The Past:

Let’s go back to early days of UAE, it was by nature in position to do International trade with Asia, Europe, Africa & other gulf regions. Arabs also have their own wide history in business. Arab merchants were very famous in the trade of traditional wooden dhows. UAE was also had natural resources and because of its strategic location UAE Trade flow went high every year consistently.

In 1962, the discovery of oil changes the trade of UAE and within days UAE become a major hub of trade. It was a major milestone in UAE history and trade. The ruler of Dubai (His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum had vision of Dubai creek and then in 1972 Port Rashid opened and later in 1985 Jabel Ali Port, first ever Free Trade Zone of UAE.

(UAE early days Import / Export business flow chart. Source: World Bank)

The Present:

Today, UAE is fastest growing business hub for import / export. Dubai (Emirate of UAE) is today worlds leading trader of goods and passenger through Sea, Airports and Roads by providing lot of business services, world class facilities to investors and using of technology. UAE continuously growing its import / export capabilities by taking itself as a global trade hub.

(Jabel Ali Port – The most productive Free Trade Port)

Favorable Environment:

Strategic location of UAE is very ideal for imports / exports and re-exports industry. Trading companies can easily access more than 2 billion people within 4 – 5 hours from UAE Ports in East & West. UAE is also making trading possible through roads and by Air around the globe. Government of UAE is invested billions of dollars in past few years to construct new ports, free trade zones, warehouses, manufacturing industry to attract Import / Export industry by also giving them world – class services, facilities and high-class living in UAE.

Steps for Setting Up Import / Export Business:

Business Plan – before setting up business you have to plan that do you want to setup your business in Free Zone or as a Local Company and in which Emirate of UAE. Your business plan must have information regarding:
  • Market
  • Products
  • Office requirement
  • Employees requirement
  • Investment details
  • Success factors
  • Suppliers
  • Competitors
  • Business strategy

Business Consultant – there are more than 40 free zones & local authorities for business licensing options. And every Free Zone and Jurisdictions have different rules and regulations and different setup costs and also every jurisdiction is not allowed every business activity. So simply contact with Easy Step Business Consultant so we can guide you best business option against your investment.

Choose Business Activity – there are four kinds of commercial / trading licenses.
  • One Activity Trading License
  • Two Activities Trading License
  • Three Activity Trading License
  • General Trading License

Choose Jurisdiction – if you will setup your business in Free Zone you will have 100% ownership and if you will register your business as local company then you need a local sponsor whose share will be 51% and you will hold 49% of shares. For more details about Local Company, click the link below:

Payment & Getting License – After all above steps you have to pay the payment to incorporate your business with Free Zone or as Local Company to Easy Step Consultancy. Easy Step will do all the process required to setup a business in UAE.

Once payment will be made then you will get your business license with 2 working days and then start your residency visa process.

Benefits of Import / Export business in UAE:

There are so many benefits for import / export industry in UAE, few are:
  • 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 sea ports, airports and road transport
  • 24/7 operational ability
  • Ready consumer market across MENA and Asia regions

Documents Require 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 in the name Easy Step Consultancy to incorporation of Business (if required)

Procedure of Import / Export:

1. Trading between a Free Zone & An OnShore Company

Free Zones are part of the country but are not under customs territory. That is why free zones are subject to customs control than normal procedures of customs. If you want to trade from a free zone company to an onshore company the procedure will be as follow:
  • You must have valid importer code from customs
  • Trading goods must be listed in your business license
  • Goods must arrive in Free Zone within 72 hours of date of declaration from customs
  • Goods should be inspected and clear before entering in free zone

2. Import In Free Zone From A Foreign Country

Free Zone companies are exempted from tax and duties. You can even store good for unlimited time duration but this thing will must depend on the type of the goods and validity of trade license.

Require Documents:

  • Delivery documents from shipping or airline services agent on the name of Free Zone company
  • Delivery note from free zone company to confirm the acceptance of goods (if goods move from land or from another free zone)
  • Second copy of the bill of landing (for sea shipment), Original Airway Bill (for air shipment) and Road Manifest (for land shipment)
  • Import permit for restricted goods
  • Sales invoices in details (quantity, description, currency and total value of each item)
  • Original and detailed invoice of each item with HS codes from shipper in the name of free zone company
  • Certificate of origin (stating the origin of goods and must be approved by Chamber of Commerce by the country of origin)
  • Detailed packing list as per weight
  • Import good declaration form

These documents can be showed to customs authority where your goods are coming and they will clear the good and will issue a bill of entry. While doing this process if you lost original documents or bills you may need to pay 500 AED.

3. Importing From A Free Zone Into The UAE / GCC mainland

This process allows a Free Zone company to sell its goods to companies in UAE or GCC who are also doing business with valid trade or industrial licenses.

Require Documents:

  • Delivery advices from the free zone company must be stamped by buyer (local or GCC importer) and the seller (exporter)
  • Item wise detailed invoice with HS code
  • Item wise classification & free zone BOE reference number from seller
  • Import goods declaration form
  • Seller & buyer trade license copies
  • NOC from concerned authority in case of goods are restricted or prohibited
  • Online duty exemption approval
  • Request letter & application if the importer is exempted from paying custom duty

Goods should be listed in Free Zone Company license and also declarant must have valid importer code from customs. Goods must be out from free zone within 30 days 9can be extend). Goods are subject to clear and inspect before final release.

4. Exporting Goods From Local Market To Free Zone

This process allows a free zone company to buy goods from local UAE market for export purpose.

Require Documents:

  • Delivery order from a licensed company by the licensing management in free zone
  • Copy of delivery advice to free zone
  • Import permit for restricted goods
  • Sales invoice from local vendor to free zone company with details of goods, quantity, description, currency and value of each item
  • Detailed packing list as per weight with HS code for each article

There is no custom duty for importing a cargo into Freezone but must have to show the documents before entering in free zone and goods should be cleared by custom. You can keep goods into Freezone as long as your business license is valid. You can also transfer the ownership of cargo with another free zone company subject to their business activity and proper declaration will be made through custom. You can not do retail sale within free zone.

Major Import Goods

(Source: Dubai Statistics Centre)

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Business Setup in Dubai and UAE | Free Zone, LLC & Offshore
Business Setup in Dubai and UAE | Free Zone, LLC & Offshore