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Do you frequently travel with goods for business purposes? Perhaps you provide samples for overseas clients, showcase your products at international trade shows, or import equipment and machinery to complete jobs. If so, you can benefit from an ATA Carnet.

What is an ATA Carnet?

“ATA” is an acronym for the French and English phrases “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission”. ATA Carnets (pronounced “kar-nays”) are international customs documents that grant permission for duty- and VAT-free temporary imports.

A country’s National Chamber of Commerce (CoC) usually controls the issue of ATA Carnets. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) administers the international customs conventions under which ATA Carnets must operate.

ATA Carnets usually allow temporary imports to remain in the country of import for up to one (1) year. Some exceptions do apply. For example, imports used for trade shows and exhibitions may only be imported duty- and VAT-free for up to six (6) months.

Exceptions:  There are some exceptions to the standard 1-year ATA Carnet import duration. China only allows ATA Carnets for trade shows and exhibitions (up to a period of 6 months). Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, and Singapore also have different time periods – be sure to do your research before applying for a Carnet for these countries.

Which countries accept ATA Carnets?

 As of 2018, 87 countries accept ATA Carnets. Table 1 provides a list of regions where ATA Carnets are accepted.

Table 1: List of regions that accept ATA Carnets

• Albania
• Algeria
• Andorra
• Antarctica
• Aruba
• Australia
• Austria
• Azores (Portugal)
• Bahrain, Kingdom of
• Balearic Islands (see Spain)
• Belarus
• Belgium
• Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Botswana
• Brazil
• Bulgaria
• Canada
• Canary Islands
• Ceuta
• Chile
• China
• Corsica (France)
• Cote d’Ivoire
• Croatia
• Curacao
• Cyprus
• Czech Republic
• Denmark
• Estonia

• European Union
• Faroe Islands (Denmark)
• Finland
• France
• French Guiana
• French Polynesia – Tahiti
• Germany
• Gibraltar
• Greece
• Greenland (Denmark)
• Guadeloupe (France)
• Guam
• Guernsey (United Kingdom)
• Hong Kong
• Hungary
• Iceland
• India
• Indonesia
• Iran
• Ireland
• Isle of Man (United Kingdom)
• Israel
• Italy
• Ivory Coast see Cote d’Ivoire
• Japan
• Jersey (United Kingdom)
• Kazakhstan
• Latvia
• Lebanon

• Lesotho (SACU)
• Liechtenstein
• Lithuania
• Luxembourg
• Macao, China
• Macedonia
• Madagascar
• Madeira (Portugal)
• Malaysia
• Malta
• Martinique
• Mauritius
• Mayotte (France)
• Melilla (Spain)
• Mexico
• Miquelon (France)
• Moldova
• Monaco (Admin by France)
• Mongolia
• Montenegro
• Morocco
• Namibia (SACU)
• Netherlands
• New Caledonia (France)
• New Zealand
• Norway
• Pakistan
• Poland
• Portugal
• Puerto Rico (USA)

• Eswatini (SACU)
• Qatar
• Reunion Island (France)
• Romania
• Russia
• Senegal
• Serbia
• Singapore
• Slovakia
• Slovenia
• South Africa
• South Korea
• Spain
• Sri Lanka
• St. Barthelemy (France)
• St. Martin/Sint Maarten
• St. Pierre (France)
• Sweden
• Switzerland
• Tahiti (France)
• Taiwan*
• Tasmania (Australia)
• Thailand
• Tunisia
• Turkey
• Ukraine
• United Arab Emirates
• United Kingdom
• United States
• Wallis & Futuna (France)

*Taiwan does not accept normal ATA Carnets but requires a separate TECRO/AIT Carnet.

The following countries are in the process of adopting ATA Carnets:

  • Trinidad
  • Tobago
  • Saudi Arabia.

Restrictions: It is also advisable to find out if your import destination country imposes any restrictions on ATA Carnets from your home country (e.g. sometimes a country accepts ATA Carnets in general, but due to political reasons will not accept one from a specific country).

If a country does not accept ATA Carnets, you will be liable for any duties and VAT charges. These charges can usually be refunded once your goods exit the country.

Which goods are covered?

ATA Carnets cover a vast range of goods – most merchandise and equipment required for trade purposes can be listed on the Carnet.  You may list both carry-on goods and shipped goods.

Goods covered include:

  • Commercial samples for buyers
  • Tools, machinery, or professional equipment required to complete a project
  • Goods used at trade shows, fairs, and exhibitions

Goods not covered include:

  • Perishable goods
  • Consumable and disposable goods (including goods used in repair work)
  • Agricultural products (e.g. food, seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides)
  • Goods that are already sold or have been offered for sale
  • Unmounted gems and gemstones
  • Vehicles to be used for transport
  • Explosives
  • Postal traffic
  • Goods to be repaired

How to apply?

If you would like to apply for an ATA Carnet, you can visit the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry website.

Application fees: ATA Carnet applications must be accompanied by an issuing fee, as well as a deposit of up to 50% of the value of the imported goods. (If importing goods to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia & Eswatini, a 25% deposit is required). This deposit can be paid in the form of a direct deposit (EFT), or a Bank Guarantee Letter. All security put up must be validated for a minimum period of 31 months from the date of issue.

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.