Customs requirements for Travellers
South Africa recently made changes to the way we process travellers.
One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a Traveller Card (also called a TC-01 form), which will need to be completed by those arriving in South Africa who have something to declare to Customs.
If you would like more detail about the arrival process and the various allowances, click here to read a Traveller’s Guide.
Red or Green channel?
Red Channel - You have something to declare: When you arrive in South Africa, you will need to complete the Traveller Card with the items you are declaring, before proceeding to Immigration. After reporting to Immigration, collect your baggage and then proceed to Customs’ red channel.
Green Channel - You have nothing to declare: If you have nothing to declare you can proceed directly to Immigration without completing a Travel Card. After reporting to Immigration, collect your baggage and then proceed through Customs’ green channel. (Be aware that you may be stopped and asked to open your bags by a customs official)
The following Customs channels must be followed, depending on your circumstances.
If you have in your possession any prohibited/restricted goods and/or goods which fall outside your duty-free allowance, or if you are unsure whether any goods in your possession fall within these categories, please proceed to the Red Channel.
If you have something to declare, your Traveller Card and passport are scanned and you make a verbal declaration, which is captured on the system by a Customs officer. This information forms the basis of a Traveller Declaration form (TRD1). The TRD1 will also be used as a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) and Temporary Export Permit (TXP).
If the traveller is happy with the information on the TRD1, they are asked to sign on an electronic signature pad and their signature is captured on the system. The signed TRD1 is then printed and given to the traveller.
If the goods in your possession fall within your duty-free allowance, you do not have any prohibited or restricted goods in your possession, you are not in possession of any commercial goods (imported for trade purposes) and you are not in possession of gifts, carried on behalf of others, please proceed to the Green Channel, unless instructed otherwise by a Customs Official.
You may be stopped, questioned or searched by a Customs Officer at any time in the Red or Green channel.
The importation of the following goods into South Africa is strictly prohibited
- Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form
- Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons
- Explosives and fireworks
- Poison and other toxic substances
- Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1 000
- Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods)
- Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright
- Penitentiary or prison-made goods
Certain goods may only be imported if you are in possession of the necessary authority / permit.
- Firearms / Weapons
- Gold coins
- Unprocessed minerals (e.g. gold, diamonds, etc.)
- Animals, plants and their products (e.g. animal skins, dairy products, honey)
- Medicine (excluding sufficient quantities for three months for own personal treatment accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician)
- Herbal products (Department of Health permit required)
Goods falling within the following allowances may be brought in without the payment of customs duty and VAT as accompanied baggage.
In addition to personal effects and the above consumable allowances, travellers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5 000. A traveller is entitled to these allowances once per person during a period of 30 days after an absence of 48 hours from South Africa. The tobacco and alcohol allowance is not applicable to persons under the age of 18 years. Crew members are not entitled to any consumable allowances.
- No more than 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars per person
- No more than 250g of cigarette or pipe tobacco per person
- No more than 50ml perfume and 250ml eau de toilette per person
- No more than 2 litres of wine per person
- No more than 1 litre in total of other alcoholic beverages per person
Can I bring personal medication under the duty-free allowance?
Travellers may import their personal medicaments provided it is a stock for not more than three (3) months’ use. This must be accompanied by a prescription issued by a medical doctor.
Handmade articles for commercial purposes
Travellers from SACU or the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states are allowed to bring into South Africa handmade articles of leather, wood, plastic, or glass if the goods do not exceed 25 kg in total, without the payment of duties and taxes.
Over and above the duty-free allowance, you may choose to pay Customs duty at a flat-rate of 20% on goods which you acquired abroad or in any duty-free shop.
The total value of these additional goods, new or used, may not exceed R20 000 per person or R2000 for crew members. Flat-rate goods are also exempted from payment of VAT.
Should the value of the additional goods in question exceed R20 000 or should you decide not to make use of this facility, the flat-rate assessment falls away and the appropriate rates of duty and VAT must be assessed and paid on each individual item.
It should be kept in mind that in certain cases goods may be liable to rates of customs duty in excess of 20%; others could be subject to lower rates, while some goods may be free of duty. In addition, 14% value-added tax will be payable on goods assessed by tariff.
It must, however, be noted that the application of this provision is subject to the total value of goods declared under the entire rebate item not exceeding R25 000. In other words, all consumables, the duty-free allowance of R5000 and the items to be assessed on the flat rate must in value not exceed R25 000.
The flat rate allowance will be granted an unlimited number of times during the 30 day cycle after an absence of 48 hours or more from the country provided the goods do not exceed R20 000.
Currency brought into or taken from South Africa is monitored by law. Should you have South African currency exceeding R25 000 or foreign currency exceeding $10 000 (or equivalent), this must be declared.
Customs duties and taxes are payable in South African Rand. Payment can be made in cash, by credit card or by means of traveller’s cheques.
Should you have any questions or doubt about the amount of duty/tax paid or payable, or any other matter about your dealings with a Customs official, you should take the matter up with the senior Customs officer in charge. The receipt you obtained from Customs must be given to the officer dealing with your enquiry.
Please note that you may be required to lodge a cash deposit to cover the potential duty/tax on expensive articles if you are bringing them in on a temporary basis.
The deposit will be refunded when you leave after a Customs officer has physically inspected the items and verified that the goods are being re-exported. Visitors must notify the Customs office where the deposit was lodged at least two days before you leave to ensure that the refund is ready. You will find the office number on the documents which will be given to you when paying your deposit.
If you are leaving from a port other than the port where you lodged the deposit, the inspection report confirming the re-exportation of the items will be forwarded to the office where the deposit was lodged and a cheque will be posted to the address that you provided.
If you are a journalist or sportsman and are bringing goods into the country with you, such as photographic or sports equipment, you should declare them in the Customs red channel after arriving in South Africa.
However, if the goods are not coming with you but are being sent into the country at a different time (unaccompanied baggage), then they need to be cleared under Rebate Item 480.15 or through the ATA Carnet system. Read the Cargo Guide for more information.
If you are bringing goods into the country specifically for a conference, e.g. pamphlets, brochures, banners, etc., you need to do the following:
- If these goods are accompanying you, you need to follow the same process as normal travellers.
- If the goods are not coming with you but are being sent into the country at a different time (unaccompanied baggage), you have to declare them on a DA 306 form. You need to complete the form before you come into the country and then take it to your nearest Customs office when you arrive in South Africa. This is a simplified clearance procedure for goods with no commercial value i.e. for goods that will not be sold in the country.
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