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How to get a General Trade License in Dubai

How to get a General Trade License in Dubai

The General Trading License in Dubai is a perfect chance to start a business, which is based on trading. So you are literally allowed to trade with almost anything you want. But still, you are to be always careful, as some goods and whole types are still not allowed. Violating the rules with any attempts to sell goods that you’re not supposed to with your type of documents – would definitely lead banks to carefully analyze invoices and pay attention to your case. So in this material we’re about to give you all the important information about this type of license: from benefits to required set of documents.

General information

This type of allowance document gives a perfectly legal possibility to trade with almost every type of products and goods. But the word “almost” here means that there are still some exceptions: types of products that don’t match this general category. To make a business, based on trading such types of products you (as a businessman) need to obtain a special license, which would only be given after a careful investigation of proper state governmental institutions. 

What is especially good about this particular type of license is that obtaining it allows you to trade multiple categories of goods at the same time. So you don’t need to apply for allowance documents every time you add new categories into your trading list.

General Trade

What and where can you trade with it?

Any firm and enterprise operating on the Mainland or within FEZ can work only having an allowance document of a certain type. But even it can’t allow you as a businessman to operate outside a given set of rights. For example, if you’ve got a trading license of a regular type you can buy and sell not more than 5 types of goods at the same time. While a general trading license cancels this limit so you can trade with an unlimited number of categories. But still, there’s an important exception. You would need a special permission for trading some categories of goods that are connected with spheres concerning national security, medicine, finance, alcohol and tobacco, raw oils or real estate. This special permission can be given by a government or its branch, which deals with a given sphere.

If your company deals with trading more or less “general” categories of goods (like electronics, clothes, any types of food, cosmetics, furniture, building materials, toys, package, etc.) – starting a business based on a general trading license would make sense in the absolute majority of cases. After getting such a document you would open yourself doors for trading an unlimited number of different goods at the huge market, full of clients always ready to pay and already willing to get what you can offer.  

Advantages of obtaining

Getting this type of permission would give you as a businessman a lot of benefits:

  • Absence of taxes and additional fees all the way through.
  • No need to pay the authorized capital.
  • Possibilities to rent an office for work at any place in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE.
  • Relatively fast and pretty much simple procedure of applying and obtaining.
  • Allowance of 100% repatriation of capital and profits withdrawal.
  • The possibility to legally operate on the whole territory of the UAE.
  • Completely legal way to trade multiple types of goods issuing only a single allowance document.
  • A chance to obtain UAE resident visas for employees.

This permission allows to start dealing in almost all types of goods, not only in the domestic market of the UAE but anywhere else in the whole world

Note! This document easily allows companies to trade different types of goods, not 2 or 3 (unlike a regular one with the number up to 5). For the majority of traders this tends to be the main advantage.

The procedure of getting

Dubai Economic Development Department

If you’re about starting your own business in Dubai, then you need to obtain a license for doing it in a completely legal way, otherwise you would have problems with violating local laws. It can be obtained either from the Dubai Economic Development Department (DED) or from some free economic zone.

Both DED and Free Zones can issue a general trading license, which allows you to trade many types of goods at once.

However, licenses issued by DED allow trading specifically on the domestic market of the UAE, and documents issued by free zones do not give the right to trade on the domestic market of the Emirates, it is possible to work with them only within free zones or at the international level.

By owning a company with a general trading license, you will be able to obtain a UAE tax resident certificate.

Unlike other registration options, setting up a business with a DED General Trading License allows businessmen to have both office and warehouse space anywhere throughout the UAE.

Set of documents for getting

Certain documents will be required to be submitted to the Department of Economic Development, including the Memorandum of Association, which details the agreements with the sponsor and the share held by each partner. It is also necessary to provide copies of the passports and visas of shareholders. Right after dealing with that you can apply for getting a document for your company and for visas.

The whole process takes about a week, and immediately right after you can apply to a bank to open a bank account to start carrying payments and all the other financial operations for your business.

