ALERT: Are You Bringing Your Rifle On a Hunt in South Africa? The South African Police Just Changed Their Policy On US Customs Form 4457

ALERT: Are You Bringing Your Rifle on a Hunt in South Africa? They Just Changed Their Policy on US Customs Form 4457

The South African Police just made a major policy change regarding the US Customs Form 4457. Make sure you know the details before you arrive for a hunt.

Hunters booked for safaris in South Africa got a rude surprise earlier this month when the South African Police Service (SAPS) announced that they will no longer accept expired or out of date versions of the US Customs Form 4457 when processing temporary firearms import permits for visiting hunters.

Also known as a "Certificate of Personal Effects Taken Abroad", the Customs Form 4457 is used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to verify that travelers had the listed items before leaving the United States, thus eliminating the need to pay an import duty on the items. While it can be used for any item (like a camera), it is commonly used by hunters traveling with firearms.

Obtaining a form 4457 is pretty simple. Before leaving on a trip abroad, simply take the item in question to a CBP office and an officer will verify the serial number on the item before signing and stamping the form with an official US Customs seal. CBP does not keep a record of the form 4457.

However, CBP has slightly changed the form 4457 over the years. As far as CBP is concerned, the form never expires and there is no problem with older versions of the form because newer versions are functionally identical to older versions, the only difference between them being the issue and expiration dates. For this reason, many CBP offices still use older versions of the form.

So, you can use the same 4457 over and over again for years without any trouble with CBP and they don't care if you use a form 4457 certified 10 years ago.

Pretty simple right? Well, not necessarily.

Since most states and localities in the United States do not issue actual "firearms licenses", the South African Police Service (and the police in other countries) have long accepted the 4457 as proof of ownership of a particular firearm when issuing a temporary import permit for visiting American hunters. 

For some reason, SAPS just started making a big deal out of using older versions of the form 4457 and stated that they will not accept "expired" forms. Not every version of the 4457 has an expiration date though. In this case, SAPS stated that they will only accept forms certified by CBP in 2017.

So, if you've got a hunt in South Africa in the near future and you plan on bringing your own rifle, you may run into some serious problems with the South African police if you show up with an older version of the form 4457. To avoid any unnecessary hassle, make sure you use the most current copy of the form 4457. Since so many Customs offices still use older versions of the 4457, it's a good idea to print out your own copy from the CBP web site and get the officer to certify that one instead.

Bring the certified 4457, your SAPS 520 form (application for a firearms license), a copy of your passport, a copy of your flight itinerary, and a letter of invitation from your hunting outfitter with you on your hunt. As long as you have the required items, use the most up to date forms, and you've filled everything out correctly, you should not run into any trouble getting a permit from the South African Police.

For help finding a nearby CBP field office to get a new form 4457, visit the Customs and Border Protection web site.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by John McAdams on his hunting blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt or check out one of his South African hunting safaris