Over 80 million people live in Germany, and the South African expat community there is growing. Germany is therefore one of the most popular destinations for sending parcels from South Africa.

Essential Information

Sending items to Germany – general advice

Shipments can be held in customs for a maximum of 10 calendar days. If no clearance is possible within that timeframe, shipments will be returned to origin. DHL cannot act as an Importer of Record. Temporary imports are not allowed if no duty-free clearance is possible, or if importing without a Carnet ATA.

Companies shipping promotional items like T-shirts, pens and mugs into Germany are required to confirm in writing that these goods are for internal purposes only and not intended for resale or that they are samples only, must include a Proforma Invoice stating: “These goods are for internal company use, are non-revenue give-aways and are not intended for resale”.


Alcoholic beverages must have their volume of alcohol as a percentage and total volume of liquid stated on the invoice.

Antiques qualify for duty free clearance only if older than 100 years. Expert report is required which the sender must provide.

Biological Substance Cat B, UN3373 e.g. blood samples etc are acceptable only if human origin, not from animals. Invoice must specify: a) human origin, b) infectious or non-infectious; c) purpose, e.g. in-vitro diagnostic, laboratory test, etc.

Chemicals (non hazardous) due to their nature can be subject to inspection and review by customs which cannt be fast tracked.

Coffee if raw, can be imported with a max value of €22. If roasted, no possibility of sample clearance i.e duty & tax applicable.

Computer Software and data disks can be imported duty free only where the proforma Invoice indicates ‘Intercompany data-exchange’. For duty free clearance of software, commercial invoice must state the relevant software name.

Dangerous goods, hazardous or combustible materials cannot be sent unless approval has been granted by the DHL prior to shipping.

Drugs, non prescription and prescription are acceptable only in small quantity for private use and only if addressed to a german pharmacy with German doctor’s prescripton and German pharmacy order. Without these in place the shipment is likely to be reurned to origin. For commercial shpts, the importer must hold appropriate licence.

Electronic Equipment including hair removal and other cosmetic devices which operate on the basis of photo epilation (IPL, laser, or diodes), thermal epilation, mechanical removal (including shaving) via electrical/electronic/battery operation, electrology, transdermal electrolysis or micro-waves must fulfill the strict requirements of the European Union and show the “CE” mark/stamp on the product. Retroactive fulfillment of the requirements and/or marking/stamping after arrival is not possible. Devices/appliances not meeting the requirements are subject to confiscation by customs. This applies to devices/appliances utilizing these technologies for hair removal as well as other types of cosmetic/beauty treatments.

Solar Cells/Panels originating from China are subject to antidumping duties unless the shipper is qualified supplier as per EU directive and invoice states qualification and HS Code plus the additional tariff code for the goods.

Fabrics & fabric samples, swatches, textile articles and textile samples must have the country of origin indicated on the invoice.

Foodstuffs when in small quantities for personal use or samples can be imported with a maximum value 22 EUR. No foodstuffs containing meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, or any other animal products of any kind, including biltong can be imported to Germany. Food supplements and Vitamins for commercial use can be imported where the recevier has a relivent import license. All shipments into Germany as well as transiting Germany to other EU and Non-EU countries which are sent ignoring prohibition of animal products are subject for veterinary clearance prior to customs clearance which is extremely costly, complicated, time and labour intensive. Shipments which cannot be cleared due refusal of payment by importer or due to missing necessary documentation like health-certificate, import-licence etc. are subject for a return to origin or destruction under customs supervision.

Furs can be imported only with a fully documented business case is authorising the transport of these commodities. Furs and Leather Goods require the latin name of species from which goods are originating is required and if necessary (Washington Convention) a CITES certificate is needed from origin.

Medical samples  (See Drugs)  Biological material, e.g. blood samples etc are acceptable only if human in origin, not if from animals. Invoice must specify: a) human origin, b) infectious or non-infectious; c) purpose, e.g. in-vitro diagnostic, laboratory test, etc. Blood fractions (e. g. RNA / DNA / Antisera and other immunological products) require CITES document, even if fraction is modified or produced by a biotechnological process. Please contact DHL prior to shipping. Taxes and duty must be paid at destination by importer. Dangerous goods are prohibited to be send to a PACKSTATION (24/7 service-point)

Medical/dental supplies & equipment, see drugs

Personal Effects are not automatically cleared as duty free. If purchased abroad, the minimum requirements to be provided by the importer are copies of passport & flight-ticket (plus for expatriates registration confirmation of hometown or city of return) a list of contents with indication what is old and what is new, i.e. what was purchased abroad. Invoices for all foreign purchases are required. Items less than 12 months old are dutiable. Clearance delays are likely until all necessary documentation is provided by the importer.

Plants must have their Latin name of species stated on the invoice with a Phytosanitary Certificate. All shipments are subject to phytosanistary clearance at a cost of €150 charged to importer.  Shipments which cannot be cleared due to refusal of payment by importer are subject to return to origin or destruction under customs supervision.

Tobacco attracts very high duties & tax. For export & import the customer may wish/need to register the excise tax in the Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS). A customer not familiar with or without access to EMCS must appoint a 3rd party broker to make entries on his behalf. DHL will neither make the entries nor act as a tax consultant. The invoice must state exact number of articles per type/brand. If Customs/customer requests a physical inspection to determine or count contents, a fee of €35 Euro per commenced hour must be paid by importer. Fee cannot be paid via a VAT/Duty account. The fee applies even if inspection is related to transit to a bonded warehouse for self-clearance.

X-ray machines should not be sent without first contacting DHL who will in turn contact Germany to acquire licence/permit requirements.

Prohibited items which cannot be sent under any circumstances to Germany include:

  • Animal blood
  • Imitation and pirated products
  • Swastikas
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Figs

These are in addition to the following commodities which are not accepted by DHL under any circumstances. A list of these can be found here.

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