How to bring firearms to South Africa

Its always best to bring your own rifle – This one you know in and out, which will in most cases make a difference.  

If you wish to bring your own rifle(s) or handgun, please study the below requirements and procedures.

YOU MUST BRING THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS:

1.Temporary Firearm Importation Application formSAPS 520” (download and read instructions below).
2. Passport (must be valid for at least 6 months)
3. Copy of airline tickets to/from South Africa
4. Proof of Ownership. To preclude any problems on arrival, please make sure you have proof of ownership. For US citizens, the Customs Declaration Form 4457 will suffice (read below). For European hunters, please bring your EU Firearms Passport.
5.Customs declaration form 4457 (US citizens) / Official Signed Customs form from your home country, proving that the firearms you are bringing, are your property and fully detailed on such form. Download and read instructions below. 
6. Letter of Invitation from your outfitter (we will provide this one)

 

SAPS 520 Form
The SAPS 520 is the form you need, in order to apply for the temporary import of your firearms into South Africa.

  • Download SAP 520 form HERE.
  • Download detailed description HERE.
  • Download a filled out example HERE

ONLY fill out the following sections: D (temporary import or export permit), E1 – E25.4, G and I. The form MUST be completed with BLACK INK and left UNSIGNED (section J) until the document is finalized in front of the police official, who is issuing the actual permit at the airport – Only exception to this is if you have used the Pre-approved Permit Service with Afton Safari Lodge (or similar), in which you should also complete section J with your signature (read about Pre-approved Permit Service further below).

 

Custom Declaration Form 
Prior to your flight you will need to stop by the local Customs Office (usually located at all international airports) and get a customs form completed and signed. Its very quick and easy to get, but critical important to have before you get onto the plane. Check before your flight, if there is a office open in your departure airport, otherwise stop by your local customs office. For US citizens, the customs form is named Form 4457 and can be downloaded HERE (remember to have it signed at the customs office, and check the expiry date in the right hand corner).

The reason for having a customs form, is to show the customs people when you return to your home country, that you owned the firearms prior to your departure, and that you are bringing back the same firearms that you took out of the country. Be sure to have the form available on your return (take copies).

NOTE FOR US CITIZENS:
Since The United States may not require your sporting rifles to be registered, the customs form 4457 will suffice as proof of ownership for the required SAP Form 520, which is described above. To be on the safe side and avoid confusion, write the serial number(s), model and manufactor on the customs form as well. 

 

Pre-approved Permit & Meet/Greet Services (optional)
We recommend you make use of the services provided by Afton Safari Lodge in Johannesburg. They offer a VIP Meet & Greet, as well as a complete Pre-approved Permit Service.
– With the VIP Meet & Greet Service, you will be met upon arrival at the gate, and guided through passport control. The officer on duty will also assist you in picking up your luggage and weapons, getting you processed at the firearms office (in order to get your Temporary Permit), and help you check-in for your onwards domestic flight. In other words, you will be personal assisted in the whole process from start to finish. 
– With the Pre-approved Permit Service, Afton Safari Lodge will make all paperwork for you in advance (including the Temporary Permit), and all you have to do, is show up at the police office and present your weapons for inspection – no hassle and unforeseen delays.

A combination of the two mentioned services is also possible. The price is normally $100 for any of these services. Click HERE to visit their website.

 

Procedure to be followed upon arrival at Johannesburg Airport
1. Clear passport control in whichever terminal where your flight arrives.

2. Proceed to baggage claim at the respective carousel. Pick up ordinary baggage, and then proceed to the little office, which lies adjacent to carousel number 8. Here you can pick up your firearms, before you must head to the SAPS (police) office for the import permit. In some cases, you only need to sign a form, and the staff will bring the firearms to SAPS. The little office at the carousels may be unattended for small periods of time (have patience). In case you cannot find this office or if no personel shows up, proceed to the respective airline Help Desk to get instructions.

3. Proceed to the South African Police (SAPS) Firearm Office. Do not at this stage proceed through customs (the red zone) – You do not need to declare weapons here. When exiting, look for the SAPS Firearm office signs (when exiting the customs area and entering the big arrival hall, where people are standing to greet the arriving passengers – turn right).

4. Present yourself at the firearms office and go through the process. On receipt of the temporary import permit, proceed to check-in for your domestic flight. Pull out the ammunition from your luggage, and let the check-in agent know that you are traveling with firearms.

5. Check-in agents will check-in your ordinary luggage, and issue the relevant firearms tags, before directing you to the appropriate firearms desk, for inspection and final processing of your firearms. This desk is located in the domestic terminal, right next to security (on the left hand side).

6. At the firearms desk, you must hand over your firearms and firearm tags. The staff might want to check your weapons again, as well as you temporary import permit. You must also sign a form, declaring that your firearm(s) are safe and unloaded for carriage. The staff will then bring them to the plane. 

7. Proceed through airport security and board your plane towards Port Elizabeth (or other domestic destination).

8. Upon arrival in Port Elizabeth (or other if agreed), we will be standing by, ready to assist you in picking up your firearms at the relevant firearms desk. After that, its time for a short drive into the bush and a cold beer/drink at the camp:-)

 

RETURN FLIGHT FROM SOUTH AFRICA – PROCEDURES
We will assist you in checking in at Port Elizabeth Airport. Here again, your ammunition will (most likely) be ordered to be checked in as a separate piece of luggage. If the check-in agent allows you to keep the ammunition in your suitcase (in respect of your following flight from Johannesburg), we recommend that you check-in your luggage ALL the way to the US or your final destination (then you don´t need to worry about your suitcase in Johannesburg). If the check-in agent ask you to take the ammunition out of your suitcase, we recommend that you only check-in your suitcase to Johannesburg. IN ANY CASE, your firearms will have to be picked up in Johannesburg and checked-in again for your international flight!

