United Arab Emirates - Commercial Guide
Import Requirements and Documentation

Includes import documentation and other requirements for both the U.S. exporter and foreign importer.

Last published date: 2020-09-12

UAE’s Federal Customs Authority sets the country’s customs policies, and these comply with the GCC Common Customs Law. Also, each emirate has its own customs authorities to help individuals and businesses with their import and export activities. Customs offices are located at airports, seaports, and entry/exit points on the land borders.

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.

For further information see UAE Embassy and resources about the legalization process.

Import Prohibitions and Restrictions

Specific import restrictions exist on a number of goods, some of which are banned, and others which are restricted, requiring special permission from the relevant authorities.

Banned Goods

  • 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.

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.

Special permission is required for the import of: