Moving to South Africa – Key Customs Regulations

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Welcome back to our “Customs With Katy!” International Edition blog feature, where we focus on International customs-related topics for various countries abroad, brought to you by none other than Phillips’ very own Move Manager, Katy Duncan! We’re heading several countries south and jumping continents for this particular post. Moving to South Africa has its own set of customs regulations that you’ll need to know about and adhere to before entering into the country, should you be relocating there for business or just for a lifestyle change.

Note: the content below are paraphrased excerpts as written by Frances Van Den Berg and as seen in EXPATICA.

When relocating over to South Africa, you’ll be subject to four key customs regulations. They are as follows, and are each outlined in further detail:

  • Imports Permits
  • Prohibited Products
  • Tariffs
  • Agricultural products and animals

Imports Permits

Though the country has decreased its list of restricted goods prohibited from entering its borders, you will still require a permit to import the following products:

  • Fish
  • Petroleum
  • Ozone-depleting chemicals
  • Firearms
  • Gambling Equipment
  • Radioactive chemicals

The reason these restrictions on imports exist, are to protect countries as well as South Africa’s bordering countries from any imminent danger.

Prohibited Products

Products which are restricted from importation into South Africa, include:

  • Drugs
  • Pornography
  • Diamonds/Gold
  • Products related to bees (i.e. honey or wax)
  • Plant-related items (i.e. bulbs, seeds, plants, raw cotton)
  • Second-hand goods (i.e. cars)


Below is a general overview of South Africa’s current tariff structure:

  • Duties on goods generally range from 0 to 30% (with textiles and certain other goods having higher tariffs and exceeding the 30% rate)
  • Tariffs are suspended for goods on the free tariff list due to South Africa’s free trade agreement with the EU, having been effective since the year 2000
  • Duties must also be paid on items such as alcohol and perfume
  • Products noted above must be easily and readily accessible by customs officials, with a detailed list of what each container holds, when shipping them

Agricultural products and animals

Importation of agricultural products into the country is strictly controlled, and many items are denied entry due to the possibility of diseases being transmitted (i.e. fruits such as apples, cherries, and pears are restricted, as is irradiated or raw meat). Animals are also strictly monitored due to both the possibility of disease being spread, and in order to prevent the illegal animal trade, notorious in South Africa (depending on the circumstance, pets being quarantined upon entry into the country is sometimes mandatory).

To review: Be sure that you read through the original article we referenced. In addition, it is also advisable that you arrive in the country 10 days in advance of the shipment since it can take up to 10 days for customs officials to release goods into the country. Ensure that you have all passports and required/correct paperwork (including permits) ready, in order to avoid any unnecessary delays during the process of moving to South Africa.

For additional cross-border (and international) customs tips, periodically keep checking in on our frequent news updates.

Continue to stay safe and stay customs compliant!

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