China has been a leading exporter to the rest of the world, including South Africa. So if you’re planning to buy products in bulk to do business in your homeland, then you already know the best country for suppliers.

But, like many potential South African importers, if you don’t know how to import from China to South Africa. And have a bucket full of questions, then you’ve landed in the right place. This article is to help you deliver all the necessary information you need to know to make your import successful.

Table of Contents

Documents Required by Importers in South Africa

1. Clearing Instructions

As an importer, you will need to provide a clearance document to your customs broker or official. The document must include all the relevant details as asked in the “SAD500” form. These clearance instructions must be managed and signed by yourself or your employee.

2. Customs Clearance Declaration – SAD500

SAD500 is a form that assures the customs that you have declared all the imported goods to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The SAD500 includes the exact value, quantity, and nature of the imported goods to receive SARS permission.

Moreover, you also declare that all the imported goods from China will only be released upon clearing the customs duty and VAT. While the official SARS website has given the formula to calculate VAT and customs duty, the perfect amount you will be required to pay is calculated by the SARS officials only.

3. Commercial Invoice

In general, the commercial invoice includes all the important details about the transactions between the importer and exporter. That means you will have to show the payment proof made to the Chinese exporter. But that’s not the only thing mentioned in the commercial invoice.

The invoice must show details of the seller and buyer, description of the goods, payment methods, insurance and freight charges, the origin and destination of the shipment along with the packaging details. Without a commercial invoice, SARS won’t let you import from China to South Africa.

4. Pro-forma Invoice

The Pro-forma Invoice is sent by the exporter to the importer before sending the shipment. It includes information regarding the price and quantity of the goods (which are requested for import), as well as good specifications, such as size, weight, and similar features.

So, technically, pro forma is the pre-version of commercial invoice required by the importer for the following reasons:

5. Import License

An import license is an import permit in South Africa from the government to make sure that goods you’re trying to import, are safe and have good quality.

Also, the license ensures that you (importer) are importing environmental-friendly goods, and conforming to all South Africa import regulations and health policies.

Furthermore, your import license also assures that you agree to all the international agreements with the exporter. It also signifies that your goods are not smuggled in any case.

So without the import license, importing goods from China or any other country is impossible.

6. Letter of Credit

The letter of credit, also called the “Documentary or Commercial Credits” is a form that protects both importer and exporter against the non-payment of the shipment. The letter of credit (L/C) is issued by the commercial bank on the importer’s behalf in favor of the exporter.

In other words, L/C is a guarantee given to your Chinese exporter that the correct amount (the agreed amount in official documents) will be transferred on time. And in case the importer fails to pay the amount, the bank will pay the full or the remaining cost.

7. Bill of Lading

Bill of lading is another interesting document in the import situation and it has three purposes:

8. Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin is a document that informs that all the shipped goods are manufactured in a specific country. That means, if you are importing goods from China to South Africa, your certificate will show “China” as the place where the products are originated.

Documents Required by Exporters in China

Just like you need the import documents to bring products from China to South Africa, likewise, the exporter is required to have all the following certificates to successfully send you the goods. If the party (exporter) fails to provide any document, you cannot expect your shipment.

  1. Bill of lading
  2. Export license
  3. Commercial invoice
  4. Certificate of manufacturer
  5. Export packing list
  6. Insurance certificate
  7. Inspection certificate
  8. Certificate of origin
  9. Pro forma invoice
  10. Export letter of credit

You must be thinking about why most of the documents in this list are similar to import documents. The reason is simple. Just like you are answerable to the South African authorities, the exporter also needs to take Chinese authorities in complete confidence.

Another reason is the verification. Any similar document that fails to provide comparable information, may cause import failure. Therefore, make sure you are in contact with your exporter and have uniformity in describing the details of the goods, such as price and quantity of the product.

Customs Duty in South Africa

Like any other country, whenever you are importing products from China, you need to pay the customs duty to the South African government ranging from 0 (free) up to 60%. The customs department has tariffs following by the tariff or HS codes related to each product or goods category, which is necessary to pay by the importer.

For example, if you’re importing women’s suits from China, you will have to pay 40% customs duty. That means, if the final value of your import is around 1,000 ZAR, so by adding the customs duty, the total cost will be 1,400 ZAR.

While you can explore the entire tariff list on the SARS official website to know the import duties from China to South Africa. Here are a few goods along with their customs duty for your understanding.

Women Jackets

  • Tariff code: 6104.31
  • Material: Wool, cotton, synthetic fibers, or other material
  • Customs duty: 45% per unit

Men Overcoats

  • Tariff code: 6101.20
  • Material: Cotton, man-made fibers, or other materials
  • Customs duty: 40% per unit

Worn Clothing – Car Coats, Raincoats, Etc.

