How to get an export and import license in South Africa in 2022

How to get an export and import license in South Africa in 2022

An export and import license in South Africa is an assigned code that lets the government know what goods one is importing or exporting. The license is also referred to as a customs code or CNN number. One gets the license when they register as an importer or exporter by following the laid-down procedures and meeting all the necessary requirements.

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how to get import-export license in South Africa
Containers used in the import and export business. Photo: pixabay.com, @echosystem
Source: UGC

Almost all goods that leave or get into South Africa are checked and taxed, which is why an export-import license is needed. The checking takes place at designated points of entry and exit, known as custom points.

Getting your export and import license in South Africa

Here is everything you need to know about the import-export license application in South Africa.

Who is an importer?

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Any South African native or foreigner who imports goods into South Africa is considered an importer. This includes people who import continuous transmission commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, electric power, or any tangible property transportable by means of a wire, pipeline, or other conduits.

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How do I register as an importer?

If you are a prospective importer in South Africa, you must register with the South African Revenue Service (SARS). You will need to provide several documents, fill out a few forms, and forward them to the relevant customs departments. Here is how to get an import license in South Africa.

What are the documents required to register as an importer?

  • Proof of address. This should be your municipal water bill and electricity bill.
  • Certified copy of your identity document.
  • Close corporation registration document.
  • Company registration.
  • Certified copies of the VAT, IT, PAYE, SDL, and UIF letters from SARS to confirm revenue registration details.
  • Telkom or cellphone account statement not older than 3 months. This will be needed to confirm your contact details.
  • A bank certified original bank statement or a legible bank certified copy of an original bank statement. Alternatively, you can provide a bank-certified auto bank statement or an original letter from the bank on official bank letterhead.
  • You must be older than 18 years and have a permanent address in South Africa.
  • If your application is for licensing a warehouse, clearing agent or remover of goods, you will need to pay the fees applicable for the application.

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The registration process

how to get a import-export license in South Africa
A ship being unloaded. Photo: pexels.com, @Khunkorn Laowisit
Source: UGC

Here are the steps you need to take to register as an importer.

Prospective local importers have to follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Fill out the DA 185 application form. This captures details related to the registration and licensing of customs and excise clients.
  2. Fill out the DA 185.4A1 form. This captures your importation details, including whether you are located in South Africa or not.
  3. Send the duly filled forms and the necessary supporting documents to the nearest excise or customs office.
  4. Pay the security fee if it applies to your application.

Prospective foreign importers have to follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Foreign importers are known as foreign principals and are required to register as so with the SARS. Additionally, these importers must nominate a registered agent located in South Africa. The agent will represent the foreigner and assume full liability for their actions and decisions on all matters relating to customs.
  2. Fill out the DA 185 application form. This captures details related to the registration and licensing of customs and excise clients.
  3. Fill out the DA 185.4A1 form. This captures your importation details, including whether you are located in South Africa or not.
  4. Fill out the DA 185.D form. This is known as the disclosure of registered agents and only applies to foreign importers.
  5. Drop the forms at your nearest customs or excise office.

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Who is an Exporter?

Any South African native or foreigner who exports goods from South Africa is considered an exporter. This includes people who export continuous transmission commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, electric power, or any tangible property transportable using a wire, pipeline, or other conduits.

How to get an export license in South Africa

Just like the case for importers, one must fill out several forms and forward them to a customs or excise office. While awaiting approval, a prospective exporter can forward a copy of their applications to the customs export declarations. Here is how to apply for an export license in South Africa.

What documents do I need to register as an exporter?

The documents are almost like those required for an import license but with a few minor additions.

  • Proof of address. This should be your municipal water bill and electricity bill.
  • Certified copy of your identity document.
  • A certified copy of close corporation registration.
  • A certified copy of the company registration.
  • VAT, IT, PAYE, SDL, UIF letters from SARS to confirm revenue registration details.
  • A certified copy of resolution/consent or other authority as applicable.
  • Telkom and/or cellphone account statement not older than 3 months to confirm contact details.
  • A cancelled cheque or a legible certified copy or original bank statement which confirms the account holder's name, account number and branch code.
  • An original letter from the bank on a letterhead or an original auto bank statement.
  • Keep in mind that the applicant must be older than 21 years and have a permanent address in South Africa.

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How to register as a local exporter

how to get an import-export license in South Africa
An image showing the various means of transport in international trade. Photo: pixabay.com, @mohamed_hassan
Source: UGC

To become a full registered exporter in South Africa, complete the required application forms and relevant annexure(s) and submit all supporting documents as prescribed on the application forms.

Which forms do I have to fill out when registering as an exporter?

  • DA 185: This captures details related to the registration and licensing of customs and excise clients.
  • DA 185.4A2: Registration form for client Type 4A2 (an exporter located in or out of the republic).
  • DA 46A1 02: Registration application form for AGOA
  • DA 46A2 01: Registration application form for the GSP
  • DA 49A 02: Application form to get an approved exporter status

In addition, there are forms one must fill out to export goods to countries in various Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs). Here is a look.

  • SADC/TDCA/SACU-EFTA: DA 185.4A7 form. This is a registration for client type 4A7 (a local producer)
  • AGOA: DA 185.4A4: This is a registration for client type 4A4 (a manufacturer)

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The registration process for foreign exporters is similar to that of local exporters with the added requirement of having to nominate a registered local agent.

Which forms will I need to fill out to register as a foreign exporter?

  • DA 185: This captures details related to the registration and licensing of customs and excise clients.
  • DA 185.4A2: Registration form for client Type 4A2 (an exporter located in or out of the republic).
  • DA 185.D: This is a disclosure of the nominated registered agent.

Why is the South African customs process necessary?

The government needs to keep track of what items are exported from and imported into the country. Some of the reasons include tax compliance and ensuring legality.

How is an export/import license relevant to my business?

If you need to export or import goods from and to the country, you will only be allowed to do so if you have the licenses. The registration is some form of pre-approval for the goods you intend to import or export.

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Can I use my license for every country?

how to get an export license in South Africa
Boxes and a model globe depicting international trade. Photo: pixabay.com, @AbsolutVision
Source: UGC

Typically, yes. There are a few exceptions for some products exported to the USA and Europe, but you only need extra documentation for these, not an extra license.

When do I have to register for an import and export license in South Africa?

If your export or import value exceeds R10,000, the SARS will require you to have a license. Additionally, you need the license if you intend to import or export products more than 3 times a year.

When does my license expire?

Under the current laws, your license is valid perpetually. However, the government is considering altering the customs law to have the licenses expire after three years.

What does the license look like?

The license is just a code. However, there is a document backing up the code as well as an affidavit that states your business details.

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How long does it take to get the import-export license in South Africa?

Once you have submitted the requisite details and documents, you should have your license in about 25 working days.

Can I use my license for different products?

Yes, you can. However, keep in mind that some products may require extra documentation but not a new license.

Getting an export and import license in South Africa is a key step for people whose businesses rely heavily on getting products to and from the country. Luckily, the SARS has created an easy-to-follow process for the import and export license application in South Africa.

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