The process can take a long time and delays are almost guaranteed if your documentation is not in order. So it’s important to understand how the process works. When your goods arrive in South Africa, you will have seven days to make sure they are landed (removed from the ship) and entered.
If you fail to do this they will be sent to a custom warehouse, and getting them back just adds another step in an already complicated process and will mean you incur additional costs in duties.
Any goods not claimed from the warehouse within three months (and the relevant duties paid) can be auctioned.
Do you have the right documentation?
Once landed, whether on a plane or a ship, customs authorities will want to see your original bill of entry, also known as a DA500 form.
In addition you will need to show them a customs worksheet which includes the exchange and conversion rates of the currency from the country where the goods came from, relative to South African Rands.
In order to validate the value of your goods as outlined in the DA500 form, customs will stamp your bill of entry along with your commercial invoice and travel documents.
They will also want to see any import permits and special import certificates if these are required. Make sure that the bill of entry (DA500 form) has the import permit’s number and expiry date.
Certain goods, including those for which you wish to claim special preferential tariffs, also require a certificate of origin (DA59 form).
If your documents are all correct you will need to pay import duties, VAT and any excise duties before they will be stamped and cleared through customs.
Know where your goods are coming into the country
The process of clearing your goods happens at different places, depending on how they were delivered to South Africa. If your goods arrived by sea, they will be cleared at the port of entry or at the Customs Depot in Johannesburg, should Gauteng be their end-destination.
If they were air-freighted on an international airline they will be cleared at either the Cape Town or Johannesburg international airports. Small consignments of goods arriving in Lanseria from African countries can be cleared at that airport.
Because Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (otherwise known as the BLNS states) are part of the Southern African Customs Union, you won’t have to present a bill of entry for them or pay customs duties. You will however still need to pay VAT. This is done at the point of entry into South Africa.