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Customs is responsible for protecting South African borders so that all travellers as well as crew members with their legitimate goods can pass freely. We do this by using world-class risk management technology and customs checks carried out by our officers at sea, land and airports.
 After passing through the Department of Home Affairs, all travellers as well as crew members pass through Customs where they can declare goods that may be liable for payment of duties in the event that they have anything to declare. Travellers must pay the duty assessed by the Customs Officer, if any, to the Controller / Branch Manager.

Any person must complete a Traveller Card (TC-01):

On arrival into South Africa, the person must declare any goods: 
  • Purchased or acquired abroad on which no duty has not been paid;
  • Remodelled processed or repaired abroad;
  • Prohibited or restricted or controlled under any law;
  • Re-importation by returning resident of South Africa who registered such goods at time of leaving South Africa; or
  • Temporary imported by Non-resident of South Africa into South Africa with the intention to be re-export in the same state when leaving South Africa.
Any person leaving South Africa must declare any goods that he / she will be taking with him / her beyond the border of South Africa before leaving South Africa, this includes goods and vehicles:
  • Carried on behalf of another person;
  • Intended for remodel, process or repair abroad;
  • Prohibited or restricted or controlled under any law;
  • Temporary imported by non-resident of South Africa for use during his / her stay in South Africa.
Any person who has in his / her possession must enter the Red channel and declare:
  • Any prohibited and / or restricted goods;
  • Any goods intended for trade purposes; or
  • Foreign currency, South African bank notes or Kruger Rand coins that exceeds the exchange control regulations;
  • Any goods in excess of his / her duty Free Allowance (DFA);
  • Any valuable goods that need to be registered for temporary importation into or exportation from South Africa.
A person may proceed through the GREEN channel if he / she:
  • Has nothing to declare;
  • Is in possession of goods that fall within his / her Duty Free Allowances; or
  • Is not in possession of any prohibited, restricted or controlled goods, gifts carried on behalf of others (e.g. those sent by a person overseas to another person in South Africa), or commercial goods (for trade purposes).
Customs may stop and examine a person or his / her baggage in these channels to determine whether a person complies with the provision of Section 15 the Customs and Excise Act. Customs Officers may at any time, break any lock attached to the baggage if the keys thereof are not produced on demand.  A person will not be entitled to any compensation for any loss or damage arising out of any bona fide action of a Customs Officer.
A Customs officer may physically inspect any unaccompanied baggage under Customs control in the absence of the traveller or transport representative or his / her agent in order to determine whether the provisions of the Customs and Excise Act, 1964 (the Act) or any other law have been complied with provided all reasonable efforts were ascertained to track down the owner (traveller) of the unaccompanied baggage or the transport representative or his / her agent.

If a traveller or crew member failed to declare any goods in his / her possession or incorrectly declared goods during a routine or physical inspection, a Customs officer may detain the goods for further intervention (e.g. evidence for the prosecution of an offence) or request the traveller or crew member to lodge a deposit for the possible contravention of the provisions of section 15 of the Act, e.g. failure to declare goods in his / her possession that exceeds his / her duty free allowance (DFA).

Any prohibited or restricted goods or excess currency detained by Customs will be handed over to the relevant Government Agency(ies) for further intervention.

Travellers or crew members are being urged to answer all questions asked by a Customs Officer fully and truthfully because if there are any reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence is being committed in terms of the Act, an officer may in such instances request a traveller or crew member to produce and open his or her accompanied baggage to be searched or examined (e.g. using X-ray scanner or any other non-intrusive inspection methods).
Please Note: There are instances at airports where ALL luggage from a specific flight (accompanied /unaccompanied ) are scanned to ascertain risk. This scanning is not based on risk based  questions or answers posed to the passenger but merely due to routing. This is conducted randomly as a high risk intrusive operation. There is also a growing trend of the commercial traveller, where travellers are buying goods for commercial purposes and are not registered as importers and/or not declaring via the SARS cargo reporting mechanisms. In such instances, such baggage can be subjected to the full inspection prior to detention of the goods for commercial clearance purposes towards VAT and duty collection. 


The payments of any duties, taxes, deposits or penalties due to Customs can be made in cash, by credit card or by means of traveller’s cheques.
A person has two (2) options to make a payment to Customs:
a) Pay Now Option; or
b) Pay Later Option. When the person selects this option, the goods in question will be detained by Customs pending proof of payment within thirty (30) days.  
The following restrictions apply regarding payments made at a Customs branch office:
  • Cheque rules/limitations:
    • Cheque payments must be made out to South African Revenue Service (no abbreviation allowed); in any of the official languages
    • Payment must be made in South African Rand (R).
    • Payment can be made during office hours at any Customs branch office (8:00 to 15:00). Payments must be received no later than 15:00.
    • Where payments are received after 15:00, this will be deemed to have been received on the first following business day.
    • No cheque payments will be accepted if a taxpayer has, in the past three (3) years, made two (2) payments by cheque to SARS that were R/D (referred to drawer). The client will need to make payment on eFiling, at a bank or via EFT.
    • SARS will not accept cheque payments which exceeds the total amount of R50 000.00.
    • If the client makes one (1) or more cheques payments on a single day at the Customs branch office, the total value of the one (1) or multiple cheques may not exceed R50 000.00.
    • The restriction is applied per client and therefore multiple declarations may not be paid with one (1) or more cheques which exceed R50 000.00 a day.

  • Cash rules and limitations:
    • The number of coins that will be received at Customs branch offices are limited according to denominations:
      • A maximum amount of R50 in R5 coins;
      • A maximum amount of R20 in R2 coins;
      • A maximum amount of R20 in R1 coins;
      • A maximum amount of R5 in 10 cents – 50 cents coins;
      • A maximum amount of 50c in 5 cents coins; and
      • The amount of bank notes is limited to R2 000. 00 per transaction. This also applies to travellers.

                      Note: All cash payments are rounded off to the nearest 5 cents.

Excess Currency

Excess currency is any amount in excess of R25 000 or any foreign currency which is convertible to Rand in excess of R25 000. Travellers must obtain written permission from the National Treasury before entering/leaving South Africa with excess currency and must, upon arrival/departure, declare such excess currency on a Traveller Card (TC-01).  The cash to be declared is South African bank notes and foreign currency, as well as South African bank notes, securities, gold and foreign currency upon departure. For more information about Excess currency,
see Excess Currency policy.

Migrant labourers returning to neighbouring countries are permitted to take with them reasonable amounts in the form of Rand notes representing their earnings in South Africa.

The excess currency regulation is applicable to persons entering or leaving the Common Monetary area. Botswana does not form part of the CMA, therefore Exchange Control requirements of non-CMA travellers entering or leaving South Africa apply.

For more information about tax and immigration you can refer to this link Tax and emigration. Further information on the traveller declaration is on Traveller Processing Policy.
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Last Updated: 08/11/2019 9:16 AM     print this page
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