Business Setup in Dubai

Setting up a Import Export Business in UAE

International investors looking to generate revenue in the UAE, and especially in Dubai, can make a choice on one of the prolific fields of the import and export sector.

Accessibility to global markets and profiting from the tax regime in the trading sector attracts entrepreneurs who want to prosper in a competitive industry. UAE is today the rapidly growing center for import/export businesses.


Imports in Dubai

Machinery, food, chemicals, and transport equipment are the significantly imported products in Dubai. Dubai also imports textiles and metals from China and various primary items from India such as cotton, garments, machinery, instruments or plastics.

Jewelry and gold are also important among the key goods imported. Other import partners are the USA, Japan, and Germany. Imports into the UAE include electronic equipment, precious metals, furniture and appliances, inorganic chemicals, minerals, fabrics, shoes, vehicles, ceramic goods, alcoholic beverages, and dairy products as well.

Exports in Dubai

The UAE is a member of the World Trade Organization and the Emirates is a major trade partner for around 32 countries around the world. The major export items constitute natural gas and crude oil, as well as food and re-exported goods. Dubai also exports metals such as aluminum or copper, with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, India, and Iran as its primary export partners.

Benefits Of Import / Export Business In UAE:

  • 100% foreign ownership
  • 0% personal income & personal tax
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profit
  • Minimal Import/Export duty
  • 0% corporate tax
  • No restrictions on funds transfer
  • Efficient administrative services
  • Quick licensing and business set-up process
  • Stable Government
  • Stable rules and regulations
  • Business-friendly environment
  • World-Class infrastructure with efficient communication system
  • Low start-up and operational cost
  • No visa restrictions
  • No restrictions to hire foreign employees
  • Pre-built structures- offices, factories, warehouses
  • Quick and efficient business support services
  • Modern IT infrastructure
  • Easy access to seaports, airports and road transport
  • 24/7 operational ability
  • Ready consumer market across MENA and Asia regions

 All you need to learn about import-export at the UAE

Whatever plan you choose to go down, there are a few things you should know before you begin.

  1. Setting up in a free zone: Establishing an import-export business in a free zone of the UAE is exceptionally uncomplicated and normally takes just a matter of days. You may choose from any of the more than 40 free zones in the UAE, although some may be more appropriate than others. For example, if you plan to import and export predominantly by sea, Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) is probably a good choice because it is directly connected to the busy port of Jebel Ali. In contrast, if you mostly transfer cargo by air, Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA) is probably more suited. You might also want to set up in a free zone that is already home to other large organizations – both Aramex and IKEA have warehouses in Dubai South, while Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) is where Franke and Mahindra trade from.
  1. Affordable startup: Besides being easy and fast, it is also very economical to start an import-export business in the UAE. The cost of establishing in popular free zones like JAFZA (AED 15,000) or Sharjah Media City (SHAMS) (AED 11,500) can be very fair. You will also have to rent warehouse space if you plan to store the goods. JAFZA provides warehousing from AED 350-600 per square meter, per annum. Moreover, if you really want to keep start-up costs low, there are many free zones that do not necessitate initial capital payments.
  1. Partnering requirements: If you set up an import-export business in a free zone, you will have to deal with a local trade partner throughout the mainland. Most enterprises choose to work with local distributors like Aramex to manage such logistics on the mainland. Others merge this with their own e-commerce portal to cut the middle man-selling online directly to customers and shipping goods via Aramex.

4. Customs considerations: Wherever you set up your company in the world, if you are importing or exporting,   you will have to consider the customs. You’ll need to obtain an import code from UAE customs to import goods into the UAE by sea or air. Once you have that, you can import goods through any of the ports in the UAE. As for prices,  products passing through customs from a free zone to the local market are liable for duties of up to 5 percent (although this varies depending on the product) here in the UAE. When setting up your business, bear in mind that customs duties may quickly add up and, if you import large volumes of goods for sale to the local market, a mainland setup can make more financial sense.

  1. Plenty of visa options: Once you launch your import-export business in a free zone of the UAE, you will be eligible to apply for multiple visas. The exact number visas you may request depends on where you are setting up since each free zone has its own maximum cap. Several, like SHAMS, issue a total of six visas whereas others, depending on the size of your office or warehouse, permit you to apply for more. The general rule is 100 square feet of office space or warehouse space per visa.
  1. It’s easy to sponsor dependants: As a UAE business owner it is not only easy for you to apply for visas for your employees, you may also sponsor dependants for their visas. If you require a visa for a spouse, child or domestic workers, the procedure is intuitive: entry permit, adjustment of status, medical fitness test, registration of Emirates ID and stamping of visas. Considering that this is such an important process, it is a wise idea to get advice from a specialist on establishing UAE Free Zone companies and confirm that both you and those you plan to sponsor fulfill the eligibility criteria before starting an application.
  1. Set up with multiple shareholders: Although you can certainly set up your import-export company as a sole owner, you can also set up your business with multiple shareholders. These may be individuals, corporate entities or a mix of the two.
  1. Easy to arrange your corporate bank account: Once you have your business license to trade in the UAE, you will have all you need to open your corporate bank account. The application process is swift and straightforward. Free zone staff can provide advice on the best bank to suit your needs – and can even arrange branch meetings for you if you wish. The same support can also be offered by a business development specialist – or instead, you’re welcome to approach any local or international bank on your own.

There are more than 40 free zones & local authorities for your business licensing requirements. And each Free Zone and Jurisdiction has particular rules and regulations and different setup costs, and not every business activity is permitted.

If you’re a small general trader looking for the cheapest option to set up an import-export business from one of the UAE free zones, the best option to follow is below.

Contact a registered business consultant to advise you toward your investment in the best possible way.

Business activity range – there are four forms of business/trading licenses.

One Activity Trading License

Two Activities Trading License

Three Activity Trading License

General Trading License

Choose Jurisdiction – When you set up your company in Free Zone, you will have 100% ownership and if you incorporate your business as a local company, you will need a local sponsor who will hold 51% share and you will hold 49% of the shares.

Payment & Getting License – You need to make the payment after all the above steps to set up your company in a Free Zone or as a local company. Your business consultant will do everything possible to set up a business in the UAE.

When payment is made with all the necessary documentation, you can obtain your business license within 3-5 working days after which you can start your residency visa process.

Document Required To Setup An Import / Export Business:

  • Owner / Partner passport copy
  • Owner / Partner visa copy (if already a UAE resident)
  • Owner / Partner visit visa copy (if new to UAE)
  • Owner / Partner passport size photograph (white Background)
  • Three proposed business names
  • Business plan
  • Power of attorney (if required)

It has never been any easier to set up your own company. PMC Solutions DMCC takes care of everything so that you can concentrate on what matters-build your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 588631656, or send an email to

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