Import and Export Restrictions and Prohibited Items in the UAE

July 2023

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a major trading hub in the Middle East, attracting businesses from all over the world to take advantage of its favorable tax laws and strategic location. However, to maintain the security of the country, protect public health, and preserve the cultural heritage of the nation, the UAE has implemented strict import and export restrictions and regulations on certain items. In today’s article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the restrictions and prohibited items in the UAE to ensure your business remains compliant.

Import restrictions in the UAE

The UAE government has established several restrictions on imported items. Some of the most notable import restrictions in the UAE include food and agricultural products, firearms and weapons, hazardous materials, and counterfeit goods.

The UAE has stringent regulations against the import of banned items and the illegal import of restricted items. A comprehensive list of prohibited items includes, but is not limited to:

  • Controlled/recreational drugs and illicit substances
  • Pirated materials
  • Counterfeit currency
  • Fireworks
  • Electric vehicles from North Korea
  • Objects used for black magic, witchcraft, or sorcery
  • Publications and artworks that conflict with or challenge Islamic beliefs and values
  • Gambling equipment and machines (please note, the Wynn Marjan is scheduled to open in early 2027 on Dream Island and will feature a casino measuring about 18,500 square meters).

Food and Agricultural Products

The UAE strictly regulates the import of food and agricultural products to ensure the safety and quality of food available in the country. Importation of meat and dairy products is restricted to certified and approved suppliers, and all products must be accompanied by a veterinary health certificate. While you can import seeds, tubers, outdoor seedlings and honeybees into the UAE, you will be required to obtain a permit after from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. In addition, the UAE also regulates the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with a mandatory labeling requirement for all food products that contain GMOs. 

In addition to the previously mentioned import and export restrictions in the UAE, there are specific regulations and restrictions on certain retail food products. It is important to be aware of these restrictions to ensure compliance with the UAE’s customs laws. The following items are prohibited or restricted for import and export:

  • Ivory (unworked or simply prepared but not cut to shape, including ivory powder and waste)
  • Mace (whether/neither crushed nor ground)
  • Poppy or poppy seeds (whether or not broken)
  • Black poppy, fresh or dried (whether or not cut, crushed or powdered)
  • Hemp or hemp seeds (whether or not broken)
  • Indian hemp, fresh or dried (whether or not cut, crushed or powdered)
  • Prepared chewable Indian paan (betel) not containing tobacco
  • Vegetable saps and extracts of opium
  • Hashish
  • Cocoa leaf
  • Poppy straw

It is essential to adhere to the import and export restrictions on retail food products in the UAE. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in penalties and legal consequences. According to Ministerial Resolution No. 14 of 2016 pertaining to control on imported food for non-commercial purposes, there is a limit/maximum pertaining to imported food for non-commercial purposes. A complete list can be found on the UAE Government Portal. If you are involved in the import or export of these items, it is recommended to seek professional guidance and stay informed about the latest regulations to ensure compliance with the UAE’s customs laws.

Import restrictions in the UAE

Live Animal Industry

Import restrictions in the UAE play a crucial role in safeguarding the country’s live animal industry, particularly in light of the UAE’s prohibition of swine farming and the potential risks of introducing diseases to their animal population. In order to regulate and control the importation of animals, the UAE has implemented specific restrictions across various categories. While live swine holds importance within these categories, the UAE strictly regulates their importation based on weight and breeding status. The import of live pure-bred breeding swine is subject to stringent regulations to ensure that only the highest quality and genetically superior animals are permitted entry. Additionally, the UAE imposes restrictions on live swine weighing less than 50 kg and those weighing 50 kg or more, which are not classified as pure-bred breeding stock. These measures are in place to uphold the health and genetic integrity of the UAE’s animal population, protect the interests of local breeders, and foster a sustainable and prosperous live animal industry. The adherence to Islamic guidelines further influences the shaping of these import restrictions.

Automotive Industry

The UAE has implemented specific regulations regarding tyres used in the automotive industry. These restrictions aim to ensure road safety and prevent the use of tyres that may pose risks to drivers and passengers. It is important to comply with these regulations and use approved tyres that meet the safety standards set by the UAE authorities. 