The cost of getting and some other details


General Trading License Cost in Dubai usually starts from 17,000 dirhams (4,640 USD) and depending on the specific requirements of your business, the total cost usually does not exceed 100,000 dirhams (27,250 USD).

Dubai Free Zones provide exclusive packages for business owners. The cost of starting a business in Dubai depends on many factors, but the cost of free zones is relatively lower. Therefore, it is not easy to sum up the total cost of establishing a company in the Dubai Free Zone, as the latter figure is made up of many components. Along with the cost of the free zone license itself, the cost of the premises, if needed, as well as the cost of the visa, must also be taken into account.

The procedure is quite simple. In fact, in many cases obtaining from the DED is easier than the same procedure for a free zone. The new initiatives have made the whole process so simple that if you meet the criteria for obtaining a license, then you can be registered with the Dubai Economic Development Department in just 90 minutes without the need to sign a lease.

This type is also popular among large companies, as it allows you to open a business together with many shareholders. There is no official upper limit on the number of shareholders, the generally accepted maximum number of shareholders is 50, and these can be both individuals and legal entities.

Obtaining a Mainland license

There’s a special authority, dealing with issuing license procedures, called the Department of Economic Development (DED). The Department of Economic Development (DED) is the government agency responsible for issuing all licenses to entities or individuals wishing to conduct business on the Dubai mainland, outside the free zones. Businesses licensed by the DED are better known as “local companies”. To make it easier to do business in Dubai, DED acts as a one-stop shop for all local businesses. For most SMEs, obtaining a local license is the best option as it allows you to open an office directly in Dubai. To conduct a certain type of activity, opening a local company under a license is the only way out. However, unlike a free zone, you cannot own 100% of the company and you will need a local shareholder (UAE resident) or a service agent, depending on the type of activity chosen. Lack of full ownership of your company will gradually encourage foreign investors to open a company in a free economic zone, while a professional founder will show you how to minimize risks and scale your business.


Companies on the mainland can engage in any industrial, commercial, trade, professional or tourism activity. Some professional activities are excluded under the business rules, while others require the approval of the authorities that regulate these activities. Once you choose a trade name for your company, it will be associated with your license for as long as the license is valid and protected by law so that no one can use it. Mainland companies in the UAE do not need to go through currency exchange regulations.

To get a license at the Mainland foreign shareholders, directors and managers must provide copies of their passports, as well as:

  • The employer’s NOC if the shareholder has obtained a work visa.
  • UAE shareholder ID (copy).
  • MOA.
  • An official letter signed and sealed with a request to become a shareholder or open a branch, also indicating the names of the real owners of this corporation.
  • Certification of documents at the UAE Consulate, and then at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE (if the organization enters outside the UAE).

Getting a permission from one of the FEZ

Besides the Mainland license you can also set up your trading business at one of the Free Economic Zones, situated in Dubai or anywhere else inside the whole country (there are 40 of them for a moment). Setting up a Dubai Free Zone business and getting a license out there can take some time to prepare a massive set of documents. But the great news is that in the majority of cases you get a personal manager and are always covered with any help that you need. You get all the informational support throughout the process of obtaining a license. This way it would be much easier, as you always know what exactly you need to do on each procedure step to get a final result in form of General Trading License in Dubai to start trading your goods anywhere on the territory of the UAE, not just Dubai or a place, where your chosen FEZ is situated.

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Vladimir Sviridov
Vladimir Sviridov
General Manager RLC Consulting
With a Postgraduate Masters in Finance from The, Moscow State University, Russia. Vladimir started his professional career as an auditor of the financial sector of EY. After that, he worked for several years in senior positions in corporate banking. In 2018-2021, he managed the finances of a large agricultural holding, and is currently responsible for strategic planning, corporate partnership and financial management in the role of General Manager of RLC Consulting GROUP in the UAE.

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