How to Start an Import and Export Business in Dubai

Updated on April 8, 2020

The business of import and export has been around for centuries. It is an industry that caters to the demand and supply of goods and commodities across jurisdictions and countries. Therefore, import export business licenses are much sought after. Import is a product or commodity brought into one country from another country. It is an export in the sending country. Export is a product or commodity sent out or transferred to another country. It is an import in the receiving country. This exchange of goods and commodities is also known as international trade.

International trade has played an important role in shaping the economy of the UAE. Its stable trade relations with several countries across the world and its support of open trade has made the UAE a key hub for international trade. This is why, starting an import and export business in Dubai is a popular business venture.

Import and export business is a thriving sector in the UAE due to the following reasons:

  • UAE is one of the easiest places to start a business in
  • It is strategically located between Asia, Europe, and the African continents
  • Its central location allows for easy travel to and from anywhere across the world
  • It is globally well-connected by both air and water routes
  • It offers a great time zone that enables seamless co-ordination and trade with countries in the East as well as the West

Import and Export Business License

To start an import and export business in Dubai, you will need to apply for a trade license and register the company in Dubai. To do so, you will have to apply with the Department of Economic Development (DED).

Import and export business requires a Commercial License and will be registered as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). The shareholding structure of an LLC in Dubai is 51%-49%. Commercial laws of the UAE state that any company registered in Dubai mainland must partner with a UAE National, who is called the Local Sponsor. The local sponsor will hold 51% of the company shares while the remaining 49% will be held by the foreign-national partner(s).

Documents Required for Import and Export License

Submit the following documents to apply for an import and export business license:

  • Trade name options
  • Business activity
  • Passport copies of all the shareholders
  • UAE residence visa copy of the partner(s)
  • Copy of entry stamp or visa page if the partner is on visit visa
  • Passport copy and Emirates ID of local sponsor

Application Process

Applying for an import export license involves the following steps:

  • Choose your business activity from DED’s list of activities
  • Select the legal form (business structure)
    The legal form of your business must match the activity undertaken by your company. It will be Limited Liability Company in this case.
  • Select trade name and get approval for it from DED
    You must submit at least 3 name options for your business.
  • Apply for initial approval from DED
    This approval signifies that the UAE Government does not object for your business to be established in the UAE. It is important to get this in order to proceed with the next steps.
  • Prepare and sign the MOA or LSA Agreement
    The partner(s) and the local sponsor (UAE National) must be present to sign the Memorandum of Association (MOA) or Local Service Agent (LSA) Agreement.
    Note: Businesses owned completely by non-GCC residents require a local service agent.
    *Due to travel restrictions during the current global pandemic, the MOA or LSA are signed electronically.
  • Establish a business location
    An office or shop rental agreement/tenancy contract must be provided.
  • Get additional approvals, if any
    This is dependent on the trading activity you choose.
  • Pay the fees
    A payment voucher will be issued to you.
  • Collect the trade license
    This can be collected either at DED’s service centres or online, through DED’s website.

Dubai Customs Registration

Dubai Customs is an important government agency that plays a key role in the import and export sector. Once you have received your commercial trade license from the Economic Department, you must register your import and export company with Dubai Customs. This registration is done to get a unique Customs Code. The Customs Code allocated to your company must be submitted each time your company ships goods and commodities.

Starting an import and export business in Dubai can be rewarding both in terms of profitability and expansion opportunities. For more expert guidance on your business activity, getting an import export business license, and learning about the UAE’s import and export formalities, contact Shuraa Business Setup today. Our experienced business setup consultants will answer all your business-related queries. Speak with them on +97144081900 or WhatsApp them on +971507775554.