The following types of tyres are prohibited from import or export:

  • Retreaded tyres of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars (including station wagons & racing cars)
  • Retreaded tyres of rubber, of a kind used on buses or lorries
  • Retreaded tyres of rubber, of a kind used on aircraft
  • Retreaded tyres of rubber, other than those used on motor cars (including station wagons & racing cars), buses, lorries, or aircraft
  • Used pneumatic tyres of rubber

Additionally, the import of all electric vehicles require approval from the Ministry of Economy’s Anti-Injurious Practices Department.

Firearms and Weapons

The import of firearms, weapons, body protection, and related equipment (such as gun belts, cleaning equipment, etc.), regardless of how small or the purpose, the UAE is highly regulated. These items all require a special license from the Ministry of Interior. The import of certain types of firearms and weapons, such as automatic weapons and certain types of ammunition, is prohibited altogether.

Drugs and Medicines

Tourists should exercise caution when bringing medication from their home countries into the UAE. Some medicines may contain substances that are prohibited in the UAE, resulting in arrest for those carrying them. Therefore, it’s important for tourists to not only bring a doctor’s prescription but also make sure the quantity of tablets is reasonable for the planned duration of their stay. It is also recommended they obtain a certificate from their respective embassy. Additionally, the import of hand sanitizer requires DM health and safety approval.

The UAE has a strict policy of zero tolerance for drug-related offenses, whether it be controlled drugs or recreational drugs. Products such as tobacco, controlled/recreational drugs, and all narcotic substances (such as Hashish, Cocaine, Heroin, Poppy Seeds, Hallucination Pills, etc.) are strictly prohibited.

Tobacco and Alcohol

You may import in cigarettes and alcohol if you are at least 18 years old and if the following conditions are met:

  • The number of alcoholic beverages, including wine and beer, must not exceed 4 liters or 2 cartons of beer (24 cans per carton, with each can not exceeding 355 ml or its equivalent).
  • The number of cigarettes must not exceed 400, and their value must not exceed AED 2,000.
  • The value of any cigars in your possession must not exceed AED 3,000.

Personal Goods

Passengers’ personal belongings are allowed entry and will be exempt from customs duties if they meet the following criteria:

  • The total value of gifts, perfumes, and personal luggage should not exceed AED 3,000.
  • The luggage and gifts should be in limited quantity and not intended for commercial purposes.
  • The passenger should not be a frequent traveler with goods on a regular basis or a member of the conveyance crew.


Passengers who have over AED 100,000 in cash or equivalent financial instruments must declare it at UAE customs when entering or leaving the country. Similarly, those arriving in or departing from European Union countries with 10,000 euros or more in cash must disclose the amount to customs officers.

Construction Building Material and Prefabricated Buildings: Prohibited Items

When it comes to construction building materials and prefabricated buildings, the UAE has implemented strict regulations to ensure safety and protect public health. These regulations aim to protect workers, residents, and the environment from the harmful effects of asbestos exposure. It is important to adhere to these restrictions and seek alternative construction materials that comply with the UAE’s safety standards and regulations. The following items are strictly prohibited:

  • Crocidolite (excluding fiber carded, dyed, etc., and finished articles of asbestos in heading 68.12): Crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, is a highly hazardous form of asbestos and its import or export is strictly prohibited due to its severe health risks.
  • Actinolite: Actinolite is a mineral that belongs to the asbestos family and is associated with similar health risks. Importing or exporting actinolite is strictly prohibited to safeguard public health.
  • Anthophyllite: Anthophyllite is another form of asbestos mineral that is considered harmful to human health. Its import or export is prohibited in order to prevent exposure to this hazardous substance.
  • Amosite: Amosite, also known as brown asbestos, is a highly dangerous type of asbestos that poses significant health risks. Importing or exporting amosite is strictly prohibited to prevent its use in construction materials.
  • Tremolite: Tremolite is a type of asbestos mineral that is associated with serious health hazards. Importing or exporting tremolite is strictly prohibited to protect public health.
  • Articles containing asbestos: Any articles or products that contain asbestos, regardless of the form or composition, are strictly prohibited from import or export to prevent the exposure to this harmful substance.
  • Fabricated asbestos fibers of crocidolite: Importing or exporting fabricated asbestos fibers made from crocidolite, a highly hazardous form of asbestos, is strictly prohibited to minimize health risks.
  • Compressed asbestos fiber jointing (sheets or rolls): Compressed asbestos fiber jointing in sheets or rolls, which is commonly used in gasket and sealing applications, is strictly prohibited due to the health risks associated with asbestos.
  • Friction materials and articles containing asbestos: Importing or exporting friction materials and articles that contain asbestos, such as brake pads or clutch linings, is strictly prohibited to prevent the release of asbestos fibers during use, which can pose health hazards.

