Do you need an Import License and Export License to trade internationally? We provide a Specialised Imports and Exports Licensing Service. You can be located anywhere in South Africa (or the world) and follow our Easy Online Process. Start below or contact us Toll Free on 0800 007 269.
Individuals or Businesses who are importing or exporting goods for commercial and personal reasons (or to the value of R2500+) need to be registered with South Africa’s Customs Department for an Import / Export Number. This number is obtainable from SARS. It is also known as an Importer’s / Exporter’s Customs Code. Depending on what you need, please select your preferred option below:
R 1 450 Option: Needed to send OR receive goods internationally once-off.
R 2 450 Option: Needed to trade internationally on an ongoing basis.
R 9 990 Option: Needed if you have no time to wait for an Imports and Exports License. We provide you with a Shelf Company which has a registered Import and Export number within 24-hours
Requirements for Import / Export Number:
- Bank Account.
- South African Address.
- Income Tax Number.
Our Easy Process:
1. Apply below. Please complete and submit the easy application form below. One of our friendly Consultants will then contact you and get your application going.
2. SARS Offices. We communicate with SARS on your behalf. Our Professional Import / Export Practitioner ensures that your Import and/or Export Number is processed correctly and in good time.
3. Receive your Import / Export Number. Our Customs Department will ensure that you or your Company is registered for an Import / Export License in the quickest possible timeframe.
In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about Export and Import Licenses in South Africa. I’ll explain why you need an Import / Export License in South Africa, what the fastest way of getting one is, if it expires and whether you need both or just one.
This post is for you if trying to decide whether you want an Export or an Import License – or both. It’s specifically for you if you want to export of import multiple times in or out of South Africa and you want it to be as easy as possible.
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by red tape like getting an Import / Export License. It’s intimidating enough to figure out the logistics of a business that requires you to import or export products. In this piece, we’ll answer all your questions on Import and Export Licenses.
I will walk you through the following frequently asked questions (you can just scroll down to the section you’re interested in):
17 Questions we’ll answer below on getting an Import / Export License in South Africa
- What is an Import / Export License?
- Why is the customs process necessary?
- How is an Import / Export License relevant to my business?
- Do I have to register for an Import / Export License?
- When do I need an Import / Export License?
- Will an Import Expert License help my business?
- How do I apply for an Import / Export License?
- How long does it take to get an Import or an Export License?
- How does an Import / Export License look?
- When does an Import / Export License expire?
- Do I need to pay yearly fees for my Import / Export License?
- Do I need to be registered for VAT to get an Import / Export License?
- Can I use someone else’s Import / Export License or give mine to someone else?
- Can I use my Import / Export License for every country?
- Can I use my Import / Export License for different products?
- Will an Import / Export License lower duty costs?
- Can I get an Import / Export if I’m not a South African resident?
What is an Import / Export License?
An Import and an Export License is simply an assigned code that informs the government what kind of goods you’re important and/or exporting. This code is also sometimes referred to as a customs code or a CNN number.
You get an Import Licensee or an Export License when you register as an Importer or an Exporter.
Almost all goods that leave or enter South Africa are checked and taxed, that’s why they first need to be evaluated at customs. Customs are designated points, at points of entry (like postoffices or airports) that are used to check goods and to determine appropriate tax for them before they enter or exit the country.
You use a CNN number or a customs code to clear goods through customs or to make and receive international payments for goods.
Why is the customs process necessary?
The South African government needs to keep track of what items are imported and exported firstly to ensure it is only legal goods that enter or exit the country.
Secondly, it’s important to ensure that no goods enter or exit South Africa that could be harmful to the natural environment. Natural products like fruit or meat could for e.g. have bacteria or pests on it that could be threatening to other plants and animals and put the natural resources of our or other countries in danger. That’s why it’s really important to regulate imports and exports.
Thirdly, it’s important for the South African government to ensure the economy stays competitive to the rest of the world. Essentially that means that we don’t want to export or import too much or too little, or it can affect the resources and job opportunities in South Africa.
That’s why certain products are more heavily taxed than others. The government may not be able to stop the free trade of goods, but it can limit it by making it more expensive for people to do so with specific products that can harm the economy if done on a large scale.