1. After checking in your luggage, we will accompany you to the firearms desk (same one as when you arrived in Port Elizabeth) and assist you in handing in your weapons.

2. After our goodbyes, you can proceed through security and board your plane to Johannesburg.

3. In Johannesburg, proceed to the luggage claim and pick up your suitcase (if not checked all the way through to final destination). In the same luggage hall, proceed to the little firearms office, located a few meters to the right of the exit. Sign the required papers and pick up your firearms.

4. Proceed to the check-in counter for your international flight. Once again, let the check-in agent know that you are traveling with weapons. You will be asked to pack the ammunition into your suitcase (ask the staff to be on the safe side). Check-in your suitcase and get firearms tags for your firearms.

5. Now proceed to the firearms desk, located at top level in Terminal B. It lies in the direct opposite end than the security and firearms desk, which you visited on your outbound flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. Ask for directions if you are unsure of anything.

6. At the firearms desk, hand over your firearms and firearm tags. The staff might want to check your weapons, as well as you temporary import permit. In any case, you must sign a form, declaring that your firearm(s) are safe and unloaded for carriage. The staff will then bring the firearms to the plane. 

7. Now all is done. Proceed to international departures, and enter through security/passport control, in order to board your flight towards your final destination(s).

 

General recommendations and information

  • Do NOT travel through Cape Town. Choose a flight that transits in Johannesburg.
  • Please ensure sufficient time is allowed to go through the temporary importation permit process and to clear passport control in Johannesburg. During the busy periods of the hunting season, many clients may be needing permits at the same time, and there may be waiting time at the passport control, which you have to enter when transiting in Johannesburg. We therefore recommend at least 3 hours to be set aside for this procedure. With Pre-Approved Permit Service, 2 hours should be sufficient.
  • Ensure your airline allows hunting weapons onboard before booking your flight. Note that ONLY AirLink and South African Express are currently allowed to transport firearms on domestic flight within South Africa. The Corona pandemic in 2020 may cause new airlines to form and arise, so other airlines may also be added to the list in the near future. 
  • Please do not pay for any service regarding the handling of firearms at Johannesburg International Airport, or any port of entry. This is a FREE service and the South African Police ask clients not to pay anybody involved in handling firearms at any time. Clients that are paying the various airline, security or police staff, are actually creating a problem and supporting corruption. If you need assistance from the airport porters, they do however require a tip for their assistance, which is fully legal and helps a lot if you are not sure where to go.  
  • Please note, that there may be a handling fee charged by airlines for the handling of firearms.
  • Please ensure that if you are travelling through another country in transit with firearms, that you have the required permits and paperwork for that specific country (Dubai and Amsterdam require transit permits). Airports like Münich, Frankfurt and Doha work well and have no restrictions.
  • Some airlines (like Emirates, British Airways and KLM) require a notification that you are travelling with firearms, before they will accept them onboard. Please ask your travel agent to confirm this, or contact the airline you are using directly for the correct information. We recommend that you make use of an experienced travel agent.
  • Temporary Import Permits (SAPS520) are issued to a particular person, and are not transferable.
  • Temporary Import permits are issued for a period of 90 or 180 days.

 

Restrictions

  • No more than one firearm per caliber, and 200 rounds per caliber, will be allowed into the country. The only exception to this is for shotguns, where more than one shotgun of the same caliber may be allowed for bird hunting purposes, if the client produces on arrival at the South African Police Gun Office, an acceptable written motivation as to why he/she requires more than one shotgun of the same caliber.
  • A maximum of 5 kg. securely boxed ammunition per passenger will be permitted for carriage, either as a separate piece of baggage, or within checked baggage in the hold of the aircraft (read about Regulations for Transportation of Firearms below)
  • Permits will only be issued for ammunition which is accompanied by a firearm of the same caliber.
  • Temporary Import Permits will not be issued for anyone under the age of 21.
  • Automatic or Semi-Automatic rifles er NOT allowed
  • Automatic or Semi-Automatic shotguns are NOT allowed unless applications for these are made well in advance, so that the necessary administrative work can be completed before the client arrives in South Africa. No applications on arrival will be considered.
  • Handguns for hunting are only allowed with pre-approvals, which can be produced upon supplying a motivation letter and help from Afton Safari Lodge. Contact us for further information.
  • You are not allowed to leave any firearms in South Africa!
  • There is no permit required, nor any charge by the South African Police Service for a bow.

 

HOW TO PACK AND FLY WITH FIREARMS 

Firearms may NOT be packed inside checked luggage and must therefore be packed in an appropriate lockable firearm container or case, separate from checked luggage.

Ammunition must be separated from the weapons and must be packed within checked luggage on international flights, but must be properly secured in an ammunition case or solid box. No ammunition may be packed loosely in checked baggage or within the same case as the firearms.

NOTE 1: AirLink and South African Express is currently the ONLY airline carriers, who is currently allowed to transport firearms onboard domestic flights (South African Airways ceased their domestic flights on 29th February 2020) – Please therefor make sure your domestic flights within South Africa is carried out by Airlink or South African Express. The Corona pandemic in 2020 may cause new airlines to form and arise, so other airlines may also be added to the list in the near future. In any case, please update yourself with regulations before booking your flight. 

NOTE 2: On domestic flights within South Africa, your ammunition must be checked in separately. All though this is only a “recommendation” from the local airlines, the airport staff chooses to enforce this, from a recommendation to procedure! We therefor strongly recommend that ammunition is packed in lockable cases, which is suitable for being handed in as a separate piece of luggage on domestic flights. 

 

 

This all may seem a bit complicated, but really it is not. If you have any questions, we will gladly help you out. Contact us by clicking HERE

 

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