Export documents

Exports: What documents do you need?

Confused about which documents to prepare for your export Customs clearance?

Here are the 4 main export documents that you’ll need to present to Customs authorities when exporting goods from South Africa.

1. Exporters registration / license / code

All exporters need to be registered at SARS Customs as an exporter. When registered you get an 8 digit code often referred to as your export license, CCN or export customs code. Customs uses this code to track all your exports and ensure that your duties are paid. No Customs clearance can take place without this code (one exception is if it is a once off exportation of an item of little value). Your export Customs code is also used to monitor whether your exports incur incoming foreign exchange – a requirement set by the exchange control division of the South African Reserve Bank.

As not all exports go as planned, goods may be returned or you may need to do a refund, it is therefore advisable to register for an import code at the same time. When doing your registration make sure you mention which countries you are exporting to so that you can be registered for the correct trade agreements.

2. Export Permits and regulatory documents:

Certain items are regulated by either South African Customs for export. These items require special documentation, certification or permits in order to be cleared. A typical example is animal products which may require a health certificate from a vet. Other items, such as some electronic goods, second hand goods, cars, goods of high value etc. may have similar documentary requirements which need to be met before you export. If you are unsure whether the item you are exporting has any specific requirements from the South African side, you are welcome to contact our offices.

3. Certificate of origin

A number of countries have a trade agreement with South Africa which states that goods that have been produced, or partly produced, in South Africa can be imported with no or discounted import duties charged to the buyer. This is an incentive for foreign traders to buy more South African goods. A certificate of origin is the document required by Customs to prove that the goods are of South African origin. You can check if you are exporting to one of these countries here.

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4. Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is essentially a bill (i.e. invoice) from the seller (the exporter) to the buyer (the importer) describing the goods to be sold and the terms involved. The commercial invoice will normally be presented with the exporter’s branding and will be addressed to the importer. It should contain full details of the consignment, including price and other related costs, in order to facilitate customs clearance. It must be signed and dated. Freight and insurance costs (when included in the selling price) should be itemised separately, as these charges are not subject to duty in certain countries. A guide on what is required in an international commercial invoice is available here.

To make things easier for you we have complied an “export readiness” checklist you can use.

For consultation on your specific export, contact one of our international trade consultants.

Find more help with your import logistics, original resources, leading-edge training, and assistance with customs licenses on Trade Logistics.