Skip to main content

Planning to start a road-based export or tourism business? If your planned business involves transporting goods or passengers across South African borders, you need to make sure you have a valid cross-border permit.

What are cross-border permits?

In accordance with the Cross-Border Road Transport Act 4 of 1998, regulatory services issue cross-border permits to exporters and transport companies to conduct road transport business within South Africa and its neighbouring SADC countries.

The purpose of cross-border permits is to:

  • Ensure a more efficient flow of goods and passengers across borders. The permits assist freight operators, passenger transport, and tourism vehicles to move from one SADC country to the next without experiencing extended delays at border posts.
  • To regulate competition in the cross-border passenger road transport industry.
  • To minimise operational constraints for the cross-border road transport industry.
  • To enhance business opportunities and broaden market access for cross-border road freight transport operators.

When do I need a cross-border permit?

You need to apply for a cross-border permit if your business meets the following criteria:

  • You transport goods or passengers over the border for commercial reasons; and
  • Your vehicle, or the combination of vehicles, exceeds a total mass of 3,500kg.

Note: If you use a foreign-registered vehicle within South Africa for commercial purposes, you also need to register for a cross-border permit.

Which types of permits can I apply for?

There are several types of cross-border permits, including:

  • Goods permits: To transport physical goods sold for commercial purposes across SADC borders (This permit is needed whether the goods are transported by the seller themselves, or a third party accepts payment to transport the goods).
  • Bus passenger permits: To transport passengers across SADC borders for commercial gain using a bus.
  • Taxi passenger permits: To transport passengers across SADC borders for commercial gain using a minibus taxi vehicle.
  • Tourist passenger permits: To transport passengers across SADC borders for the purposes of tourism, and for commercial gain, using minibus taxi vehicles or busses (any vehicle exceeding 3500kg).
  • Organised group permits: To transport organised passenger groups traveling for business, education, or other purposes, and for commercial gain, using minibus taxi vehicles or busses (any vehicle exceeding 3500kg). Organised groups require a letter from a body hosting the group in the destination country to confirm that the group members are traveling for a predefined, specific purpose.
  • Cabotage permits: To transport goods or passengers between two locations in the same country by a transport operator from another country (for example, a South African tour group operator transporting tourists in Namibia).

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • Can one cross-border permit be used for multiple countries?

You need to apply for one permit for each country where you plan to drop off or collect goods or passengers.

  • Is it necessary to obtain a cross-border permit for every country passed through en route to the final destination?

No, you only need to apply for a permit for the country in which the goods or passengers are dropped off or collected. In the permit application, you need to outline the route that you will be driving from and to your destination country.

Here is an example of a route containing multiple stops:

  • Pick up goods from different locations within the Republic of South Africa;
  • Transport the goods through the RSA/Zimbabwe border at the Beit Bridge border post;
  • Transit through Zimbabwe, through the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border at the Nyamapanda/Cochemane border post;
  • Transit Mozambique, through the border post at Cassacatiza/Chanida;
  • Transit Zambia to the Zambia/Democratic Republic of Congo border at the Kasumbalesa border post, en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the example above, no goods may be picked up or set down within Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Zambia. The goods may only be delivered to the final destination – the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). You will only need to apply for a cross-border permit for the DRC.

  • Does one cross-border permit cover all the trucks or vehicles in a fleet?

No, each vehicle within a fleet requires its permit. You also need to ensure that each vehicle has its roadworthy certificate (which needs to be submitted during the permit application process).

  • What else is needed to cross road borders for business?

For all exports to SADC countries, you can save on import duty tax by applying for SADC certificates of origin.

You can learn more about certificates of origin and their cost-saving benefits in our blog post –  Trade Agreements.

Apart from the SADC certificates, there are a few additional things to keep in mind. To make sure you aren’t left in the dark, we’ve created a comprehensive blog post on cross-border trade. We cover everything you need to start trading across SADC countries using road transport.

You can read our blog post, Cross Border Tradehere.

  • When is registration as a road hauler/transporter or carrier necessary?

All businesses carrying bonded cargo must register as either a:

To submit a manifest (a list of all the items in the transport vehicle) to customs, a carrier registration is required. Electronic manifests can be submitted through the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

You can find more information on the above registrations in our blog post, Bonded Goods Transport and Terminology.

Any additional questions?

If you have any additional queries about cross-border permits, our team of consultants is here to help. Contact us on 087 550 1038 for a free consultation.

Tracy Venter

Tracy transitioned from industry to founding Import Export License in 2011, aiding importers and exporters with customs compliance. In 2014, she launched Trade Logistics, focusing on supporting startups and SMMEs in international trade. Since then, Tracy's team has assisted 35,000+ businesses, reaching 32,000 traders monthly through newsletters. She's contributed to publications like Entrepreneurs Magazine and SME Toolkit, spoken at trade events, and participated in customs forums. Import Export License helped with the pilot trial to launch customs' new online registration platform (RLA). Through Trade Logistics she has launched 3 online import-export training courses. She holds an Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and a Cum Laude Masters from Middlesex University. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys running, mountain biking, playing piano, and cherishing moments with her husband and four children.