The ins and outs of importing personal goods into South Africa

importing personal goods into South AfricaIt’s not as simple as it should be to find information on importing personal goods into South Africa.

Unsurprisingly many immigrants find this frustrating as moving furniture and other belongings is an integral part of any overseas move.

The good news is that we scoured the internet to find the vital pieces of information you need to successfully import your personal belongings to South Africa.

1. The rules and regulations

Immigrants, returning residents and temporary residents are allowed to import household and personal effects into South Africa.

You are allowed one-duty free import. To do a second import, you’ll have to obtain permission from SA Customs.

The required forms are:

  • Inventory of the goods.
  • Form P1.160 – Declaration in respect of unaccompanied manifested household effects.
  • Form DA 305 – Item 407.06 of Schedule No.4 to the Customs and Excise Act.
  • SAD 500 – Customs Declaration Form.
  • Plus the resident permit (where applicable) and passport. The passport must have the date stamp of entry into South Africa.

The fine print:

  • Returning residents must have been out of South Africa for an unbroken absence of at least 6 months to automatically qualify for duty-free importation of household goods bought while out of South Africa.
  • Temporary residents will only be allowed duty-free importation if in possession of a valid temporary work permit.

2. Importing new or used cars

Should you import your car, new or used, when moving to South Africa, you’ll be liable for import duty and tax. The documents you’ll need to import your car are:

  • Import permit. You must obtain this permit prior to shipping the vehicle to South Africa.
  • Letter of Authority. You request this letter from the The South African Bureau of Standards.

Please note: It is generally prohibited to import left-hand drive vehicles if the vehicle was registered in the name of an importer on or after 1 January 2000, unless authorised by the SABS.

Required documents

To import your car into South Africa, you must have the following:

  • Permanent residence permit issued the Department of Home Affairs, in the case of permanent residents.
  • Proof of emigration from South Africa, proof of permanent residence obtained abroad as well as evidence that such permanent residence has been withdrawn, in the case of returning South Africans.
  • Completed DA 304 A form.
  • Purchase documents.
  • Registration certificate/permit.
  • Documentary evidence of the date on which delivery of the vehicle was taken.
  • Documentary evidence of the date on which the vehicle was handed over for shipment to South Africa.
  • An import permit, for used vehicles.
  • An original Letter of Authority.

3. Importing vehicles when changing permanent residence to South Africa

In terms of the Customs and Excise Act:

  • Immigrants, and
  • South African residents who originally emigrated from the Republic obtained permanent residents status abroad, and thereafter return,

being natural persons, may after obtaining permanent residence in South Africa or after returning to South Africa permanently, import one car per family under full rebate of customs duties:

(i) provided the vehicle so imported is the personal property of the importer and has personally been used by him or her

(a) for a period of not less than 12 months prior to his or her departure to the Republic; or

(b) for a period of less than 12 months prior to his or her departure to the Republic; or

(ii) in the case of approved intended residents arriving from an African country, is owned and used for such shorter period as the Commissioner may in exceptional circumstances decide; and

(iii) provided the vehicle is not offered, advertised, lent, hired, leased, pledged, given away, exchanged, sold or otherwise disposed of within a period of 20 months from the date of entry.

Should you have owned and used the vehicle for less than 12 months prior to your departure to South Africa, the duty rebate will be reduced pro-rata

4. Restricted and prohibited articles

SA Customs restricts and prohibits a number of articles when importing personal goods into South Africa:

Restricted articles:

The following articles may be permitted entry into South Africa but you must obtain a licence and/or import permit prior to importation:

  • Firearms. Please note that firearms are subject to inspection by customs, so you should pack all firearms separately and ensure that these items are easily accessible.
  • Liquor. Liquor is subject to duty which means you must draw up a complete list of the liquor you’re importing, noting the alcohol percentage, label names and values.
  • Plants, seeds and bulbs.

Prohibited articles:

The following articles are prohibited from importation:

  • Ammunition and explosives.
  • Pornographic material.
  • Agricultural products.
  • Honey, meat and meat products.
  • Narcotic drugs.
  • Medicines.
  • Certain feathers, furs, skins and tusks of protected species.

5. Customs clearance

You must be in South Africa before customs clearance can take place. Even though your belongings can be cleared in your absence, SA Customs may demand to see the your passport.

Should you not be available to show your passport, your goods will be placed into Bond until your passport and the necessary stamped documents have been received by SA Customs.

Please note:

  • Custom clearance takes an average of 7 to 10 working days from the date of presentation of documents.
  • SA Customs may, at their discretion, designate any consignment for examination. You can expect to pay an examination fee for this.

Please note the following on importing personal goods into South Africa

While our information was gathered from credible sources, see them here and here, it is advisable to always get the latest information from relevant South African authority before undertaking the importing of personal goods to South Africa. We suggest contacting the South African Revenue Service, who’ll be able to assist your or point you in the right direction.

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