Steps to importing microorganisms

To import microorganisms and products containing live microorganisms into New Zealand there are special procedures to assess and minimise any biosecurity risks. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved – all in one place.

Follow the steps 

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Step 1: What you need to know

An overview of importing microorganisms from start to finish.

To successfully import microorganisms into New Zealand you need to know about:

  • the import health standard (IHS)
  • applying for a permit at least 6 weeks before your items arrive in New Zealand
  • HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms) Act approvals from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for any new or genetically modified organism (GMO)
  • the Official New Zealand Pest Register
  • the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES)
  • completing a declaration for the assessment of biological catalogues, if required
  • approved containment facilities for microorganisms and cell cultures
  • meeting all of the post-arrival quarantine needs and IHS requirements
  • fees and charges.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to biological products and organisms are elsewhere on this website. Follow these steps if you're importing:

Medicines and dietary supplements for animals

You can import certain types of biologicals for medicines and dietary supplements for animals only after a case by case assessment by MPI.

Your biological product will also need to meet Agricultural Compound and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) requirements.

As part of your import assessment, you may be asked to provide further information about how the animal medicine or supplement is produced.

Download the application for biosecurity clearance for ACVM registration [PDF, 253 KB] or Word [DOC, 624 KB]

Step 2: What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Comply with import health standard requirements

The import health standard (IHS) will tell what you need to do to successfully import your microorganisms into New Zealand.

Download the IHS for microorganisms from all countries [PDF, 175 KB]

Identify the risk status of your microorganisms

To import your microorganisms you'll need to identify their risk status by:

  • searching the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) register and getting a HSNO approval code
  • searching for your item on the Official New Zealand Pest Register to see if your item is regulated (applies if your cell cultures are plant related)
  • checking that the cells are not derived from unwanted organisms.
Search the HSNO register and get HSNO Act approval code

To get an HSNO Act approval code you will need to search the register on the EPA's website.

When importing viable cells, you must check that they are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Regulated organisms include all genetically modified organisms.

If the organism is not listed on the HSNO register contact the EPA:

If the organism is listed on the HSNO register and the approval code begins with BER, PNZ or S26 and it is not an unwanted organism or regulated, then it can come in on a general permit to import.

Organisms that only have EPA approval codes that begin with NOC or GMC will need to come in on a restricted permit to import and will be directed into a transitional or containment facility.

EPA approval codes starting with GMD are not used for import purposes.

If an organism is listed as present in New Zealand by the EPA but also appears in the pest register as 'unwanted' or 'regulated', contact MPI for advice.

Search the official NZ pest register

The pest register records organisms that may be associated with plants or plant products that are imported into New Zealand. The quarantine status for each species is indicated as regulated or non-regulated or unwanted.

To import an unwanted organism, you must:
  • apply for a MPI Chief Technical Officer (CTO) approval to import under section 52 and 53 of the Biosecurities Act 1993
  • apply for a restricted permit from MPI.  The permit will specify that the cells will be directed to an MPI-approved containment facility
  • complete the permit application form and email it to

Download the unwanted organisms permission application form [PDF, 374 KB]

Complete the declaration for the assessment of biological catalogues

If the items you want to import are part of a catalogue, then you will have to complete the declaration for the assessment of biological catalogues.

Complete form and attach it to the product catalogue and send it to MPI with your other documents.

Declaration for the assessment of biological catalogues [PDF, 233 KB]

Check what else you may need to do

To import microorganisms, you may need to comply with additional requirements such as, but not limited to:

  • checking the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora because the specimens of, or derived from, wild animals and plants may be restricted.    

Apply for a permit

A permit is required to import all microorganisms whether they are cultures, or a component of a product containing viable microorganisms.

Use one of the below application forms for import of microorganisms related to animal or plants.

Application for permit to import biologicals, microorganisms and cell cultures (animal imports) [DOCX, 286 KB]

Application for Permit to Import plant derived material, microorganisms associated with plants, soil or water [DOCX, 108 KB]

Prepare documentation for your microorganisms

Copies of the following documentation will need to accompany your microorganisms on arrival in New Zealand:

  • import permit
  • copies of, or reference to, the HSNO approval (if required)
  • product catalogue (or a reference to where this can be found) or list, if required.


For transporting your microorganisms to New Zealand your items must comply with International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous goods Regulations. In particular the consignment should be clearly labelled and able to be identified with the item listed on the permit for microorganisms.

On arrival

On arrival in New Zealand your documentation will be inspected by a biosecurity officer.

Your goods may also be inspected.

If your microorganisms are not given clearance, they will be moved to a transitional facility at the border. After additional investigation by a biosecurity officer, the items will either:

  • be given biosecurity direction and transferred to a transitional or containment facility
  • be reshipped
  • destroyed. 
Step 3: Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

Your microorganisms will be cleared for entry into New Zealand when you have:

  • completed all of the steps
  • had your microorganisms and documentation inspected and given clearance by an MPI Inspector to an approved containment facility.

Post arrival

If the microorganisms you are importing are considered new, unwanted or restricted organisms then they will need to be imported into a MPI approved transitional or containment facility.

Consignments of high risk microorganisms can only be opened in a transitional facility or containment facility meeting the standard for facilities for microorganisms and cell cultures.

Download the Standard for Facilities for Microorganisms and Cell Cultures: 2007a [PDF, 268 KB]

High risk microorganisms include:

  • microorganisms that are new organisms and/or risk species
  • microorganisms that are unwanted organisms or restricted organisms
  • microorganisms that are genetically modified
  • unidentified microorganisms from border interceptions, post-entry quarantine, or incursion investigations. 

Who to contact

If you have any questions about importing microorganisms from:

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