How to Set up an Import/Export Business in the UAE

If you are passionate about connecting with international companies, sourcing products from around the world, and becoming a key player in the global marketplace, then an import/export business may be your ticket to realising these ambitions.

Recent market analyses, including a study by DP World, paint a promising picture for global trade, particularly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Projections for 2024 indicate a robust increase in exports, with around 57% of surveyed businesses expecting sales to rise by 10% or more. This trend highlights the resilience and dynamism of the global trade market, presenting ample opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Situated at the crossroads of continents and cultures, the UAE has solidified its position as a major trade hub. In 2023 alone, the non-oil foreign trade value in the UAE reached a staggering 3.5 trillion AED, showcasing the nation’s pivotal role in global commerce. With state-of-the-art infrastructure, a strategic geographical location, and a business-friendly environment, the UAE offers an unparalleled platform for individuals looking to venture into providing Import/Export services.

Here are the business activities that you can select under your license when establishing your Import/Export business:

7020.15 – Logistics consultancy

Logistics consultancy is a specialised service offered by knowledgeable professionals or firms in the field of logistics and supply chain optimization and management. These consultants assist businesses in optimising their transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and overall supply chain operations.

This consultancy involves providing tailored advice, strategic planning, and operational support to businesses and organisations in supply chain management and logistics. Services include strategic and organisational planning, financial decision-making related to logistics, distribution marketing strategies, human resource planning, and production scheduling and control planning. Additionally, consultants may offer expertise in public relations, communication, lobbying activities, designing accounting methods or cost accounting programs specific to logistics, and advising on planning, organisation, efficiency, and control within logistics management.

However, it excludes activities like designing computer software for accounting systems, legal advice, accounting, bookkeeping, auditing, tax consulting, architectural or engineering advisory services, advertising, market research, executive placement, and educational consulting.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7020.15 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7020.15 is exempt from this requirement.

7020.20 – Procurement consulting

Procurement consulting entails delivering specialised advice, guidance, and operational support to businesses and organisations, focusing specifically on procurement and supply chain management challenges. This involves strategic planning, organisational structuring within procurement, and making financial decisions to optimise procurement practices in line with business objectives.

Consultants in procurement offer assistance in various areas such as strategic sourcing, supplier management, contract negotiation, and tailored cost optimization strategies. Their aim is to improve efficiency and effectiveness within procurement processes, streamline operations, and enhance resource control and management.

However, it’s important to note that procurement consulting does not encompass activities such as designing accounting software, providing legal advice, accounting and auditing services, architectural or engineering consulting, advertising, market research, executive placement, and educational consulting.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7020.20 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7020.20 is exempt from this requirement.

7020.21 – Procurement services

Procurement services are specialised offerings provided to businesses and organisations with the aim of effectively managing and optimising the procurement process. These services encompass various facets of procurement, including strategic sourcing, supplier management, contract negotiation, purchasing, and overall supply chain management.

The provision of procurement strategy services involves delivering advice, guidance, and operational support tailored to the management of procurement processes within businesses and organisations. This includes strategic planning and decision-making related to sourcing, purchasing, and supply chain management. Procurement service providers assist in areas such as strategic sourcing, supplier management, and contract negotiation to streamline procurement operations and realise cost efficiencies. Their focus is on enhancing efficiency and control within procurement processes while ensuring alignment with business objectives.

It’s important to note that procurement services do not extend to activities such as designing accounting software, providing legal advice, offering accounting and auditing services, technical advisory activities, advertising, conducting market research, executive placement, or providing educational consulting.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7020.21 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7020.21 is exempt from this requirement.

7020.22 – Cargo freight consultancy

Cargo freight consultancy encompasses offering advice, guidance, and operational support to businesses and organisations engaged in the transportation and logistics of goods. This involves strategic planning and decision-making related to cargo transportation, including sea, air, or land freight. Cargo freight consultants assist in areas such as route optimization, transportation mode selection, carrier management, and regulatory compliance to enhance the efficiency and reliability of cargo transportation operations. They focus on improving planning, organisation, and control within cargo freight processes while addressing specific challenges and objectives of businesses in the logistics sector. 

However, cargo freight consultancy excludes activities such as designing accounting software, providing legal advice, accounting and auditing services, technical advisory activities, advertising, market research, executive placement, and educational consulting.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7020.22 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7020.22 is exempt from this requirement.

4610.14 Importing (Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles)

Importing in the context of wholesale and retail trade, as well as the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, refers to the act of acquiring goods or products from foreign suppliers or manufacturers for resale within the domestic market. This involves purchasing items from international sources and bringing them into the country for distribution and sale to retailers or directly to consumers. 

