Importing to Dubai – Customs Clearance for Freezone, GCC & Local Markets

June 2022

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a major business hub in global trade routes, with Dubai as an economic center. The UAE is a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – with similar processes governing import across these regions.

This article will detail customs clearance in Dubai & rest of UAE based on trade areas.

The UAE and its surrounding region is divided into various areas based on geographic and trade regulations, which define the import process for each region – namely Free Zones (FZ), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Local Markets.

Import processing through Free Zone

Free Zones are part of Dubai and the UAE geographically. However, these zones are subject to a different set of custom clearance and control processes to enable efficient trade practices than regular local regions. With 40+ Free Zones (FZ in the UAE, these are designed around one or more commercial categories or industries. 

Licensed importing companies operating within the Free Zones (FZ) are allowed to import permitted shipments without payment of any customs duties. Imported goods can be stored based on the nature of goods and free zone license validity

Key documentation required for import to free zone

  1. Delivery order from the Freight forwarding agent to licensed Free Zone company
  2. Delivery Note for the acceptance of goods for shipment by land or other Free Zones (FZ) areas
  3. Second copy of the Bill of Lading for shipments by sea 
  4. Original Airway bill for Air shipment 
  5. Road manifest for land shipment.
  6. Special Import permit for restricted goods.
  7. Sale invoice from Free Zones (FZ) company to a licensed importer including cargo description, quantity, and value. This also has to include the original & item wise invoice with HS Codes classification for each item of the shipment from the shipper to the FZ company.
  8. Certificate of origin from Chamber of Commerce in the country of origin
  9. Detailed packing list including item description, HS Code, weight and packing method

The above documents are processed at the Free Zones (FZ) Customs Centers under the control  of Dubai Customs and the Free Zone Transit Inn (Free Zone Bills of Entry) is issued for the clearance of goods into Free Zones

Import to Local Markets

Local Markets comprise the regular trade zones in Dubai and the rest of UAE. These zones are subject to regular custom clearance and control processes and companies are allowed to import their shipments after due process and payments of applicable customs duties.

Goods and shipments can be imported to Local Markets from Free Zones, GCC and other countries – each requiring specific sets of documents for processing and relevant duties to be paid.

Importing from other countries or Rest of World (ROW)

Companies that import directly to Local Markets of UAE or GCC submit an online declaration through a registered MIRSAL user or authorized custom broker. Regular or non-company customers can submit the declaration through Bureau Services from the designated Customs Offices.

Documents required include:

  1. Master or House Airway Bill for Air channel
  2. Master or House Bill Of Lading for Sea Channel
  3. Commercial Invoice
  4. Certificate of Origin
  5. Packing List
  6. Delivery Order
  7. Applicable Permits

Import from FZ

Companies importing to Local Markets in UAE and GCC from designated Free Zones, need to submit a special declaration of type “Import to Local from Free Zone” and pay applicable customs duties. This declaration can be submitted directly by the company or authorized Custom clearance or freight forwarding companies in Dubai.

Documents required include:

  1. Delivery Advice
  2. Invoice
  3. Packing List
  4. Applicable Permits for Restricted Goods

Import from other GCC states

Shipments being moved between the GCC member states require submitting a copy of the Statistical Export Declaration which has been cleared from the exporting GCC member state to the Customs Offices of importing member. The declaration must carry the “Makasa” endorsement to avoid the repeated payment of Customs Duty at the importing member state. These transactions also need to clear an “Import to Local from GCC” declaration.

Documents required include:

  1. Delivery Order (for Sea and Air)
  2. Master  or House Airway Bill for Air channel
  3. Master or House Bill Of Lading for Sea Channel
  4. Land Manifest/Truck waybill for Land Channel
  5. Commercial Invoice
  6. Packing List
  7. Statistical Export Bill cleared from an exporting country of GCC with “Makasa” endorsement

Customs Warehouses

Licensed owners of Customs Warehouses can import shipments or cargo and defer customs duty payments until the shipments are actually shipped to local markets for consumption. 

Private Customs warehouse

A Private Customs Warehouse is managed by a licensed customs clearance and freight forwarding company in Dubai and the UAE. These warehouses can only store cargo or shipments owned by the company or on behalf of licensed importers. The cargo or shipments can be stored on payment of specified customs fees prescribed by the Customs Administration Control. The permissible cargo is specified based on the nature and kind of goods, goods under prohibition and the actual storage time.

Public Customs warehouse

A Public Customs Warehouse allows licensed importing companies who do not own a Customs Warehouse to import and store the goods

Documents required include:

  1. Master or House Airway Bill for Air channel
  2. Master or House Bill Of Lading for Sea Channel
  3. Commercial Invoice
  4. Certificate of Origin
  5. Packing List
  6. Delivery Order


There are several ways to import and trade in Dubai and the rest of the UAE.  However, keep in mind that the type of goods you wish to trade will have a bearing on your customs costs and customs clearance processing. It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with authorized UAE customs officials or consultants to understand the duty requirements and local import-export laws. There really is no better place to be than Dubai when it comes to import-export.

If you would like deeper technical insights on customs clearance you can read our Full Guide to Customs Clearance in Dubai & UAE.

All Articles
Request for a quote now