How to start an import-export business in Dubai or the UAE
Billed as one of the ‘best places in the world to do business’, Dubai and the UAE boasts one of the most diverse economies in the world. Historically, trade has always played an important role in the country’s wealth, and the UAE has managed to sustain its position as a trade hub for more than two decades. As well as oil and natural gas, the region is renowned for its trade in diamonds, cars, aluminium and gold. And, with the population on the rise, demand for imports and re-exports has rocketed in recent years, too. Looking to leverage this opportunity by starting your own import-export business in Dubai or the UAE? In this article, we will explore the following topics:
- Why now is the best time to start an import-export company in the UAE
- Steps to getting an import-export licence in the UAE
- Cost of an import-export licence in the UAE
- How can I get a custom code in the UAE?
- Why choose SPC Free Zone?
Why now is the best time to start an import-export company in the UAE
While the UAE has been in the business of trading for centuries, now is a better time than ever to tap into its lucrative opportunities. In 2020, the total value of imports, exports and re-exports in the UAE amounted to a staggering AED 1.182trn. It’s no secret that the UAE boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the world and there’s now a huge demand for imported goods in Dubai. Imports alone are projected to reach AED 890,000m this year. As well as rocketing demand, opening an import-export company in the UAE offers a wide array of benefits, such as:
- A strategic location in the heart of the Middle East
In the past few years, the UAE has emerged as a strategic gateway to trade in Asia, Europe and North Africa. Operating an import-export business from Sharjah provides easy access to one of the busiest airports in the world, as well as one of the world’s largest seaports, Jebel Ali Port.
- Favourable tax regime for business owners
The UAE boasts one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world, with 0% income tax and 100% repatriation of profits. Value added tax stands at a standard rate of 5% and as of 2023 corporate tax remains at zero until your business earns over AED 375,000.
- Pro-business culture
The UAE is one of the easiest places in the world to set up a business. With company formation services like SPC Free Zone, you can have your business up and running in no time and start earning from the get-go, too.
- Stable economy
The UAE is the second largest gulf economy. It ranks in the top 20 countries with the highest global GDP per capita. The UAE’s reserves of oil and gas rank in the top ten largest in the world, but the region also has a highly diversified economy. Non-oil sectors now account for 70% of its GDP.
Steps to getting an import-export licence in the UAE
Getting an import-export licence in the UAE is relatively straightforward, but to make the process less daunting we’ve broken it down into three simple steps.
Step 1: Submitting your application
To apply for your import-export licence, you’ll need to select the relevant business activity(/ies) from the list. You’ll also need to provide your company name. To ensure no unnecessary holdups, make sure your business name is not already registered and cannot be deemed offensive or blasphemous. Providing everything is in order, you can receive your licence in as little as two hours.
Step 2: Authorising e-channel services
To help speed up the business setup process, the UAE now offers a handy e-channel service that eliminates unnecessary paperwork. This makes it easier for you to obtain your entry permit. Once you’ve received this, you can stay in the region for up to 60 days.
Step 3: Activating status change
Now that you have your entry permit, you can activate your status change. You can do this in the country or by exiting and re-entering the emirates. Then you’ll need to undergo medical tests to acquire your Emirates ID. This card is a legal requirement for all business owners and also allows you to open bank accounts, rent properties and take out phone contracts.
Cost of an import-export licence in the UAE
The cost of an import-export licence in the UAE starts at just AED 5,750. However, you’ll need to take into consideration a whole variety of additional costs too. For example, this price is available in SPC Free Zone, which offers some of the most affordable business setup packages in the UAE.
You’ll also need to think about whether you need storage spaces, warehouses, additional visa quotas and multi-year licences. Business activities can impact the price of an import-export licence, too. Our business advisors at SPC Free Zone will be happy to provide a bespoke quote tailored to your specific requirements and circumstances, free of charge.
How can I get a customs code in the UAE?
Like most countries across the world, any import-export businesses based in the UAE will need to ensure they have clearance of goods. This means that you will need to be registered with Dubai Customs and have a customs code.
To acquire a customs code, you will need to:
- Submit an online application which includes a copy of your valid trade or commercial licence, a copy of your passport and an undertaking letter if you hold a professional licence.
- Pay for your customs code. Currently, a new customs code costs AED 100 and renewal costs AED 25.
- Wait for Customs to approve your application.
- Receive your allocated customs code. This code remains valid until your business licence expires and should be renewed annually.
Why choose SPC Free Zone?
Located just 15 minutes from Dubai International Airport, SPC Free Zone offers a fast and flexible business setup in the UAE. You can choose from more than1,500 business activities, apply for 20 visas under one licence, and apply for a dual-licence option that offers both mainland and free zone on the same licence. What’s more, with immigration services on-site, you can get your licence issued in less than two hours.
Our customers benefit from a whole string of other benefits too, including zero paid-up share capital, 0% corporate and personal income tax and 100% foreign ownership. Ready to start setting up an import-export business in the UAE? Get in touch with SPC Free Zone now.
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