Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
To import goods into the UAE, companies must have the correct trade license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) from the Emirate. Foreign companies can either set up office in the UAE or appoint a UAE national as sponsor, agent, or distributor to do business in the UAE “mainland” (that is, not in the free zones).
Companies that set up in a free zone can also use their free zone trade license to import goods into that free zone the UAE.
To import goods, the UAE-based company (consignee/agent) should get a delivery order from the Shipping Agent and submit the following original standard trade documentation:
Except for food products, all shipments of goods to the UAE require “legalization” of documents. This is a two-step process:
1) Documents must be verified by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the UAE Embassy’s exclusive verification agent.
2) After Akin Gump has verified the documents, companies must submit the paperwork for legalization to either the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C., or to the respective Consulate covering the state in which the company is based.
1. If being 18 years or older: 400 cigarettes up to a value of AED 2,000.- and cigars up to a value of AED 3,000.- and 2 kilograms of tobacco (except snuffing or chewing tobacco);
2. Perfumes or gifts for personal use, up to a value of AED 3,000.-;
3. If being 18 years or older: alcoholic beverages for non-muslim passengers only), in:
a. Abu Dhabi: 4 liters of any kind of alcohol or 2 cartons of beer (each consisting of 24 cans, not exceeding 355 ml for each can or its equivalent);
b. Dubai: 4 liters of any kind of alcohol or 24 cans of beer;
c. Fujairah: 4 liters of any kind of alcohol;
d. Sharjah: 4 liters of wine or spirits or 48 cans of beer;
4. Medicines with a doctor’s prescription for personal use with a max. of three months’ consumption.
Restricted goods include those restricted under the provisions of the GCC Common Customs Law and are subjected to the approval of competent authorities.
• Live animals – health certificate required along with complete and valid inoculations. Contact nearest embassy to obtain permission.
• Endangered species and any products or parts thereof as outlined by CITES maybe be brought in only with CITES permission.
• Medication (including some painkillers) – strict laws applies, please contact the nearest embassy or mission to make sure they are allowed and what quantity is allowable if you in transit to another country. For list of embassies please refer to our Contact tab.
• Currency – whether foreign or local exceeding the equivalent of AED 40,000 (including traveller’s cheque) needs to be declared. Passengers below the age of 18 cannot import more negotiable instrument than the stated limit.
The UAE levies import duties on commercial goods depending on:
In general, the UAE has adopted a GCC common tariff, and customs duties are fixed at 5% of the CIF value of most products. However, alcoholic, carbonated, and sweetened beverages products have a 50% duty, and e-smoking devices (tools and liquids used in them) and tobacco products are assessed a 100% customs duty. Certain goods are exempt from customs duties, such as pharmaceuticals and agricultural products. For detailed tariffs, please visit the Unified Customs Tariff webpage.
The UAE has set up a number of ‘free zones’, where customs duties are not payable. Any company registered in one of the free zones can import goods into that free zone without having to pay customs duties. Goods produced in countries that are party to the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement 1998 are exempt from customs duty. For further information, visit the UAE Ministry of Economy and Dubai Customs.
Cats, dogs and birds (incl. falcons) :can be imported only as manifested cargo through approved ports. Passengers traveling on Emirates are allowed to import falcons at Dubai Int’l Airport (DXB) as checked baggage (AVIH);
Must be accompanied by:
Service dogs accompanying the passenger are permitted in the cabin or as checked baggage if holding an import permit. Carrier must be notified at least 48 hours prior to travel.
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Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home (or in Wales, stay local). It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays. Check the rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Do not travel unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. In England, you must complete a declaration form for international travel (except for travel to Ireland).
Check our advice for all the countries you will visit or transit through. Some countries have closed borders, and any country may further restrict travel or bring in new rules with little warning.
To enter or return to the UK from abroad (except from Ireland), you must follow all the rules for entering the UK. These include providing your journey and contact details, and evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before you travel. When you arrive, you must quarantine and take additional COVID-19 tests. This will take place in a managed quarantine hotel if you enter England from a red list travel ban country, or enter Scotland.
Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. UAE law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that the sexual relations were not consensual, especially when the victim had consumed alcohol or where the alleged attacker was known to the victim. If the sexual relations are determined to have been consensual, both parties may face prosecution for the offence of sex outside marriage.
Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone, and should use a reputable taxi company, particularly at night. Drink spiking can occur. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
Rip currents can occur at any beach, and can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches.
If you’re visiting the UAE, you can drive a rental car using your UK driving licence. If you intend to drive a private vehicle as a visitor, you should check that you’re covered under the vehicle’s insurance.
If you’re applying for residence in the UAE, you can use your UK licence until your residence permit is issued, after which you’ll need to immediately get a UAE driving licence from the traffic department.
Driving standards in the UAE are not always as disciplined as in the UK and there is a high rate of traffic accidents. The World Health Organisation has reported that UAE road users are almost 7 times more likely to be killed than their UK counterparts and that the UAE has one of the highest rates of road deaths. Speeding is common.
It is a criminal offence in the UAE to drink and drive, no matter how small the amount. Your insurance is also likely to be invalidated in the event of an accident. Offensive gestures and bad language directed at other drivers can lead to fines, a jail sentence, and possibly deportation. Flashing your lights in the UAE can mean a driver is coming through, rather than giving way.
If you have an accident you should follow the rules of the Emirate in which you are travelling. In Abu Dhabi, if no one has been hurt and vehicle damage is minor, drivers should move vehicles to the side of the road to avoid blocking traffic; otherwise, the vehicles should not be moved. In Dubai, you should only move your vehicle if it is causing an obstruction to other motorists. In the other Emirates, you may only move your car if the accident is minor and both parties agree who is responsible. In all cases, call the police. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police have arrived.
Excursions to the desert can be dangerous unless you’re in a properly equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, and leave a copy of your travel plans with friends or relatives.
Pedestrians should take great care. Only cross roads using designated pedestrian crossings, failure to comply can lead to prosecution. Vehicles often don’t stop at zebra crossings marked on the roads.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected. Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters.
You should consider how regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Be careful when travelling by tourist boat. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available for all passengers.
Events in the Middle East can affect local public opinion. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which might trigger public disturbances.
Since 2018, numerous missiles have been launched into Saudi Arabia from Yemen, including attacks on aviation interests. The vast majority of these have been intercepted and destroyed but there have been a small number of casualties. Claims have been made in public media suggesting that there may also be attempts to target missiles and unmanned aerial systems (drones) aimed at the UAE. In the event of any incidents, you should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.
All air and sea points of entry between the UAE and Qatar reopened on 9 January 2021.