Start an Import-Export Business in the UAE – 2022 Guide

Start an Import-Export Business in the UAE – 2022 Guide

July 06, 2022

Start an Import-Export Business in the UAE – 2022 Guide

The UAE enjoys an enormous global reach as an importer and exporter and has thriving trade links with the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. The fantastic benefits of operating from the UAE – zero taxes just being one of them – combined with the post-pandemic upsurge in business make this the ideal time to launch your import-export business here.

This guide shows you how, covering the following areas:

  • Import-export industry in the UAE – an overview
  • Reasons the import-export industry in the UAE is growing
  • Steps to launch an import-export company in the UAE
  • Documents needed to start an import-export company in the UAE
  • Why choose UAQFTZ?


Import-export industry in the UAE – an overview

The UAE has become a global trade hub – it currently imports goods to the value of USD 175 billion, while its exports amount to USD 142 billion. The market is diverse, with several EU countries, the UK, India, China, Japan and Turkey involved in this colossal import-export exchange.

Trade of this magnitude is not a spontaneous occurrence. The UAE has actively encouraged the economic environment that enables trade to thrive. With a UAE general trading licence, importers and exporters can trade multiple goods using just a single licence. Furthermore, if you operate from a free zone such as UAQFTZ, you benefit from 100% customs, import and export tax exemption.

The UAE is also experiencing a rapidly accelerating shift away from its traditional dependence on oil exports. Non-oil exports increased from 12% to 19% between 2012 and 2021, and the growth in demand for luxury goods of all kinds, from foods to vehicles, is causing an import boom too.

The future equals growth. The UAE has declared an aim to increase investment inflow into the country to Dh.1 trillion (USD 27 billion) by the end of 2030, doubling its exports, foreign trade and economic growth. Non-oil exports in the UAE are already higher than their pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

Reasons the import-export industry in the UAE is growing

Tax benefits are not the end of the story. The success of the UAE’s export and import businesses hinges on several factors. To start with, the region has actively sought international trade to build and shape its economy. It has built stable relationships from the Atlantic coasts of Europe to the Pacific coasts of Asia.

The UAE, with its business-focused free trade zones, remains one of the easiest places to start a company. Global trade knows no barriers, but the region’s central location in relation to its biggest markets is a major factor in its success. UAE’s busy airports and seaports make the process of importing and exporting as simple as possible.

The UAE is also very ‘central’ in terms of time zones – a useful factor when arranging seamless trade exchange with eastern and western countries alike. The UAE is never more than eight hours away from its trading partners by air.

The country is also introducing several initiatives to reach its ambitious collective business goals. Many of these are powered by data: digital transformation is opening the door to new markets constantly via online B2B trading platforms.

Steps to launch an import-export company in the UAE

If all this has convinced you of the fantastic opportunities awaiting importers and exporters, you’ll be pleased to know that the application process itself is very straightforward. There are just five simple steps to follow when applying for your import-export trading licence:

Step 1: State the company, business area and required licence. Choose a name for your company, along with two alternatives, listed in order of preference. Your chosen business name must also be available to be registered, which is why you need those two alternatives. You also need to state the area of business you intend working in and the type of licence you wish to apply for.

Step 2: Send the documentation. Submit all the required documents, including your formal licence request and the proposed company names.

Step 3: Sign and pay. Once received, sign the incorporation documents and submit the originals to the FTZA. You will need to send the required payment as soon as the documentation has been approved.

Step 4: Apply for visas and accounts. If required, apply for visas, including ones for your employees and any staff or family members you want to sponsor. You will also need a corporate bank account.

Step 5: Wait for your licence to arrive. This is usually a very swift process.

Documents needed to start an import-export company in the UAE

To apply for your import-export trading licence, you will need the following:

  • Three proposed names for the business you wish to establish. Unlike many parts of the UAE, company names in UAQ Free Trade Zone can include abbreviations or initials. However, various conventions must still be observed – for example, company names must not include language deemed offensive or blasphemous and should not refer to other organisations.
  • A clear colour copy of your passport, and those of any other shareholder involved in the venture.
  • Proof of residence – such as a recent utility bill featuring your name and address – or your last UAE entry stamp or visa.


Why choose UAQFTZ?

The Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone adds its own distinct benefits to the general advantages of operating an import-export business in the UAE. Companies here enjoy a winning combination of favourable tax laws, low costs and excellent infrastructure. The zone is also in a prime location, just 30 minutes from Dubai’s international airport and with special concessions at Umm Al Quwain’s sea port.

This is an at-a-glance list of the benefits of applying for and using your general trading licence in the UAQ Free Trade Zone:

  • You do not require capital proof, bank letter or audit report when applying.
  • Shareholders do not have to be physically present during the establishment of the business or the general trading licence application process.
  • The establishment card is free of charge.
  • You can use and extend your existing visa without requiring a UAQ visa.
  • Visa holders, whether investors or employees, can sponsor their families.
  • No NOC is required from anyone setting up a company in the UAQ Free Trade Zone.
  • There are no restrictions on foreign employees, so you can hire the best people without barriers.

roaden the picture to general trading in the region, and the benefits are remarkable. For example, there are zero import and export taxes within the free zone and outside GCC countries. You will also benefit from repatriation of all capital and profits, zero currency restrictions and no foreign exchange controls.

In terms of infrastructure, the road network here is second to none, and there are fully-serviced high-tech offices and warehouses available to suit all business sizes and types. If it’s a flexi-desk arrangement you’re looking for, that can be accommodated too.

UAE imports and exports are booming. You could be part of that success story – start the journey by contacting UAQFTZ today.

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