Products that aren’t readily available in South Africa, usually have a lower tax rate. Products that are readily available usually face higher import tax; it would be better for the economy to use local suppliers. That’s why it’s really important to do your research on the customs costs, before importing or exporting.
The government also keeps track of all the goods that move through South Africa to other parts of the world.
How is an Import / Export License relevant to my business?
An Import or an Export License is really helpful when you import or export goods in and out of the country multiple times.
It’s helpful simply because your registration serves as a form of pre-approval of the goods you want to import or export. It makes the whole import and export process much simpler.
Without registration, the government needs to assess every import or export individually.
Do I have to register for Import / Export License?
If your import or export value is over R10 000, customs will most probably ask for a license. So that means if your business relies on regular or significant imports or exports, you probably need an import or an export license.
Here are the specifics.
Import or export license apply in the following cases:
- If you need to import or export a batch of products more than 3 times a year you have to have an import or an export license.
- If your imports or exports are under the value of R50 000 per batch you still need an import or an export license (after R50 000 other compliance documentation is needed)
If you want to make or receive international payments you will probably also need a license. You could use your credit card; however, that often means you have really high forex costs to pay. You could also use 3rd parties like PayPal, however that also has high costs linked to it.
A customs code allows payments in an out of your normal bank account without those extremely high rates. It’s just much easier.
When do I need an Import / Export License?
It’s pretty simple. You definitely need the license you’re going to use. If you import, that’s an Import License. If you Export, that means an Export License.
However, it’s usually best just to get both, because they do often go hand-in-hand. If you’re an importer, you might want to return a batch of goods if there’s a fault in them or you would need a refund on faulty products directly into your bank account without having high Forex rates deducted from your refund.
In these cases, having both just really simplifies your business process.
So yes, it might seem like more effort and more costs upfront getting both. However, in the long run it’s much easier and it can save you money throughout the year.
Also, when you actually do need the other license you don’t have a lot of time, so rather getting it preemptively will be much easier in the long run.
Will an Import / Expert License help my business?
If you need to import or export goods in or out of South Africa it will definitely make your life easier and it can save you significantly on bank costs.
How do I apply for an Import / Export License?
Getting an Import / Export License is quite a complicated process with various application forms that need to be filled out in detail. You also have to do two completely different processes for either an Import or an Export License.
However, there’s a much easier and simpler way to do it sign up for our Import / Export Service. In short, this is the easiest and the fastest way to get an Import / Export License.
All you need to do is give us a call on our toll-free number (0800 007 269) or book a call-back by clicking HERE.
Why use us?
We will guarantee you a designated Import / Export License expert who will help and guide you through every step of the way.
The best part is, it’s all online and you never have to come into our offices. You’re welcome to come in if that’s convenient to you, but it’s by no means necessary to get your license.
Our service is extremely fast, and we’ve been helping many South African businesses get their Export and Import Licenses over the years.
Our experts have great relationships with the CIPC and the Customs Departments and if you need another document to submit your License application, we can help with that at lightning speed too.
How long does it take to get an Import / Export License?
After you’ve submitted your documentation it usually takes about 25 working days to get. There can be delays, but usually, there are not.
There’s a list of documents you need to submit, so actually submitting can sometimes take you much longer than you think. However, our company has over 30 License Experts, so the fastest way of making sure you get your application in ASAP is using our Import / Export License service. We’ll send you all the documents asap, we’ll walk you through filling them out and we’ll be helping you in record-time is there’s some document you still need.
We can help with that because we specialize in Company Documentation with a whole team of Import / Export professionals who know exactly how and where to get the legal documentation you need.
It’s also important to note that you can’t apply for an Import or an Export license as an individual or a Sole-Proprietor (that the automatic business structure you get if you run a business, but you haven’t registered it at the CIPC). You have to apply as a registered Company with a registration number.
If you don’t have a Company yet, don’t worry, our CIPC experts can assist you in 24hours. All you need to do is give us a call on our toll-free number (0800 007 269) or book a call-back by clicking HERE.
How does an Import / Export License look?
The license itself is just a code. However, there is an original file with the code and an affidavit stating your business details.
If you use our Import and Export License service, we’ll email you the code and mail you the original via courier. We’ll also send you an electronic copy of the affidavit if you need it.
