An Australian lawyer has revealed the simple mistake she made at customs that almost cost her over $2,000.
Migration lawyer Traci Chen, from Maison Chen Law Group, was grilled by a bio-security officer for over 30 minutes after flying from Dubai to Brisbane, after making an incorrect declaration on her incoming passenger form.
She disclosed she had saffron and honey, but did not realise she also needed to declare a straw beach hat and ‘organic’ makeup wipes.
The border officer offered Ms Chen ‘one more chance’ to disclose the items she should have declared or she would be slapped with a $2,664 fine.
She told Daily Mail Australia she was struggling to work out what the item must be before realising it must be the straw beach hat she had bought in Australia and taken with her to Dubai
‘It was very stressful. My mother told me her heart had been pounding,’ she said.
People landing in Australia have to declare alcoholic drinks, tobacco products, animals, fresh food, plant material, seeds, soils, meat and animal products
Ms Chen’s elderly mother, who does not speak English well, had thought an infringement meant they were being sent to jail.
‘I bought [the hat] in Australia,’ an incredulous Ms Chen told Daily Mail Australia.
‘She [the officer] also mentioned the makeup wipes, because they’re organic or something they can be considered ‘organic products’.
‘This was something I had no idea about that, I declared food, I declared everything else but a straw hat, really?’
Ms Chen said the bio-security officer said she should tick ‘yes’ on every box if she was not sure what items needed to be declared.
Others who viewed her experience shared their own customs horror stories, with many slamming Ms Chen’s treatment as ‘inconsistent’.
Traci Chen (pictured) is an immigration lawyer at Maison Chen Law Group
Traci finally realised what the offending item could be after being grilled by a bio-security officer for 30 minutes and pulled a straw beach hat from her mother’s bag
Traci had been spending time in Abu Dubai before she flew home through Brisbane Airport
‘I declared a leather jacket as an animal product which I had when I left here. They said I was wasting their time,’ one wrote.
‘We got yelled at for declaring a straw hat for wasting their time,’ another said.
‘Yet I got scoffed at for wasting their time when I declared Tim Tam’s. They’re so inconsistent,’ a third commented.
‘My mum just went through the same thing. They were badgering her about chocolates. She was like ‘did you read the box. They’re from Noosa’,’ a fourth said.
‘I declared my wooden hairbrush with boar bristles from Germany once and the officer laughed and waved me through!’ another said.
However, others said the officers were just doing their jobs.
‘Guys it’s strict because Australia is an island so any new diseases or pests can destroy our ecosystem,’ one said.
‘Australia has a unique environment so we take our airport security very seriously even if you don’t,’ a second wrote.
As well as the standard limits on alcohol and tobacco that apply at various levels worldwide, people landing in Australia also have to declare animal products, fresh food, plant material, seeds, soils and meat.
If such an item is not declared, travellers can be fined up to $2,664 and can be subject to civil proceedings or prosecuted for a criminal offence.
If convicted, the maximum penalty is $1.1million or 10 years behind bars.