  • Tariff code: 6309.00.13
  • Material: Any fabric material
  • Customs duty: 60% per kilogram

Toilet Paper

  • Tariff code: 4818.10
  • Material: Paper
  • Customs duty: 20% per kilogram

Contrarily, there are many several goods on which the customs duty is zero or free, like:

Product Description Tariff Code
Natural honey 0410.00.10
Fresh sweet potatoes 0714.20.20
Human hair | used to manufacture article hairpieces 0501.00
Coffee Arabica | unroasted and not decaffeinated  0901.11.10
Milk and cream | without additional sugar or sweetening material  0401.10.07

Product NameTarrif Code
Natural honey 0410.00.10
Fresh sweet potatoes0714.20.20
Coffee Arabica 0901.11.10
Human hair 0501.00
Milk and cream0401.10.07

Calculating Customs Duty in South Africa

The customs duty on imported goods in South Africa also includes:

  • Anti-dumping and countervailing duties
  • Value- added tax (VAT)

That means, if the customs duty of any product is 20% in the tariff list, you will also have to add the anti-dumping duties (if applicable on your imported goods) and the VAT.

Example: If You Are Importing Women Jackets from China to South Africa

Imagine you are importing into South Africa 100 pieces of women’s jackets from China. Each unit costs around 10 ZAR, making 10,000 ZAR as the total goods value. The anti-dumping duty is 0 and the VAT is 15%. Here’s what your overall customs duty would be:

It means the customs duty without VAT is 4,500 ZAR.

Now, let’s calculate the value-added tax.

It means you have to pay 2,175 ZAR as a value-added tax

So the total duty including customs duty and VAT on importing 100 units of women jackets at a total price of 10,000 ZAR will be 2175 + 4500 = 6675 ZAR.

Here’s a video of a Tax Professional from South Africa explaining calculating customs duty and other aspects to import from China to South Africa.

Finding the Goods Supplier in China

There are two ways of finding an exporter in China. The first is offline and the second is online.

While offline ways could be more direct and efficient, while online ways are more cost-friendly. However, all of them have their own advantages and disadvantages if you’re looking to import goods from China to South Africa.

Find a supplier online

Finding exporters in China online is a modern strategy. The process is simple and with just a click of a button, you can contact hundreds of suppliers within a few days.

If you’re not sure about buying online from China to South Africa, here are a few authentic online platforms that help you meet with the Chinese exporters.

1. Sourcing Companies

One of the best favors you can do when finding an exporter in China is to seek a sourcing company in China online like Jingsourcing. These companies will help you in finding the ideal supplier and even delivers the goods as fast as possible. Moreover, sourcing companies in China can also help you by offering the following services:

  • Translation service for negotiation
  • Quality assurance
  • Safe packaging
  • Freight forwarding

Except the above, Jingsourcing also provide graphic design and dropshipping service to give a truly hustle-free importing service.

2. Alibaba

Alibaba is a famous B2B platform to help importers meet exporters. The website shows suppliers and buyers from around the world, allowing you to select the most suitable one for your business.

3. Made in China

Made in China is another prominent online website based in China but with the information of Chinese suppliers only.

You can search for the goods and get their details, such as price and MOQ from a variety of exporters. Besides, you can also check each company’s product portfolio and get quotes.

4. DHgate

Last but not least, DHgate is also like the above two platforms. You can find thousands of products and contact their suppliers to gain more information.

Here are the pros and cons of the online ways to find a supplier:

Find a supplier offline

This is a traditional way, where you visit the country and meet the sellers or exporters in person. For example, you go to China, find exporters in the local directory, and make visits to their offices and factories one by one.

Frequently Asked Questions about Importing from China to South Africa

How is import VAT calculated in South Africa?

The current VAT rate in South Africa is 15%. However, you are required to determine the “Added Tax Value” (ATV) and multiply the total value with VAT to calculate the exact VAT payable. Here’s the formula given by SARS:

VAT Payable= (Customs value + 10% of the customs value) + (non-rebated duties if any) x 15%

VAT Payable= (ATV) x 15%

How much is import duty in South Africa?

The import duty in South Africa ranges from 0% up to 60% of the total value of goods.

How can we avoid import duty in South Africa?

You cannot avoid import duty on bulk products unless they are termed as “Free” in the tariff list. However, if goods are in a few quantities and their seals or packaging is broken, then they are exempt from the import duty.

But this can only happen when you’re carrying the product by yourself and keep the item out of its box. This is the only way to avoid customs charges in South Africa.

How much is the customs clearance fee in South Africa?