How to get a general trading license in Dubai

There’s a reason why Dubai, and the wider UAE, is a popular base for trading businesses. With great links to surrounding countries by road and direct links to the rest of the world by sea and air, the UAE is the perfect place from which to trade.

Add to this a 0% corporate and personal tax rate, a welcoming business environment and an easy company incorporation process and you’ll struggle to find a better base for your trading business.

So, if you’re looking to get started in the UAE, here’s how to obtain a general trading license in Dubai.

Understanding the general trading license in Dubai

A general trading license is a type of commercial license that allows the holder to import, export and trade goods in, out and within the UAE.

Under a general trading license, you are free to trade in multiple, unrelated goods under a single license. This could be any number of goods, from auto parts to watches and everything in between.

Difference between trade license and commercial license

To be clear, there is no difference between a trade license and a commercial license. The commercial license is a type of trade license while a general trading license is simply a type of commercial license.

The only difference between a general trading license and regular trading license is that you are free to trade in multiple goods under a general trading license and only one under a regular trading license.

Permitted activities under a general trading license in Dubai

The full list of trading activities is published by the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED). There are hundreds to choose from, including:

Aircraft parts

Automobile parts

Babywear

Batteries

Carpets

Construction equipment

Educational equipment

Electronics

Garments

Handbags

Hides

Ink

Insulation

Jewellery

Lighting equipment

Medical equipment

Mobile phones

Office equipment

Paper

Perfume

Raw materials

Sanitary ware

Ships and boats

Sporting equipment

Textiles

Watches

How to start a general trading business in the UAE

There are several simple steps involved in starting a general trading business in the UAE. Before undertaking this process, it’s advisable to engage the services of a company setup agent who can manage the entire process and various applications on your behalf.

Step 1: Define your business activities

While you are free to undertake numerous trading activities under a general trading license, you are still required to stipulate what goods you intend to trade.

As there are hundreds of trading activities to choose from, you are sure to find an activity that fits the bill. To save you sifting through them all, a company setup agent can select the ones that most closely fit your business.

Step 2: Choosing your company name

A step of the business incorporation process that takes on more importance here in Dubai is the choosing of your company name. That’s because as well as the need for a name that’s catchy and captures the essence of your business, you’ll also need to stick to the UAE’s clearly defined naming conventions.

In short, UAE company names must not contain any blasphemous or offensive language, any references to well-known institutions or any abbreviations of your name – though your full name is acceptable.

Your name should also have a legal entity attached to it such as FZE or LLC. It must also relate to your business activity, not resemble the name of any other company and be available to register.

Step 3: Choosing between mainland and free zone

The next key step to starting your business is to decide on the type of setup you require. There are two common options in the UAE – free zone and mainland.

Both bring their own advantages and have several distinct differences. If you choose to set up in the mainland, for example, you can trade directly with the local market without the need for a distributor or local agent.

If you set up in a free zone you cannot do this, however you do benefit from customs tax exemptions and other financial incentives such as the ability to repatriate all capital and profits to your country of origin.

Step 4: Applying for your general trading license in Dubai

Now it’s time to apply to your general trading license. Exactly how you do this will depend on whether you have chosen to set up in the mainland or in a free zone.

If you’re setting up in the mainland, you can make your license application directly to the Department of Economic Development. If you’ve chosen a mainland setup, you should apply directly to the managing authority of your chosen free zone.

In both cases, you are usually required to submit several documents along with your application form, including:

  • A copy of your passport – and that of any other shareholders
  • A Memorandum of Association
  • A copy of your signature
  • A No Objection Certificate from your current employer (if applicable)

Step 5: Applying for your visa

As this stage, you should also apply for your UAE visa. This process involves four stages including a medical fitness test and biometric capturing. In all, it usually takes less than a week.

As the holder of a Dubai business license, you can also sponsor others such as children, a spouse or domestic staff for their visas too, providing you meet the eligibility criteria.

What is the cost of a general trading license in Dubai?

The average cost of a general trading license in Dubai is in the region of AED 30,000 to AED 40,000. The total price you’ll pay depends on factors such as where you choose to set up and whether you wish to take on employees.

In most cases, the most cost-effective approach is to set up in a free zone with a license package that includes the cost of your visa application and the use of business facilities and co-working space.

How to start a general trading business in the UAE

When starting a UAE general trading business, getting the right guidance beforehand is key. That’s why it’s always advisable to undertake the steps with the assistance of a registered company formations agent to eliminate any potential hassles that might arise.

With more than 15 years of experience in company incorporation, Worldwide Formations can help you get your business up and running within a matter of weeks. We’ll manage the entire process on your behalf and correspond with all relevant authorities for you. All you need to do is wait for the green light to start doing business.

Worldwide Formations helps entrepreneurs in the UAE with all their company setup needs. For more information, call us now on 800 FREE ZONE (800 3733 9663). 

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