicines, email email@example.com