India is a country with close historic ties to South Africa and a considerable flow of goods between the two economies. When sending or receiving good a complex set of customs requirements needs to be adhered to but an easy to digest summary of these are available below.

Essential Information

Sending items to India – general advice

All shipments received into India need the receivers KYC (Know your Customer) documentation in order. These should include be a Government recognized Identity and proof of address which are to be presented to Customs during shipment clearance. Import clearance cannot start unless KYC documents and Authorization approvals are uploaded in

All goods which are packed with solid wooden packing material should be treated and marked in accordance with the provisions of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) No.15 or accompanied by a phytosanitary certification with the treatment endorsed. Failure to comply will result in customs not clearing the goods or destruction.

Used/refurbished items (computer, laptops, printers, mobile, machinery, equipment, tools, etc) are subject to import restrictions. These should only be sent once the receiver has written confirmation to clear the shipment with compliant paperwork.

Shipments can be cleared as gifts or samples, only if the invoice mentions the item to be a gift or sample. Duty is payable even on gifts and samples.

If sender & receiver are the same or related (other than unaccompanied baggage), additional declaration or paperwork will required from the receiver. Non-compliance will result in the shipment not being cleared or being returned to origin.

Please contact DHL prior to sending any Temperature Controlled Shipments to ensure dry ice replenishment facilities are available.

Shipments with high values may be subject to additional customs processing before being delivered which may cause delays.

Alcoholic beverages, coffee, cosmetics, medical/dental supplies & equipment, non prescription drugs, industrial equipment, medical samples and oil products are subject to controls & imports license requirements. Expect clearance delays: 2-6 working days. The Importer should provide necessary paperwork for non-prescription drugs/Pharmaceutical intermediaries or raw material/Cosmetics. A No Objection Certificate (NOC)  is required from the Additional Drug Controller (ADC). Importer should provide necessary paperwork for NOC. Manufacturer’s name, batch number & expiry details should appear in the invoice.

Animal Skins/products are subject to Government controls. Wild life regional office/plant and quarantine NOC is required. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is followed in India. Importer should provide necessary paperwork for NOC. Check before sending any animal product other than Goat skin or bovine skin. Due to customs process a delay may be experienced.

Antiques can be imported only when special import permission and/or licenses from the Government of India have been issued. Items should not be sent unless the importer has relivent licences.  Correct market value to be declared on invoices otherwise shipments may be seized by customs with a fine & penalty imposed on the importer.

Books in either hard/soft back for non commercial use can be shipped with a maximum quantity of 5 pieces. Books should not contain pornography.

Bunker oil samples for analysis are subject to government controls and may require Ministry of environment and Forests approval.

Chemicals (non hazardous) require MSDS / Certification of analysis (COA) in English. Importer should provide the necessary paperwork for clearance. Please declare correct values on invoices.

Coal, firewood & Furs, Military equipment, works of art, tobacco & plants require special import permissions/licenses from Government of India. To be shipped only if importer confirms possession of the permission/license. Correct market value to be declared failing which the shipment may be seized by customs with a fine & penalty imposed on the importer.

Computer software, Labels & price tickets for garments can be imported without duties if the importer can provide paperwork for exemption.

Seeds including cotton seeds are subject to strict import controls. Importer should have license to import. Importer will need to have a NOC from the Plant Quarantine Department for clearance. A phytosanitary certificate will be required. If for Human/Animal/Bird consumption, FSSAI (food department) NOC to be obtained by the importer. The import of seeds, plants, cuttings, bulbs and other planting materials for propagation purposes are permitted to be imported only through Regional Plant Quarantine Stations of Amritsar, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and National Plant Quarantine Station, New Delhi. Import of Transgenic/Germplasm/Genetically Modified Organisms shall be permitted only through New Delhi Airport.

Credit card blanks and credit cards are acceptable only if cards are not activated.

Films 8mm, 16mm & 35mm, entertainment etc are subject to Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board’s approval).

Fire Extinguishers require formal clearance. Importer to provide necessary paperwork for clearance.

Foodstuffs & grain samples are subject to government controls and may incur clearance delays NOC is required from the FSSAI (food department) which can only be processed at BOM, DEL and MAA gateways. The importer should provide necessary paperwork for NOC. Item may be sent for testing which may cause delays. Items not approved by the authorities cannot be cleared for delivery and cannot be returned to origin.

