• Importing Products to the UAE: A Complete Guide

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    Importing Products to the UAE

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    Planning to import products to the United Arab Emirates? In this article, we explain what every UAE-based importer must know about duties and other import taxes, product regulations, labeling requirements, shipping, and ports.

    Import Taxes in the UAE

    Thanks to the Law of Unified Custom Tariffs, the seven emirates of UAE share the same importing regulations for most of the products. There are three kinds of taxes levied upon the imported products in the UAE: customs duty, value-added tax, and excise tax.

    Tax rates depend on the category of products. Please see the chart below for an overview.

    TypeCustoms DutyValue-added TaxExcise Tax
    Tax Rate0%-5% (50-100% for some products, i.e. tobacco, liquor)0%-5%, some products are exempt from tax100% on tobacco and energy drinks. 50% on carbonated drinks
    Tax PayerImportersEvery member of the supply chainSellers
    Tax CollectorUAE Customs AuthorityTax BureauTax Bureau
    Commencement TimeN/A1st, January 20181st, Oct 2017

    Import Duties

    The import tariff rate of the United Arab Emirates ranges from 0% to 5%for most products, with an average tax rate of 4.61%. There are higher taxes on some special products such as 50% for liquor products and 100% for tobacco.

    The assessment method of the import tariff, or custom value, is CIF, i.e. cost, insurance premium, and freight. This means that the payable tax of import tariffs of goods is calculated according to the cost of the goods and tools, insurance premium and freight rate.

    Since January 1, 2003, the UAE has joined the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Customs Union, which harmonized the tariffs of goods entering any member country – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE,- regardless of the destination country within the GCC.

    For example, you are importing from China into the UAE destined to the Saudi market, you must pay the customs duty when the goods enter the UAE market. No additional tariff has to be paid once the goods are transferred from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.

    Examples of customs duty rates in the UAE

    • Consumer electronics products: 0%
    • Textiles and accessories: 5%
    • Kitchen utensils: 5%
    • Children’s products: 5%
    • Home and furniture: 5%

    In this document, you can find the HS code and duty rate for most products. Your freight forwarder can also help you decide which HS code and duty rates apply to your products.

    Value-added Tax

    The Value-added Tax (VAT) was first enforced in the UAE on 1 January 2018. It’s an indirect tax levied on most of the imported goods to the UAE, ultimately charged upon the final buyers. Businesses must collect the VAT on behalf of the government. Currently, the rate of VAT is 5%.

    Any business with taxable supplies and imports of more than AED 375,000 per year (approximately equals to USD 102,000) must register for the VAT tax.

    Registration is optional for businesses with supplies and imports between AED 187,500 and AED 375,000 per year, and not required if the value of imports are lower than AED 187,500 per year.

    Excise Tax

    The excise tax was first enforced in the UAE in 2017, with the purpose of reducing the consumption of unhealthy and harmful commodities and raise the health awareness of its citizens. Excise tax targets on a few specific products that pose harm to human health or the environment.

    Here are some examples of levied excise goods:

    • 50% on carbonated drinks
    • 100% on tobacco products
    • 100% on energy drinks
    • 100% on electronic smoking devices
    • 100% on liquids used in such devices and tools
    • 50% on any product with added sugar or other sweeteners

    UAE Product Regulations

    The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is a Federal UAE Authority established for the purpose of regulating products manufactured, imported and sold in the UAE market.

    Each company is responsible for determining that any goods it manufactures or imports meet the standards of safety set by UAE regulations under all normal or reasonably foreseeable use conditions, and comply with all applicable ESMA standards and other technical regulations.

    Here a non-exhaustive overview of product regulations for the UAE:

    The Product Safety Law

    On 18 December 2018, the UAE Government enacted Federal Law No. 10 on Product Safety, in order to improve the product safety standards in the Emirates. The Product Safety Law consists of 21 Articles and applies to most of the consumer products, manufactured in, imported into or sold within the UAE. The law was officially enforced starting on July 1, 2019.

    According to the announcement of the ESMA, the new Product Safety Law applies to the suppliers of products, which includes local manufacturers, local agents of foreign manufacturers, importers, and other parties within the supply chain who bear relations of production and sales to the commodities.

