How to get your general trading license in Dubai and the UAE

Get your UAE general trading license

If you’re looking to launch a new business in Dubai, or anywhere in the UAE, you’ll first need to gain an understanding of the country’s licensing regulations.

In short, it is paramount that you are correctly licensed for any activity you wish to carry out. For the most part, choosing your license is largely common sense. If you wish to carry out professional services, you need to apply for a professional services license. If you intend to undertake an industrial activity such as manufacturing then you need to apply for an industrial license, and so on. You must then specify the activity, or activities, that you wish to carry out such as clothing manufacturing or marketing consultancy, for example.

When it comes to commercial activities such as trading, it is possible to apply for a commercial license and specify the goods that you wish to trade, such as spices or car parts. Alternatively, however, you also have the choice of applying for a general trading license. Under this license you have the freedom to trade multiple, unrelated goods under a single license, affording your business greater scope. And this is just one of the many benefits of the general trading license – it’s also affordable and involves a straightforward application process.

Why start a general trading company in Dubai?

The benefits of starting a business in Dubai could fill an article all by itself. The UAE as a whole is famed for being an incredibly supportive environment for entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs. As well as startup hubs and incubators to help your company grow, the country is also home to supportive and flexible legislation, designed to make it easy to do business.

Then there is the country’s favourable tax regime, a major pull to entrepreneurs from every corner of the world. The UAE’s business owners benefit from 0% tax on both corporate and personal incomes. And that’s not all. If you choose to set up in one of the UAE’s free zones, you’ll also benefit from zero currency restrictions, full customs tax exemption, and the ability to repatriate all capital and profits to your country of origin.

The country’s favourable tax regime is a major pull to entrepreneurs from every corner of the world.

How to get a general trade license in Dubai 

The process of applying for a general trading license in the UAE is incredibly straightforward. It comprises three basic steps: choosing your business name and activity, choosing a setup and applying for your license.

When it comes to choosing your activity, you have more scope under a general trading license than with many other license types. It is possible to name multiple, unrelated trading activities under a single general license – however, it is important that you name all goods that you intend to trade. Trading in unlicensed goods could lead to fines or the revocation of your license.

So for this step, simply list every item you wish to trade – food, computer parts, clothes, building materials – there are hundreds to choose from. Next, you should choose a business name and check that it is free to be registered.

Once you are clear on the activities you wish to carry out, it is time to decide on the setup that best suits your business requirements. There are two main setups to choose from in the UAE – mainland and free zone.

Get your UAE general trading license

If you intend to trade directly with the local UAE market or wish to take on government contracts then a mainland setup is likely to be most suited. If this is not the case, or you wish to take advantage of the additional benefits of a free zone such as customs tax exemption, then a free zone setup is probably the right choice. A company setup expert can assist every step of this process, advising on the best route for your business.

You can also instruct a company setup firm to manage the next step of the process too – applying for your license. Company setup experts can make your application and liaise with all relevant authorities on your behalf, removing any complexity from the process.

A company setup expert can assist every step of this process, advising on the best route for your business.

There are two ways to make a general trading license application. If you choose to establish a UAE mainland company then you should apply directly to the Department of Economic Development or municipality of the Emirate you are choosing to set up in. If you are setting up a free zone business then you can apply directly to your chosen free zone. In both cases, you can expect to receive your general trading license within a week.

How much does a general trading license cost in Dubai?

The exact cost of applying for a general trading license in the UAE will depend on multiple factors such as the size of your business, your chosen activities, the number of visas you require, and whether or not you lease a physical premises.

Get your UAE general trading license

In any case, however, Dubai general trading license fees are relatively low. In fact, the total costs involved in launching a general trading business would be considered affordable to most. General trading companies are not usually required to put up share capital, meaning there are few startup costs outside of licensing and leasing premises, if required.

General trading license activities

One of the major benefits of choosing this license is not only that you are free to select many activities under general trading license in Dubai, but also that you can add to this list of activities over time.

One of the major benefits of choosing this license is not only that you are free to select many activities under general trading license in Dubai, but also that you can add to this list of activities over time.

So while you may start your business trading in food, you can quickly expand to also trade in cookery equipment and then on to completely unrelated goods such as toys, sports equipment, jewellery, and more.

The best way to establish your general trading company

Applying for a general trading license in the UAE is not only incredibly straightforward, it’s also one of the most cost-effective ways to start a business in this part of the world. The general trading license also offers a level of freedom that is hard to find under other license types.

However, while the application process isn’t difficult, it does require some pre-existing knowledge, and any errors in your application could lead it to being delayed or rejected. That’s why it’s often a good idea to work with a company setup specialist to help you establish your business.

When you work with a company setup expert, all you need to provide is some basic documentation and a little information about the nature of your business. Then, sit back and let the experts take care of the rest – managing your license and visa applications, communicating with all relevant departments and authorities, and reporting back when you’re ready to start trading. It really is that simple. 

​Trade License Zone is a one-stop-shop for business set up and after care solutions in the UAE. For more information, call us on 800 TLZ (800 859) or email us on hello@tlz.ae.