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SARS to Introduce an Online Traveller Declaration System

by Thaabit Kamaar

 Photo by [EWN]


South African Revenue Service is set to implement a new online travel declaration at OR Tambo Airport on the 1st of November. It will continue to roll out the system nationwide to other airports within the first three months of 2023.

The process will require all foreign and domestic travellers, adult and child alike, to complete and submit an online declaration before departing or entering the country.

According to Business Insider, the purpose of the declaration is to simplify passenger movement at South African airports. The system aims to collect travel information and will grant travel passes at the gates via email.


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Traveller Cards

Travellers must complete a TC-01 form on arriving and departing South Africa. Travellers will need to declare goods and cash that is in their possession. The information will be captured on the card and will be used alongside passports during the customs process.

Based on the items in their possession, the card will be used to inform customs officials to direct travellers towards the necessary channels.

Travellers will be informed to go down the green or red channel, green for those who do not have anything to declare and red for those who do.

However, according to the SARS website, “You [travellers] may be stopped, questioned or searched by a customs officer at any time in the red or green channel.

The Impact of the Online Declaration

This new policy will not affect tourism in South Africa. However, it will affect the ease of movement regarding taking and bringing goods into the country. Even though these rules seem unusual, they are amendments to existing regulations of customs policies.

Thomas Lobban, the Legal Manager for Cross Border Taxation, mentions that this initiative is unique to South Africa in contrast to the rest of the world. In his experience, so long as travellers did not bring prohibited or restricted items into another country, they were allowed to proceed.

“It does seem somewhat invasive, I’m sure, to many,” he said. “But if anything, it’s just to bridge that compliance gap. That burden one faces when you’re not sure, and you don’t want to be in trouble around what you’re bringing in or whether you can take out, whatever you’re taking.”

He continues, “If anything, it almost comes across as a protectionary, if not perhaps very strict, measure to ensure that the fiscus in South Africa, the integrity of the fiscus is maintained. Whereas before, there was a more libertarian way of moving things in and out [of the country].”

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