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Cross-border permits

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 travelling 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 travelling 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 own permit. You also need to ensure that each vehicle has its own 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 trade, here

  • 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 are here to help. Contact us on 0861 0 TRADE (87233) for a free consultation, or simply fill in this short webform and they will contact you.

Trading with regulated and prohibited goods

Trading with regulated or prohibited goods

Trading with regulated and prohibited goods

Each country has different requirements regarding what they classify as regulated, restricted or prohibited goods for import and export trade. For example, some countries might allow prescription medication or animal skin trade, while others do not. Sometimes, a country may prohibit a product for import, but only regulate it for export.

What is the difference between regulated and prohibited goods?

According to Customs, prohibited goods are goods that are not allowed to cross the border either out of or into the country. Attempting to import or export prohibit goods can lead to serious fines and even criminal charges.

Regulated goods are goods that are controlled by an import or export permit. These permits regulate either the quality or quantity of the goods. Quality permit restrictions are controlled by government departments such as the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Environmental Affairs for example. Volume (quantity) permits are usually controlled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC).

For imports, some products need to be sampled and tested before the import permit is issued. An example of this is when the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is required to test a product for safety. The permit may only be issued once the SABS accepts the product as safe.

How do I know if my goods are regulated or prohibited?

The good news is that Customs has made it easy for importers and exporters to find out whether they are allowed to bring their goods into, or take them out of, the country.

Figure 1 below shows an excerpt from the Customs list of regulated and prohibited goods. An explanation of each section in the figure follows.

Excerpt from Customs Regulated Cargo List

Figure 1: Excerpt from the Customs regulated cargo list

  1. Heading: This is the 4-digit number or the first 4 numbers of the HS/tariff code.
  2. Designation of goods: The description of the goods according to the category they fall into.
  3. Prohibition or restriction: Stipulates how the goods are controlled for import or export.
  4. Authority: Stipulates the law (Act) that authorises regulation or restriction of the goods.
  5. Action required/Detained for: Lists the authority that must be notified if the importer or exporter is stopped.
  6. Competent authority: The authority responsible for issuing the import/export permit.
  7. Customs mandate requirement: Outlines what Customs must look for when checking the imports/exports.
  8. Document requirement: States what Customs must see on the permit provided.

If the importer/exporter is not in possession of the applicable permit, then the goods will not be allowed into or out of the country. Should Customs need to store the goods for the duration it takes to obtain the necessary permit, the importer/exporter will accrue storage costs. Delays in Customs clearance due to incorrect documentation may also result in business losses due to lack of availability of the goods. It is therefore very important to make yourself aware of any restrictions and obtain a permit before Customs clearance.

You can look up prohibited or regulated items in our lookup guides below. Our office can obtain most permits for you.

For assistance with permits, enquire online or call 0861 0 TRADE (87233).