South Africa has been home to a sizable Chinese community since the 17th century – which means that China is one of the most popular destinations for parcels from South Africa.

Essential Information

Sending shipments to China – general advice 

Document shipments are limited to documents, certificates, bills, and similar materials that do not have a commercial value. Customs may ask for a document shipment to be cleared as non-document if it does not meet the criteria of document according to Customs judgment, especially for shipments weighing over 5kg.

Waybills, labels, and invoices must include – receiver and shipper details; quantity of goods; actual value; and an accurate and full description of goods including brand, type specification. False or ambiguous declaration of goods will lead to a clearance delay and heavy penalties. Invoices must be typewritten with no manual changes. Manual invoices are only accepted for personal effects. The receiver or import agent’s Customs Registration Number (CR No.) and Port of Arrival (POA) are required for all non-document goods (except personal effects), regardless of value.

Non-document goods subject to import license will be cleared as a formal entry. The receiver must apply for and provide the license in a timely manner.


Document shipments

China customs defines a document as general correspondence as well as:

  • Advertising brochures or pamphlets 1
  • Airline tickets, issued/validated
  • Blank forms
  • Business cards
  • Catalogues
  • Cheque, cancelled (NI)
  • Computer printouts
  • Documents, general business
  • Manuals, technical
  • Money orders (NI)
  • Pamphlets
  • Photographs
  • Price Lists
  • Airline tickets, blank stock (NI)
  • Annual reports
  • Booklets, brochures (Non adv.) 1
  • Cash letters (NI)
  • Charts/ graphs
  • Cheques, cashier (NI)
  • Deeds
  • Invoices, not blank
  • Manuscripts
  • Shipping Schedules
  • Passports 2
  • Photos as part of business reports
  • Ship manifest – computer generated
  • VISA Applications
  1. Document quantity above 100 pieces per consignment should be declared as a WPX and the shipment would need to go through formal clearance.
  2. Further Explanation is required if the quantity exceeds personal use – Potential delay for clearance.


Non-document shipments

  • Alcoholic beverages 9
  • Books: Hardback/paperback non-commercial use 5
  • Compact disc 1
  • Diplomatic mail 2
  • Drugs: Non-Prescription 10
  • Foodstuffs 9
  • Jewellery, costume 6
  • Magazines, periodicals, journals 5
  • Animal products 8
  • Coffee 9
  • Cosmetics 9
  • Diskettes 1
  • Drugs: Prescription 10
  • Grain Samples 9
  • Lithium Batteries
  • Medical / dental supplies and equipment 11
  • Mobile phones, accessories and components
  • Plant product 9
  • Publication not for public resale 4
  • Ship spares 3
  • Tapes: video cassettes 12
  • X-ray Machines 7
  • Personal effects 12
  • Plants 9
  • Seeds 9
  • Tapes: Computer 1
  • Tobacco 11
  1. Compact disc: COMPUTER SOFTWARE, clearly state the purpose of software importation, such as commercial, research, training, company internal use, etc. AUDIO/VIDEO product for commercial and entertainment purposes, only licensed importers are eligible to import and import license is required.
  2. Diplomatic mail/pouch with seal can only be cleared by embassy staff. For other shipments addressed to embassy/consulate, the embassy/consulate should apply for a ‘customs envelope’ for clearance.
  3. It can only be cleared by authorized 3rd party agent in the port city which the ship anchored
  4. NOT FOR SALE or similar mark should be on the publications.
  5. For commercial purpose, it can only be imported by government authorized importers. For personal purpose, the quantity should be limited to 50 pcs ( or 10 sets)
  6. Import/export license from CIQ is required.
  7. Please contact destination prior to accepting shipment for any licenses or permits requirement.
  8. Import license from Quarantine is required. Clearance time depends on consignee’s ability to obtain the license. Certificate of Origin and veterinary certificate from origin country authority are also required.
  9. Import license from Quarantine is required. Clearance time depends on consignee’s ability to obtain the license. Certificate of Origin and sanitary certificate from origin country authority are also required. Dutiable items like alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and tobacco trans-shipping through Hong Kong, require a permit for sea or land connections to China.
  10. Import license from State Food and Drug Administration is required. Clearance time depends on consignee’s ability to obtain the license. Certificate of Origin and sanitary certificate from the origin country are also required.
  11. Import licenses from Quarantine and Ministry of Commerce are required. Dutiable items like alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and tobacco shipping through Hong Kong, permit is required for sea or land connection to China. In Hong Kong, condition exemption can be applied in advance through DHL with valid exemption reasons, but this is subject to Hong Kong Customs.
  12. Video tapes for resale and master tapes: Import licenses from Ministry of Culture or State Administration of Radio Film and Television are required.


Prohibited items

These items cannot be sent under any circumstances to China:

  • Animal skins
  • Antiques
  • Asbestos
  • Biological Substance Category B, UN3373
  • Dangerous goods, hazardous, or combustible materials
  • Firearms, including parts of firearms
  • Furs
  • Gambling devices
  • Items that could be used as weapons
  • Jewellery
  • Military equipment
  • Perishables
  • Personal mail
  • Precious metals & stones
  • Private correspondence
  • Radar equipment: transmitters and receivers


Restricted/controlled commodity 

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee
  • Cosmetics
  • Drugs: prescription and non-prescription
  • Foodstuffs and grain samples
  • Lithium batteries
  • Medical and dental supplies and equipment
  • Mobile phones, accessories, and components
  • Personal effects
  • Plants, seeds, and plant products
  • Tobacco
  • X-ray machines

This is in addition to DHL’s Global standard list of prohibited items which can be found here


Size and Weight notes

Pallets accepted

Max. weight per shpt: 1000 KG (6600 LB), Max. weight per piece: 1000 KG (2200 LB)

Max. dimensions: length 120.0CM (47.0 IN) , height 160.0 CM (62.0 IN) , width 100.0 CM (39.0 IN)


Should you at any time require more information or telephonic assistance, please make contact with our Certified International Specialists.

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