Hazardous materials

In addition to prohibited construction materials, The import of hazardous materials into the UAE is strictly regulated, with specific regulations in place for items such as chemicals, toxic waste, and radioactive materials. All hazardous materials must be properly labeled, packaged, and accompanied by appropriate documentation to ensure the safe handling and disposal of these items. The import of certain hazardous materials is highly restricted or prohibited altogether. For example, the importation of nuclear materials is strictly regulated by FANR.


Export Restrictions in the UAE

In 2007, the UAE implemented Federal Law 13 of 2007, which established a system of export controls to regulate the exportation of goods, information, and technology of strategic importance, including certain military-civilian products. In 2008, Federal Law 12 of 2008 was introduced to expand the scope of the Export Control Law for enhanced effectiveness and enforceability. Violators of the Export Control Law may be subject to a fine of up to AED 500,000 (US $140,000) and/or imprisonment for a minimum of one year. Some of the most notable export restrictions in the UAE include:

Dual-use items

The export of dual-use items, or items that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, is highly regulated in the UAE. The export of such items requires a license from the Ministry of Economy, and is subject to review by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. The export of certain dual-use items, such as certain chemicals and materials, is prohibited altogether.

Tobacco products and extracts

When it comes to tobacco products and extracts, the import and export restrictions in the UAE cover a range of items. These include:

  • Unmanufactured tobacco, whether stemmed/stripped or not, and unmanufactured tobacco refuse.
  • Cigars, cheroots, and cigarillos containing tobacco.
  • Cigarettes containing tobacco.
  • Cigars of tobacco substitutes, not containing tobacco or nicotine.
  • Water pipe tobacco specified in subheading note 1 to this chapter, whether or not containing tobacco substitutes.
  • Chopped or pressed tobacco for smoking (cigarettes) or for pipes, whether or not containing tobacco substitutes.
  • Chopped or pressed tobacco put up for retail sale, whether or not containing tobacco substitutes.
  • Other smoking tobacco, whether or not containing tobacco substitutes.
  • Homogenized or reconstituted tobacco.
  • Tobacco compressed or liquored for making snuff.
  • Chewable and sniffing preparations containing tobacco.
  • Prepared chewable Indian paan (betel) containing tobacco.
  • Chopped or pressed tobacco other than chewable and sniffing preparations.
  • Snuff.
  • Jerac.
  • Tobacco extracts and essences.
  • Manufactured tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes not elsewhere specified.

These items are subject to regulations and restrictions in the UAE. Importers and exporters of tobacco products and extracts should comply with the applicable laws and obtain the necessary permits and licenses to ensure legal and compliant trade.

It’s important to stay updated on the specific requirements and regulations related to tobacco products and extracts in the UAE as they may be subject to change. Seeking professional assistance and guidance can help ensure compliance with the latest laws and regulations. 

Endangered Species

The export of endangered species and products derived from such species is strictly regulated in the UAE. The export of such items requires a license from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and is subject to review by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The export of certain endangered species, such as certain species of birds and reptiles, is prohibited altogether.