When does an Import / Export License expire?
According to current regulation, never. Your license is valid forever. However, there is talk about Customs changing the law to 3 years.
Do I need to pay yearly fees for my Import / Export License?
No, you only pay once-off for your license.
Do I need to be registered for VAT to get an Import / Export License?
No. You don’t need to be registered for VAT to apply for an Import / Export License.
Can I use someone else’s Import / Export License or give mine to someone else?
No, you cannot. If your name doesn’t match, Customs will not clear your goods.
Can I use my Import / Export License for every country?
Usually, yes. There are some exceptions on specific products that are exported to Europe or the United States. However, you don’t need a new license, you will just need extra documentation.
Can I use my Import / Export License for different products?
Yes, you can. However, some products do require extra documentation, but not a new license.
Will an Import / Export License lower duty costs?
No, it won’t lower duty costs, but it will lower Forex costs regarding payments to and from your South African bank account.
Can I get an Import / Export if I’m not a South African resident?
Yes, you can, but there are restrictions. You can get an Import or an Export license the normal way if you have a South African address and a South African bank account.
However, if you don’t you need a South African who serves as your nominated agent. This person needs a South African address and a South African bank account and they need to be willing to take full responsibility for your goods and the nature of your imports or exports.
There is no way of getting a license if you don’t have an address and a bank account in South Africa, or alternatively a nominated agent – with a South African address and bank account – who acts on your behalf.
What is an Import Export License?
It is a number or code that is given to the client when they register at customs as an importer or exporter or both.
It is also called a customs code or CNN number.
It allows an individual or business to clear goods through customs and to make international payments for imported/exported goods.
When is an Import Export License needed?
Practically: when the value is above R10 000 or you have im/exported more than 3 times customs may ask for a license.
If you want to make/receive an international payment for im/exported goods through your bank (if credit card it is not needed but then you have high forex costs)
How long does an import / export license take?
Customs official turnaround time is 10 working days after submission. 95% are in this time and normally before the 10 days.
Reasons for delays may be customs bank authentication taking longer, customs changing systems, customs staff shortages, year end.
For us to submit we need all documents from client by email and courier. If the courier arrives before 10am submissions are done the same day, otherwise the next day.
What do I get once registered?
Your custom’s import and/or export code will be emailed to you.
Customs will send the original to the postal address provided on the affidavit. If it does not arrive after a month we can request an electronic copy for the client.
Import, Export or Both?
WHY IT IS BETTER TO GET BOTH
Once off registration, more expensive to get other one later and need to redo all the admin work again which has a time cost
You never know when you may need it – for export code if you want to send something back or get a refund, for import code if you buy something you want off Amazon.
When you need it there is normally time pressure, better to get it done before you need it.
Why are we the go-to-guys for Import /Export License?
Guaranteed service – we will get the license
Fast as possible – submissions are made to the national customs hub to speed up response time and reduce missing applications.
6 years of building relationships with customs – if customs looses or delays your application we know who to call to get it done.
One stop shop for all other accounting and business secretarial services
Do I need to be VAT registered?
Does the Import / Export License expire?
At the moment it is a permanent life long license, however customs may change that to renewing every 3 years in future
Are there yearly fees applicable to have the license?
Can I use one license to import /export different goods or do I need a separate license for each item?
One license covers all goods except some regulated goods that require an additional permit.
Can I use one license to import /export to/from different countries or do I need one license for each country?
One license covers all countries, however if you export to Europe or Southern Africa or agricultural goods to America then you need an extra certificate for tax savings.
What is the maximum amount of goods that I can import?
Does the license allow you to get lower duties?
Who do you have to provide the Import / Export License to?
Your clearing agent or freight agent or customs (if you clear the goods yourself) or the bank for international payments.
If the business was dormant for more than a year can you apply?
If you have paid your annual CIPC renewal fees then yes. If not and CIPC has deregistered you then you will first need to re-register on CIPC
Can a foreigner get an Import / Export License?
Yes, there are 2 scenarios 1. they have a SA bank account and a SA address, license is done as per normal 2. if not they need to have a nominated agent in SA
Can I use someone else’s Import / Export License?
No, the name on the commercial invoice and the import/export license need to match, otherwise customs will not clear your goods.