Jewellery, precious/semi precious metals and stones are prohibited to be sent. If shipment contains imitation jewelry, it should be clearly specified in invoice. Imitation or artificial jewelry may also be sent for testing purposes to ascertain whether the description of is imitation and value is correct. Charges for testing may be levied in addition to duties payable.

Technical manuals, Manuscripts, audio and video cassettes & printed music can be imported but are subject to Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board’s approval)

Maps or publications containing maps depicting incorrect political boundaries of India may be seized by Indian customs. Returning the item to origin is not permitted.

Passports should either be sent by or sent to an Embassy, Consulate or Regulatory They should not be shipped from and individual or company to an individual or company. Indian customs will decide on authenticity. Passports should be accompanied by an original letter from the embassy or consulate.

Personal effects. Personal/left baggage/luggage is cleared under import duty allowance rules and required the presence of the importer at the airport with an original passport during examination. This process may cause delays in clearance. The sender should be same as the receiver on the airway bill (AWB), Invoice, passport and visa. AWB must have valid receiver phone number and email to contact in India and the description on the AWB should state “Unaccompanied Baggage”. Only used personal articles of the traveler including books, cosmetics, shoes, clothes etc,  will be cleared duty free. Other items will attract duty. Special clearance charge of 1500 Rupees will be applicable in addition to any customs duties or taxes. Scans of receivers passport with pages bearing name, address, photo and visa should be supplied to DHL prior to sending.

Radios, radio, radar, equipment or parts and telecommunication equipment if it has RF (Radio Frequency) signals & a range of more than 4800 MHZ requires a WPC license is required (Wireless planning Commission) from the receiver. Items should only be shipped if the receiver has the relevant licences in place.

Ships Spares require formal clearance which may cause delays.

Textile articles, Fabrics and fabric samples are subject to NOC from the textile committee office prior to physical clearance of shipments. Items should ideally have a laboratory test report from any internationally accredited testing agencies such as SGS, Lloyds Register, Bureau Veritas, etc. This will help reduce delays and warehouse charges.

Toys require special paperwork. All wheeled toys, dolls carriages, dolls, scale models and similar recreational models whether working or not and puzzles require the sender and receiver to provide a certificate that the toys being imported into India conform to the standards prescribed in ASTM F963 or standards prescribed in ISO 8124 (Parts I-III) or IS 9873 [Parts I-III] or standards prescribed in EN 71. Also required is a Certificate of Conformance from the manufacturer that representative sample of the toys being imported have been tested by an independent laboratory which is accredited under ILAC, MRA and found to meet the specifications indicated above. The certificate would also link the toys in the consignment to the period of manufacture indicated in the Certificate of Conformity.


Commodities considered as Documents

Indian Customs define a document as information or data recorded on paper, cards or photographs which are of no commercial value”. Data & information on paper, card or photographs having commercial use should be classified as non documents. Items exceeding the quantities mentioned in the notes below will fall under non documents will attract duties. Non-compliance or wrong declarations may result in penalties or seizure by customs. In such cases, a return to origin is not possible.

  • Airline Tickets
  • Annual reports 3
  • Blank Forms, Calenders, magazines, periodicals, journals, newspapers & shipping schedules schedules 4
  • Business cards 1
  • Cash letters, Cheques (blank/cancelled, cashier), Money orders (NI)
  • General business documents
  • Invoices (not blank)
  • Pamphlets, Booklets, brochures 5
  • Visa applications
  • Postal envelopes
  • Price lists 2

1. Max weight: 1 Kg (2.5 lbs)
2. Postcard size and business related only. Max quantity: 10 pieces
3. Subject to Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board’s approval).
4/5. Max quantity: 5 pieces

NI = A negotiable instrument is a document guaranteeing the payment of a specific amount of money, either on demand, or at a set time, with the payer named on the document.

Prohibited items

The following items are specifically not allowed to be sent with DHL to India. This is in addition to DHL’s Globally standard list of prohibited items which can be found here.

  • Asbestos
  • Dangerous goods, hazardous, or combustible materials
  • Firearms and parts
  • Gambling devices
  • Jewellery
  • Precious metals and stones
  • Pornographic material or sex toys

Size or Weight notes

Shipments with where the weight per piece is above 70kg may incur additional 1 or 2 day delivery delay. The maximum weight per shipment is 3000kg (6600.0 LB). The maximum weight per piece is 1000kg (2200.0 LB)

What's missing from this page? Do let us know if there's anything that you'd like to see feature. We'd love to hear your feedback