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What is a UCR Number and who needs it..

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) requires a Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) number to be reported on all export proceeds.. This has been applicable since July 2009..  This requirement is part of the initiative undertaken by SARB and the Customs unit of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), to implement an automated process for administration and control of cross border transactions..

Any export proceeds received by the exporters bank will need to be matched to a UCR number.. The exporter will be required to provide this number to the bank..

Each export consignment must have a different UCR number.. A consignment is classified as “the total number of items specified in the commercial contract between the supplier and the customer and transported in a single or multiple shipments”..

The UCR Number must be reflected in the SAD500 (Bill of Entry) document submitted to SARS either manually or electronically.. It is important that the UCR number provided to the bank matches the UCR number provided to SARS when the goods are cleared for export. The SARB will match these numbers and check..

So who provides the UCR Number..?? The exporter (or his agent) must generate a UCR number for each export consignment..

The format of a UCR number will be :

The UCR attribute/ field is made up as follows:

  1. It has a minimum length of 12 and a maximum length of 35 characters..
  2. The first character is reserved for the last digit of the calendar year in which the exports took place. For example, if the exports took place in 2012, the first character will be reflected as a 2..
  3. The next 2 characters will be reserved for the UNLCODE/SWIFT country code of the country from where the exports originated.. Example ZA for South Africa.. For the full list of other country codes pls refer to http://www.unece.org/cefact/locode/service/location.html..
  4. The next 8 characters is the exporters code as allocated to them by SARS.. If for example, the customs code is 123456, then it must be preceded by two zeros (00) thus making it 8 characters in total.. ..
  5. The last 24 characters must reflect the unique reference number that links the export funds to the export consignment.. This number may be an invoice number, consignment number, order number, etc., and should be between 1 and 24 characters in length..
  6. The UCR number is Alpha-Numeric and should not contain any special characters, such as spaces, dots,  or slashes..

So your full UCR Number will ideally look like 2ZA001234560500010596 where

  • 2 denotes the year 2012
  • ZA denotes the country of export
  • 00123456 is the exporters code number
  • 0500010596 is the unique number linking the consignment to the payment

Trust this assists..


  1. Hi Hariesh,

    Am new to this am exporting a container from UK to Africa and for the customs I need to submit the UCR can you kindly brief me through this and how to get the UCR?

    Thanks for all the help

  2. Good afternoon Hariesh,

    Does one need an UCR number for advance payments for an export that will only be shipped (say) a month or so after receipt of the payment.
    Thank you so much for replying.
    Lo Krijger

  3. Please advice how and where I can obtain UCR as am doing different imports to Kenya from several Countries eg Portugal, Denmark Italy China etc.

  4. Hi Hariesh,

    Kindly advise if you require a UCR number for incoming advance funds for an export which is to take place in 2 months time?

    Kind regards,


  5. Good day

    I have an import from Holland to Mozambique. This is a in transit shipment. Do you require UCR number??? Agent in MOZ is looking for the UCR number.

  6. Is an UCR number required for Imports into South Africa?
    I have a client that imported goods from Europe to South Africa and the bank has requested the UCR number. This number is never shown on any of the import documents


  7. Hi Hariesh
    I am a small business man. Thanx for the detailed explaination and simplicity of making us understand what
    UCR is all about.


  8. Hi Hariesh,

    we have a shipment from Germany to Ghana and it is requied that this UCR-Number have to be indicated on the B/L, Invoice and other export documents. Until now, we have never applyed for this UCR. So, the question is, who can issue us this UCR? And what is necessary for that application?


    • Hi Oleg, this should be arranged by the shipper through their bank.. Please check with your country’s Reserve Bank or other banks involved in International Trade and they should be able to advise you..

  9. Thank you very much for the information, filling in a document from the bank and had no clue about what a UCR was. very well explained, anyone can understand it.
    keep up the good work.

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