A Carnet de Passages en Douane is a document that facilitates the temporary importation of vehicles, or other property of significant value, across international borders without incurring customs duties. It is effectively a promise that the owner will take the vehicle or property back out of the country on departure, or risk hefty penalties.
While a carnet de passages is most commonly used for a vehicle, professional musicians or photographers may need one when travelling with a lot of equipment, as may a business person bringing goods for use at a trade show.
A carnet listing comprehensive details on a vehicle and its value can be obtained from local automobile associations in your country. Often a bank deposit is also needed. As this document is intended for temporary importation, it is typically limited to one year or less.
The carnet is stamped by the destination country's customs on both entry and exit, as proof that the items were re-exported.
If you plan to bring anything expensive or unusual, check with the destination country's embassy beforehand about what documentation may be required.
Obtaining a carnet before departure
Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (AIT) and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), two international non-governmental organizations, nominally administer the use of the carnet globally in accordance with United Nations conventions. More than 230 touring clubs, automobile associations, motor sports federations and national tourist offices in 124 countries are AIT or FIA members.
- CAA in Canada and AAA in the United States
- ADAC in Germany
- TCS in Switzerland
- AA in South Africa
- RAC in most Australian states
- AA in New Zealand
There is usually a fee (at least €300 in Europe, NZ$600 in New Zealand, etc.) plus a bond or indemnity which is returned after importing the vehicle back into the country of registration. The fee is often higher for non-members; it may be worth joining the association to save on the fee.
The indemnity amount is nominally the total amount of duty that would be payable if the property is not removed within the agreed time, including luxury taxes and value added taxes, plus a penalty. This is calculated as a fixed amount plus a percentage of the item's value (for instance, NZ $13000 + 15% in duties + 10% GST/VAT for a New Zealand vehicle in Australia). Tax rates vary between destinations (up to 400% of the vehicle's value in some volatile countries) and penalty sums also differ widely. A minimum indemnity of €3000 is not uncommon for vehicles from Europe.
Countries that require carnets
Not all countries require carnets, but the following are most likely to do so:
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
Asia / Middle East
- Singapore (except for Peninsular Malaysia-registered vehicles)
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- Australia (temporary import without a carnet is possible, but requires a deposit and a Vehicle Import Approval)
- New Zealand