The ins and outs of importing personal goods into South Africa

Importing personal goods into South Africa


Importing personal goods into South Africa is subject to a host of rules and regulations, as is to be expected. This is standard practice all around the world when moving goods from one country to another.

But we’ve simplified matters for you by summarising all the important information in one place. Simply continue reading to learn what’s allowed and what’s not and which forms are required.

1. The rules and regulations

Immigrants, returning SA residents, temporary residents and diplomats 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 difference between personal and household effects:

‘Personal effects’ are items of a personal nature whereas ‘household effects’ are items which are less personal in nature.

Examples of personal effects are clothing, shoes, books, videos and sporting equipment while ‘household effects’ could be, for instance, furniture, rugs, appliances, and crockery.

The required forms are:

  • Inventory of goods.
  • Form DA 304 – Item 407.06 of Schedule No.4 to the Customs and Excise Act.
  • Form P1.160 – Declaration in respect of unaccompanied manifested household effects.
  • Certified copy of passport.
  • Certified copy of resident permit (where applicable). The passport must have the entry stamp into South Africa. This will also need to be certified.

The fine print:

  • Returning residents must have been out of South Africa continually for at least 6 months to qualify for duty-free importation.
  • Temporary residents will only be allowed duty-free importation if in possession of a valid temporary work permit. This must have a validity of at least six months.
  • Diplomats must present a diplomatic clearance certificate.

2. Importing new or used cars

Should you import your car 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’ll need to request this letter from the The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

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:

  • In the case of permanent residents, your PR certificate.
  • Proof of emigration from South Africa, proof of permanent residence obtained abroad as well as evidence that such permanent residence has been withdrawn. This is 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 SA.
  • 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 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:

You may import the following items into South Africa but you must obtain a licence and/or import permit prior to doing so:

  • Firearms. Please note that firearms are subject to inspection by customs. You should therefore 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:

You may not import the following items:

  • Ammunition and explosives.
  • Narcotic drugs.
  • Pornographic material.
  • Agricultural products.
  • Uncooked meat and poultry.
  • Honey, beeswax, bees, bee eggs or larvae, and used beehive appliances.
  • Uncut diamonds.
  • Unwrought gold.

5. Customs clearance

You must be in South Africa before customs clearance can take place. It is possible to clear your belongings in your absence, but Customs may demand to see your passport.

Should you not be available to show your passport, Customs will place your goods into Bond. Customs will then only release your belongings once it has received your passport and requested documents.

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.

One final note on importing personal goods into South Africa

While we have done our best to provide you with the latest update information, it is advisable to also consult with the South African Revenue Service prior to your move to South Africa. SARS is the governing body for all matters pertaining to imports.

You can see our sources here, here and here.

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