This involves activities such as commission agents acting on behalf of others in the trade of goods. This includes facilitating transactions between sellers and buyers, and therefore vendor management, either directly or through online platforms, covering a diverse range of products from agricultural and industrial materials to consumer goods. Importing activities encompass sourcing and acquiring goods from foreign suppliers for resale within the domestic market, including wholesale auctioneering. 

However, it excludes wholesale trade conducted under the importer’s own name, commission activities specific to motor vehicles, motor vehicle auctions, retail sales by non-store commission agents, as well as activities of insurance and real estate agents.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 4610.14 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 4610.14 is exempt from this requirement.

4610.15 Exporting (Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles)

Exporting in the context of wholesale and retail trade, as well as the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, refers to the process of selling goods or products to foreign markets or customers. This involves shipping goods produced or purchased domestically to international destinations for resale or distribution.

Exporting within the wholesale and retail trade, along with the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, involves activities such as commission agents and wholesalers trading on behalf of others in foreign markets. This includes facilitating commercial transactions between sellers and buyers, both online and offline, covering a wide array of goods from agricultural and industrial materials to consumer products. Exporting activities entail selling goods produced or purchased domestically to international markets, including wholesale auctioneering for export purposes. 

However, it excludes wholesale trade conducted under the exporter’s own name, commission activities specific to motor vehicles, motor vehicle auctions, retail sales by non-store commission agents, as well as activities of insurance and real estate agents.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 4610.15 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 4610.15 is exempt from this requirement.

Note: You can now secure a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to lease facilities outside the SPC Free Zone, anywhere in the UAE. This means you have the flexibility to expand your operations across the Emirates while still enjoying the free zone’s benefits and support.

5229.01 Forwarding of freight

Freight forwarding encompasses a wide range of services aimed at facilitating the transportation of goods. This includes coordinating transport operations across different modes of transportation, such as rail, road, sea, and air, as well as organising both individual and group shipments. Additionally, freight forwarders engage in logistics activities, including planning and designing transportation, warehousing, and distribution operations to ensure the efficient movement of goods. They also handle the issuance of transport documents, manage customs procedures, and provide support services like goods handling operations, such as temporary crating and weighing. 

However, freight forwarding services exclude activities such as courier services, provision of transport insurance, and activities related to travel agencies, tour operators, and tourist assistance.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 5229.01 must meet ESR requirements.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 5229.01 is exempt from this requirement.

5229.07 Activities of sea freight forwarders and air cargo agents

Activities of sea freight forwarders and air cargo agents refer to the specialised services provided by companies or individuals involved in facilitating the transportation of goods via sea and air freight. Sea freight forwarders and air cargo agents act as intermediaries between shippers (those sending the goods) and carriers (shipping companies or airlines) to ensure the smooth and efficient movement of cargo. 

These services encompass coordinating freight shipments, organising transport operations, and managing logistics activities such as planning, designing, and supporting transportation, warehousing, and distribution operations. Sea freight forwarders and air cargo agents also handle the issuance and procurement of essential transport documents and waybills, as well as engage in customs brokerage services to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Additionally, they oversee goods-handling operations, including temporary crating, uncrating, sampling, and weighing of goods to ensure their safe and efficient transit. 

However, activities such as courier services and the provision of insurance, as well as those related to travel agencies, tour operators, and tourist assistance, are excluded from this class.

Third-party Approval: This business activity requires approval from the Civil Aviation / Ports & 

Custom Department (Sharjah), post-issuance of the license.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 5229.07 must meet ESR requirements.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 5229.07 is exempt from this requirement.

Note: For import/export businesses, SPC Free Zone offers a convenient in-house service tailored to issue customs codes designed specifically for the ports of Sharjah. Should your logistics plans involve Dubai’s seaports, our partnership with the Ports Authority grants you the opportunity to utilise our license for an independent purchase of a customs code directly from the Dubai Port Authority.

Did you find what you were looking for? Explore the other guides in our Activity Hub for exploring unique business ideas in Dubai and navigate the essentials of business setup with ease.

You can also calculate your business setup costs easily using our handy cost calculator and choose from our customized company setup packages to find your perfect fit.

Get your business license in the UAE today and explore a world of opportunities waiting for you.

Ayushi Doegar

A Content Marketer with a passion for fostering people to grow their businesses. As a dedicated business blog writer, I bring ideas to life through captivating storytelling and industry expertise, empowering businesses to connect with their audiences and thrive in the ever-changing market.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Turn your business dreams to reality.