Customs regulations for your trip to the United Arab Emirates

Last modified: July 18, 2023
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Customs regulations

Importing Goods

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:

  • Commercial invoice from the exporting company addressed to the importer with details about quantity, goods description, and total value of each imported item.
  • Certificate of origin, stating the country of origin and approved by the Chamber of Commerce in the country of origin.
  • Detailed packing list including weight, method of packing, and HS code for each item.
  • Import permit from the competent agencies in case of importing restricted goods or duty exempted goods.
  • Bill of entry or airway bill.
  • Food products, also require the following certificates:
  • Original health certificate issued by the appropriate government agency in the exporting country, attesting to the product’s fitness for human consumption.
  • Original Halal slaughter certificate for meat and poultry products.

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.

Import regulations:

Free import:
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/Dutiable Items

Restricted Imports

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:

  • Whether the business is registered on the mainland or in a free zone.
  • Nature of goods being moved.
  • Source and destination of the goods being moved.
  • Trade agreements between the UAE and exporting country.
  • Any other applicable laws.

Import tariffs and rates

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.

Preferential tariffs

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.

Prohibited Items

  • Any goods or items that are prohibited under the GCC Common Customs Law or any other law or regulations applicable in the UAE.
  • Any item used in black magic, witchcraft, or sorcery.
  • Controlled drugs and narcotic substances.
  • Counterfeit currencies.
  • E-cigarettes, electronic hookah (waterpipe tobacco or electrically heated cigarette plugs) that do not bear the ‘digital tax stamps’.
  • Gambling tools and machineries and devices of all kinds.
  • Goods manufactured in Israel.
  • Items that contradict Islamic faith and public morals.
  • Live swine.
  • Betel (paan) leaves.
  • Pirated content material.
  • Pornographic literature and material.
  • Protected and endangered animals and certain dog breeds (all varieties of Pit Bull, Japanese Tosa, Argentinian Fighting Dog, Argentinian Mastiff, Brazilian Fighting Dog, American Staffordshire terrier, and any dog mixed with a wolf)
  • Nylon fishing nets.
  • Radiation and nuclear fallout contaminated substances.
  • Used and reconditioned tires.

Miscellaneous (Pets, Motors, and others.)

Pets:

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:

  • import permit issued by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (UAE MOCCAE, see link below); and
  • veterinarian good health certificate issued by the competent authorities of the exporting country; and
  • original vaccination card or pet passport which includes microchip ID number, details of the pet and the required vaccinations.
  • original certificate for Rabies Serum Neutralization test (RSNT) conducted within the 90 days prior to travel attesting a minimum titer of 0.5IU/ml or above. This certificate is not required for pets coming from certain countries, see UAE MOCCAE website, link below). Additional restrictions may apply for transportation of certain breeds of cats and dogs.

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.

Special permission is required for the import of:

Motor Vehicles

Documents Required

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of residence visa on passport
  • Copy of diplomatic card (diplomats)
  • Residence permit
  • Original / express bill of lading
  • Authorization letter
  • Title / Copy of certificate of origin / registration card from origin country vehicle certificate must include detailed description, including engine number, year of production, colour, etc.
  • Copy of commercial invoice / copy of purchase invoice
  • Proof of ownership

 Specific Information

  • The length of ownership is not applicable when deciding duties.
  • Duties on new items @ 5% and VAT on total shipment value @ 5% are charged on all motor vehicles and goods.
  • Customs will issue vehicle clearance certificate in 2 – 3 days; this document is required for registration with the traffic department.
  • Jebel Ali has tremendous port congestion, therefore, be aware of delays in clearing shipments, the time frame is approximately 1 – 2 weeks from the arrival date of shipment.
  • Owners of the goods that are bringing cars must be able to provide a copy of their UAE residence visa or no clearance and release will take place.
  • The vehicle can be older than 10 years with approval of local agent.
  • Vehicles with tinted glass restricted for import.
  • Only left handed cars are allowed.
  • Details needed for Customs clearance:
  • Model of the vehicles with the model number
  • Colour of the vehicle
  • Year of manufacture
  • Current market value
  • Engine and chassis number
  • Weight of the vehicle (if applicable)
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