    Under the law, a product is considered “safe” if it complies with all applicable standards issued by ESMA. If no standards apply for your product, you shall still conduct a risk assessment and submit it to ESMA for approval.

    Penalties for the breach

    We strongly suggest that importers scrutinize every item of the regulations. Since those who breach the law shall be subject to fines or even imprisonment. The amount of the fine is up to AED 3 million (approximately USD 816,000).

    The authority may also confiscate your products and operates coercive closure of the business for up to 6 months and at the same time revocate the trading license.

    UAE Regulation for Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)

    The RoHS Regulation was introduced in 2017, under the UAE Cabinet Decision No. 10. This regulation limits the levels of heavy metals and other hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and is modeled after the European Union Directive 2011/65/EU.

    The Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), takes primary responsibility for the supervision and enforcement of the RoHS regulation in the UAE.

    Scope of the regulation

    RoHS regulation covers the following electrical and electronic products:

    • Electric appliances for households
    • IT and telecommunication equipment
    • Consumer products
    • Toys, leisure, and sports equipment
    • Medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products)

    UAE’s RoHS Regulation monitors a total of 10 substances, including:

    • Lead
    • Mercury
    • Cadmium
    • Chromium
    • Phthalates

    Compliance requirements

    The UAE RoHS requires companies to register their products and submit a declaration of conformity (DoC), in addition to testing the products against the restricted substances. Once passed the test, a certificate of compliance will be issued by the Emirates Standards and Metrology Bureau (ESMA)

    For more detailed information on the compliance procedure, you can click here.

    UAE Regulation for Low Voltage Equipment (LVE)

    The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Standardization Organization (GSO) has issued a technical regulation (01-142004-BD) for Low Voltage Equipment (LVE). This regulation serves to establish mandatory minimum safety requirements and electromagnetic compatibility standards for all LVE sold in the UAE.

    Within the UAE specifically, the Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology (ESMA) has also issued specific requirements, such as a test report from an accredited laboratory, a technical file, and others.

    To demonstrate conformity with these requirements, known as the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS), an LVE product must obtain a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) from the ESMA.

    For a description of the whole certification process, please see their website.

    Besides the above-mentioned requirements, manufacturers and importers must also affix the Gulf Mark, or G-Mark, that is the mark of compliance issued by the GCO.

    UAE Scheme for Control on Food Contact Materials (FCM)

    The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Standardization Organization formulated a package of technical regulations disciplining food contact materials for its members to abide by. At the moment, there are three provisions regarding food contact materials that are mandatory in the UAE:

    a. GSO 2231/2012 (General requirements for materials intended to come into contact with food)

    b. GSO 839/1997 (Food packages – Part 1: General requirements)

    c. GSO 1863/2013 (Food Packages – Part 2: Plastic Packages – General Requirements)

    The ESMA is responsible for supervising the enactment of the FCM laws. It requires that all food-contacting products must not contain an excessive amount of c substances deemed toxic or unsafe and be in compliance with regulations covered by the FCM law.

    In order to comply with the FCM law, we recommend you to conduct lab tests your products before importing to the UAE market. If you want to know more about the FCM regulations for UAE, click here.

    UAE Labeling Requirements

    In the UAE, labeling requirements are set by the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO).

    Even though the requirements might vary according to the product, generally speaking, the label shall contain the following information:

    • Product and brand names
    • Lot identification/lot number
    • Country of origin
    • Manufacturer name
    • Instruction for storage and use
    • Manufacturer address
    • Production and expiry dates (if relevant)

    Also, labels must either be in Arabic or, for imported products, in the original language and Arabic.

    You can find the specific labeling standards for your product in the GSO website.

    Import Licenses and Permits

    If you are importing products from overseas to the UAE, you will need to provide the following documents:

    • Bill of Lading
    • Commercial Invoice
    • Packing List
    • Delivery Order
    • Import Permit (when importing restricted or duty exempted goods)

    Food Products

    For some categories of products, you will have to provide additional documentation. For instance, food products also require the following:

    • Certificate of Origin
    • Original Health Certificate
    • Original Halal Slaughter Certificate for meat and poultry products

    Due to the complexity of the procedure, we suggest you resort to the official website of the UAE government for detailed information.

