A view of the city and mountains of Cape Town from off the coast - International removals to South Africa

Customs Guide for Personal Effects Shipping to South Africa

Customs information and essential documentation for international removals to South Africa

Making a move overseas can be a stressful time, and there are lots of boxes to tick during the process. Along with moving yourself, you will have household goods and personal effects that you would also like to take with you. Whenever you make a booking with 1st Move International Limited, we will always advise you of the documentation required to not only ship from the UK, but also to enable you to import your household goods and personal effects in to the country which will become your new home.

Here we present to you a quick reference guide to give you a heads-up on the documentation that you may be required to complete and produce to Customs to import your goods in to South Africa.

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Table of Contents

Can I Ship Personal Effects to South Africa?

Yes, you can ship personal effects to South Africa. To import personal effects and household goods without paying customs duties or taxes, you must have been outside of South Africa for at least six months for purposes other than holiday, vacation, or touring, and your accommodation abroad must have been unfurnished or semi-furnished. If you have not been outside the country for more than six months, you will need to apply for an import permit and pay the applicable duties and taxes.

Returning residents who haven't met the six-month requirement must follow the import permit process and prepare to cover any associated fees. This ensures compliance with South African customs regulations and facilitates the smooth import of your personal belongings.

What Documents are Required to Import Personal Effects into South Africa?

Certified copy of Resident Permit

Resident permits in South Africa are issued to foreigners living in the country for more than 5 years, their spouses and dependants of South African citizens or permanent residence permit holders.

They can also be issued to someone in possession of a permanent work offer in South Africa, or who has exceptional skills and qualifications or intends to establish a business in South Africa.

For details of How to Apply for a Permanent Residence Permit then visit the South African Government website.

Customs Forms DA304 and P.1.160

Both the DA304 and P1.160 forms are required to import unaccompanied personal effects into South Africa and both will be provided by 1st Move International at the time of booking. The DA304 form is to advise South African Customs of an import of ‘Household’ effects, which are items that are necessary to equip a self-contained home such as electrical items, linen, crockery etc.

The P1.160 form is to declare certain types of items which may be restricted, prohibited or dutiable such as plants, alcoholic drinks, food stuffs or fire arms and ammunition.

Both forms must be completed and your import agent will assist you in the presentation to Customs, and bear in mind that Customs will require the shipper to present themselves with their original completed paperwork at the nearest Customs office for clearance.

Packing Inventory

This is a list and description of the goods that are being shipped. We will provide a packed inventory for any items that we are packing on your behalf, but for any items that you pack yourself you will need to provide us with an inventory advising the description of the items packed. Not to worry though, we will provide you with a blank inventory to complete once you have made your booking with us.

You will need to present this to Customs in South Africa for them to review before they release your personal effects shipment for delivery to your home.

Bill of Lading

Once your goods have shipped from the UK, the shipping line will confirm the sailing date and estimated arrival date. They will also provide us with the Bill of Lading, which is the transport document specific to your shipment.

This document includes the name of the owner of the goods as well as the addresses in the UK and South Africa. We will issue an “Express Bill of Lading” which means that an original document isn’t required, and you can claim your shipment with the shipping agent in South Africa using a copy only, which we will provide to you.


Whether you have a UK or South African passport, or one issued elsewhere, we still require a good quality picture of the photo page. This must be in the same name as your shipping documents and be valid at the time of shipping.

You may be required to present your original passport after arrival in South Africa which will then include your entry stamp and/or immigration permit.

What Items Are Prohibited to be Imported into South Africa?

There are items that you are not allowed to bring into South Africa, and a list of these Prohibited Imports includes;

  • Narcotics
  • Fully automatic, military or unnumbered weapons
  • Explosives and fireworks
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1,000
  • Prison-made goods

For a full list visit the South African Revenue Service website. Please ensure that your packed inventory is sent to us as soon as possible after booking, so that we can check that there aren’t any items that may cause issues for Customs clearance in South Africa.

What Items Are Restricted to be Imported into South Africa?

As well as some items that are completely prohibited to import into South Africa, there are some restricted goods that are allowed to enter under certain circumstances or conditions. These must be declared on arrival and include;

  • Plant and plant products
  • Stamp Collections
  • Unprocessed gold and gold coins

Again, sending your packed inventory to us as soon as possible after booking allows us to check your items for potential issues.

Am I Able to Bring New / Unused Items to South Africa as Personal Effects?

If you have new items to import into South Africa you will need to provide a detailed inventory showing the values of the goods, and you will need an import permit. To get an import permit you would firstly need to register with the South African Revenue Service and then you can apply to the International Trade Administration Commission for the permit.

All imports of new items will be subject to payment of full duties, you are unable to import these duty free as part of your household goods.

Is There Anything Else I should Know?

Please be aware that the owner of the shipment of household items and personal effects must be in South Africa at least 10days prior to the shipment arriving at the port or airport for the Customs clearance process to begin.

All shipments are subject to random Customs inspections on arrival.

Any items that are being shipped as part of an inheritance will require a copy of the death certificate and a certified copy of a will (or extract from the will) in English along with a declaration confirming that the importer is a permanent residence of South Africa.

Returning South Africa residents or immigrants changing their place of residence to South Africa are able to import one motor vehicle free of Duty with exemption from import taxes. There are other forms and documentation required for car shipping to South Africa and we recommend that you contact an expert car shipping company such as Autoshippers and they can assist you.

Shipping Furniture and Household Effects to South Africa

1st Move International have been shipping household goods and personal effects to South Africa for more than 25 years. On receipt of your booking, we will send you instructions on all of the information and documentation that we require to enable us to ship your shipment through Customs in the UK and South Africa. We have a local agent in South Africa which we have been working with for many years you will be a part of the process and will assist you in Customs Clearance.

Our team of international removals experts are on hand to help with any questions that you have, and to help make international removals to South Africa as easy as possible.

For a quotation, please complete the form on this page, giving us as much information as possible. Alternatively, you can call us on +44 117 982 8123 / 0800 389 0784 during UK office hours or e-mail on sales@shipit.co.uk.

A view of the city and mountains of Cape Town from off the coast - International removals to South Africa
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