What Is A Carnet? And Why Do I Need One As A Motorsport Photographer

by May 9, 2023

Are you planning on taking your camera gear overseas to photograph a motorsport event? You are going to need a carnet.

Being able to travel around the world to photograph some most iconic race tracks and events is very exciting, but it does also add some extra logistical considerations. Especially when bringing your expensive camera gear.

Take it from me, a Pelican case of equipment is always going to draw extra attention to you as you go through border controls, so you need to make sure you have everything in place to ensure that you have everything in place so you don’t have any issues. One of those is a carnet.

What Is A Carnet?

A Carnet, also referred to as an ATA Carnet or a merchandise passport, is a document that facilitates the temporary importation of goods into a foreign country without having to pay duties or taxes on those goods. It is used for goods that will be re-exported after a short period of time, like taking your professional photography equipment with you to and from an international event.

As an official document, a carnet serves as a guarantee to the foreign government that the goods will be re-exported and that any applicable duties and taxes will be paid. The carnet contains a detailed list of the goods being transported, and it is validated by customs officials at both the point of departure and the point of entry.

Carnets are issued by National Guaranteeing Associations (NGA), which are organisations authorised by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and are valid for up to one year. They are widely used by businesses engaged in international trade to simplify customs procedures and reduce costs associated with temporary imports.

There are two types of carnets, but the only one that applies to photography equipment is Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) carnet.

Why Do I Need A Carnet As A Motorsport Photographer?

As a photographer travelling internationally, you may need a carnet if you are carrying professional equipment that you plan to take with you into another country for a short period of time. This equipment includes everything you might carry – cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting equipment, and other accessories.

Without a carnet, you may be required to pay customs duties or taxes on the equipment you are importing, which can be both costly and time-consuming. Additionally, you may encounter delays and difficulties when trying to clear customs, as customs officials may need to verify the value and origin of your equipment.

A carnet simplifies the customs process by serving as a temporary import-export document that allows you to enter a foreign country with your equipment without paying duties or taxes. The carnet acts as a guarantee that you will re-export the equipment within a specified period of time and pay any applicable duties or taxes if you do not.

Using a carnet can save you time and money, and it can also help you avoid potential legal issues that can arise when travelling with professional equipment internationally.

Just note that not all countries require a carnet, and the equipment you are bringing must be for professional use and not for personal use. But it can be hard to justify personal use if you are carrying multiple camera bodies and lenses.

How Can I Get A Carnet?

To get a carnet, you will need to follow these steps:

Find A National Guaranteeing Association

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) maintains a directory of National Guaranteeing Associations (NGA) on its website that will issue a carnet in your country.

An NGA is an organisation authorised by the ICC to issue and guarantee carnets within a specific country. NGAs serve as the national point of contact for carnet applications and provide support to individuals and businesses seeking to obtain a carnet.

NGAs are responsible for processing carnet applications, collecting associated fees as well as providing guidance on carnet usage and regulations. Definitely take advantage of this to get all the information you need to ensure that your travels are as smooth as possible.

If you can’t find an NGA for your country, you can also contact your local customs authorities and inquire about the designated NGA for issuing carnets.

Provide Required Documentation

The process of obtaining a carnet requires a fair amount of supporting documentation. What this includes exactly varies from country to country, but it could include:

  • Application Form: You will need to complete the application form provided by the NGA. This will typically require information about yourself, your travel plans, and details about the equipment you intend to travel with.
  • Proof of Ownership: You will need to provide proof that you own the equipment listed on the carnet application. This can include purchase receipts, invoices, or any other documentation that verifies your ownership.
  • Equipment List: Prepare a detailed itemised list of the equipment you plan to bring, including make, model, serial numbers (if applicable), and values. Including the Pelican case that you are using to transport it. The values should reflect the current market value of the equipment.
  • Valid Passport or Identification: You will need to provide a copy of your valid passport or identification document as part of the application process.
  • Travel itinerary: Provide a copy of your travel itinerary, including the countries you will be visiting and the dates of your travel.
  • Insurance Documentation: Some NGAs may require proof of insurance coverage for the equipment being transported. This can include a copy of your equipment insurance policy or a letter from your insurance provider.
  • Security Bond: Depending on the NGA’s requirements, you may need to provide a financial guarantee, such as a bond or cash deposit, to ensure payment of any potential customs duties or taxes if the equipment is not re-exported. This could be up to 50% value of the equipment.

Just keep in mind that this process can take up to two weeks, so make sure you plan well in advance of your trip.

Validate The Carnet

Once your application is approved and you’ve received your carnet, there are a few more things you need to do. Before leaving, you must have the carnet validated by customs officials, which involves the document being stamped and authorised at your point of departure.

Most of the time, this can be done at the airport just before you leave, and Customs officials will need to inspect your equipment and verify that the items listed on the carnet match the equipment you are carrying. But it will be worth checking this process with your local authorities when you go through the initial application process. Your carnet will also need to be validated by customs officials each time you enter a new country.

Remember that once your carnet is validated, it is equally as important as your passport for transiting through countries and should be protected as such.

Return The Carnet

Once you’ve completed your travels and returned to your home country with your camera equipment in tow, you need to return the carnet to the issuing NGA within the specified time frame.

Upon return of the carnet, you can complete a security bond request form to have the bond used to secure the carnet returned to you.


Sound complicated? It can be, but it will save you a lot of heartache going through customs when you arrive at your destination. The last thing you need is to have all of your expensive camera gear confiscated by customs officials for illegal importation.

And if it makes you feel any better, Formula 1 teams need a carnet to cover every piece of equipment they travel with for each and every Grand Prix.

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.


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