    Restricted/Banned Items

    Before exporting your products to the UAE market, you should know about the customs rules of the UAE and prohibited items. Here is a non-comprehensive list of restricted/banned items listed by the UAE customs authorities:

    • Controlled/recreational drugs and narcotic substances
    • Counterfeit currency
    • Items used in black magic, witchcraft or sorcery
    • Publications and artwork that contradict or challenge Islamic teachings and values
    • Gambling tools and machines

    Shipping from China to the UAE

    According to the World Shipping Council, in the UAE there are two of the world’s top 50 container ports, with Dubai featuring among the top ten.

    According to the government website of UAE, 61 percent of cargo destined for Gulf Cooperation Council states arrives via the UAE’s seaports. In total, the UAE has 12 commercial trading ports (not including the oil ports). It contains 310 berths, with cargo tonnage of 80 million tonnes.

    Main ports in the UAE

    If you are importing goods to the UAE, here is a list of seaports you should be familiar with:

    a. Mina Rashid and Jebel Ali Port – These ports in Dubai play a pivotal role in the trade in the UAE.

    b. Khor Fakkan Container Terminal (KCT) – This port in Sharjah is the only natural deepwater port in the region, with a strategic geographical position for deep-sea container trade.

    c. Fujairah Port – It is a multi-purpose port which is strategically located at the Gulf of Oman.

    d. Mina Saqr in Ras Al Khaimah

    Shipping costs from China to the UAE

    The shipping costs from China to UAE (and other countries for that matter) mainly depend on the following factors:

    • Transportation Type (Sea/Air)
    • Shipment Type (FCL/LCL)
    • Incoterms (FOB/CIF/FCA/FAS)
    • Commodity Type
    • Transport Package (Carton/Pallet/Wooden Cases)
    • Weight and Size
    • Departure Port
    • Destination Port
    • Cargo Type
    • Carrier

    You can find cost estimation using an online tool such as the one offered by Freightos.com. Here are some examples:

    • US$550 – US$650 for a 20” container
    • US$750 – US$850 for a 40” feet container

    How long does it take to ship from China to the UAE?

    Likewise, the average time it takes from China to the UAE depends on the transportation services and the departure and destination ports. It can take at most  3 to 5 days door to door express air freight and 10-13 days by sea freight.

    List of China to UAE Freight Forwarders

    In this section you can find a list of UAE-based freight forwarders offering shipping from China:

    • Qafila
    • Al Sahal Group
    • Alwarqa
    • Alligator Shipping Company
    • JAS

    Qafila

    Qafila is a digital freight forwarding company established in 2018 in Dubai. It offers a full-spectrum logistics service include sea, air, and truck transportation. The biggest feature of Qafila lies in its data immediacy and mobility.

    The company provides an instant quote and real-time product tracking services and allows users to execute these actions via a phone application. You can also use the live chat function to ask questions about commodity transferring to UAE or elsewhere.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: No
    • Warehousing: No
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2018
    • HQ: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    Al Sahal Shipping & Clearing

    Al Sahal Shipping & Clearing is a company that engaged in international freight forwarding, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with offices and associates all over the world.

    The company has experience in the freight forwarding industry for over 35 years, which helped them develop close relationships with the exporters, importers, and various government organizations.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes.
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 1981
    • HQ: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    Alwarqa

    Alwarqa provides various logistic solutions and freight forwarding services, including sea, air, and truck. Their office headquarters is currently in Dubai.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes.
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2014
    • HQ: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    Alligator Shipping Company

    Alligator Shipping Company has several branch offices within the UAE. Its strong network of offices and affiliates in the entire Gulf region helps them to offer a high quality transnational and overland services to the customers in the region.

    Their overland transportation services cover the entire UAE as well as other parts of the Gulf region such as Qatar, Muscat, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes.
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: No
    • Custom Clearance: No
    • Warehousing: No
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2009
    • HQ: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    JAS Bahrain

    Established in 1978 in Milan,​ JAS Worldwide has expanded over the past four decades and refined its approach to air & ocean cargo, supply chain services, specialized market sectors.

    Starting from 2017, JAS had marched its development step to the Middle Eastern market, setting up a new branch, JAS Bahrain. JAS is investing heavily in the new facilities in Bahrain to meet the growing transport and logistics demand in the Gulf region.

    Freight Service
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes.
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: No
    • Warehousing: No
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 1978
    • HQ: Bahrain
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