Exporting Goods from USA to South Africa


If you’re an expat who will soon be transferred South Africa from the USA, or a returning South African national who have stayed in the USA for quite some time, you will have to export your household goods, automobile, and maybe even a boat or machineries for your business into the South Africa. The process can be tedious but tolerable, as long as you have general knowledge about it.

On household goods and personal effects

Household items and personal effects, provided that these items are used (read: has been owned by the consignee for one year or more), may be shipped duty-free into South Africa. Any item which is newer than a year will be dutiable and taxed accordingly. Shippers are advised to package used and “new” items separately to speed up the process of clearing the items. Detailed inventories should be provided, including descriptions per item, quantities, and assessed value. New items will be liable to duties and taxes computed according to their valuation and freight costs.

Aside from the inventories, you also need to provide the original waybills, the D.A. 304 and P.A. 1.160 (three copies each), and your passport. Your presence is needed during clearance. Usually this takes 11 days from the date of the shipment’s arrival at the port. Inheritances from the USA require the same documentation but with a copy of the will and testament, the former owner’s death certificate, and the Import Permit of the shipment. Personal effects cover only the consignee’s clothing, and these may be shipped unaccompanied but the same rules and documentations apply as household goods. Antiques and artworks, while they may be considered as household items, must be packed separately. These should come with sales invoices, Import Permit, and Antique Dealer’s Certificate, as well as the general documents needed for household items. Customer presence is necessary for clearance and the process also takes eleven days. Antiques may be imported into the country duty-free as long as they come with all the necessary documents.

Diplomats who are shipping personal effects and household items may do so without being taxed or paying for customs duties as long as they can present a Diplomatic Certificate along with their passports, OBLs and full inventory of items. These documents should be forwarded to the Customs Agent before the arrival of the shipment through the Embassy concerned. The clearance also takes eleven days.

New household articles, unless covered by diplomatic protocols, are dutiable and taxed when imported from the USA to South Africa. Aside from the inventory and itemized price list, these new items must also come with original invoices. The clearance for these items takes eleven days, and while client appearance is necessary on the last day of clearance, customs agents may clear the items before the client’s arrival as long as the documents are complete.

Importing vehicles

Most of the information on importing vehicles from the USA to South Africa pertains to private cars. If you wish to import your vehicle into the country, you need to prepare for duties and taxes. Unless covered by diplomatic privileges, all imported vehicles are liable to customs duties and taxes. Unlike household items, vehicles are also stopped and examined at the Customs for inspection.

Vehicles must be shipped into the country with complete original waybills, Import Permit, DA 304A (three copies), the consignee’s passport, the consignee’s temporary license, and a third party form. The process takes eleven to fourteen days. As soon as the car is cleared and all the dues paid, the car is temporarily released into the consignee’s care so that s/he can present the Bill of Entry to South Africa’s Traffic Department and a temporary license may be issued to the consignee. The car will be released for two days so that the owner can process permanent licenses for the vehicle and for him/herself. This process is carried out at the Receiver of Revenue.

There are no available information regarding the shipment of industrial machines, motor homes, boats and other special vehicles. They are not, however, listed as prohibited by South Africa’s Customs Agency. For information on the importation of these vehicles, and to confirm if the information in this article still applies, consignees are advised to consult with the Embassy of South Africa in the USA before shipment. They should also prepare the vehicle’s pertinent documents (proof of ownership, letter from the manufacturer, etc.) before making the inquiry to save time.

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