Additional import/export banned Items

In addition to the previously mentioned import and export restrictions, the UAE has a specific list of additional banned items. It is crucial to be aware of these items to ensure compliance with the UAE’s customs laws. The following is a detailed list of banned items:

  • Controlled/Recreational Drugs and Narcotic Substances: This includes prohibited substances such as hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds, hallucination pills, and other controlled/recreational drugs. Importing or exporting these substances is strictly prohibited.
  • Goods Intended to be Imported from Boycotted/Embargo Countries: Importing goods from countries that are boycotted or under embargo is strictly prohibited.
  • Crude Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Products: Importing or exporting crude ivory and rhinoceros horn products, including any items derived from them, is strictly prohibited to protect endangered species.
  • Gambling Tools and Machinery: Importing or exporting tools, machinery, or equipment specifically used for gambling purposes, including slot machines and gaming tables, is prohibited.
  • Three Layers Fishing Nets: Importing or exporting three-layer fishing nets, commonly associated with illegal fishing practices, is strictly prohibited to protect marine resources.
  • Original Engravings, Prints, Lithographs, Sculpture, and Statues: Importing or exporting original engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture, and statues made from any material, including those with cultural or historical significance, is subject to restrictions and may require special permits.
  • Used, Reconditioned, and Inlaid Tires: Importing or exporting used, reconditioned, and inlaid tires is prohibited to ensure road safety and prevent the entry of substandard products.
  • Radiation-Polluted Substances: Importing or exporting substances contaminated with radiation or radioactive materials is strictly prohibited due to health and safety concerns.
  • Printed Publications, Oil Paintings, Photographs, Artwork, Pictures, Cards, Books, Magazines, Stone Sculptures, and Mannequins: Importing or exporting printed materials, artwork, sculptures, or any visual representations that contradict or challenge Islamic teachings, values, and decencies is prohibited.
  •  Any Other Goods Prohibited by UAE Customs Laws or Other Laws in the Country: Importing or exporting any goods that are specifically prohibited by UAE customs laws or other laws in the country is strictly prohibited, as outlined by relevant regulations.
  • Forged and Duplicate Currency: Importing or exporting forged and duplicate currency, including counterfeit banknotes or coins, is strictly prohibited to maintain the integrity of the monetary system.
  • Cooked and Homemade Foods: Importing or exporting cooked and homemade foods, including perishable items, prepared meals, or homemade food products, is generally prohibited to protect public health and safety.
  • Pirated Content: Importing or exporting pirated content, including unauthorized copies of copyrighted materials such as movies, music, software, or counterfeit goods, is strictly prohibited to protect intellectual property rights.
  • Items Used in Black Magic, Witchcraft, or Sorcery: Importing or exporting items used in black magic, witchcraft, or sorcery, including talismans, potions, or occult paraphernalia, is strictly prohibited due to cultural and religious sensitivities.
  • Exotic, Protected, and Endangered Animals and Certain Breeds of Dogs: Importing or exporting exotic, protected, and endangered animals, including rare or endangered species, as well as certain breeds of dogs with specific restrictions, is subject to stringent regulations to preserve biodiversity and prevent illegal wildlife trade.
  • Betel Leaves (Paan): Importing or exporting betel leaves (paan), which are commonly chewed for their stimulating effects, is prohibited due to health concerns and cultural considerations.

Furthermore, the export of the following items has been temporarily prohibited:

  • Temporary Suspension of Exports of Ferrous Scrap & Waste Paper (Customs Notice No. 05/2023) 
  • Suspension of Importing and Registering Electric Volkswagen Cars (Customs Notice No. 2/2023) 
  • Temporary Suspension of Export and Re-Export of Wheat and Wheat Flour (Customs Notice No. 12/2022) 
  • Temporary Suspension of Exports of Ferrous Scrap & Waste Paper (Customs Notice No. 08/2022) 
  • Temporary Suspension of Exports of Iron Scrap and Waste Paper (Customs Notice No. 07/2022) 

import/export banned Items

Navigating Import and Export Regulations with Cargoline

If you are interested in exporting or importing items to the UAE and feel a bit overwhelmed navigating restricted and prohibited items, we can help. At Cargoline, we leverage over two decades of experience in importing and exporting highly regulated items. From creating an original bill of lading to submitting all import documentation at any port in the world, our team of experts at custom clearance and brokerage services will help you stay compliant and save your time and money.

Contact a team member to learn more. We look forward to working with you.

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