Header Trade License Dubai

A Detailed Guide to Getting a Trade License in Dubai

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Operating a business in the thriving Gulf economy of Dubai first requires obtaining the legal permit known as a trade license. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key steps for securing your license quickly and smoothly.

What is a Dubai Trade License?

A Dubai trade license grants official approval for a company to conduct specified commercial activities in the emirate legally. The Department of Economic Development (DED) issues licenses for mainland Dubai while various Free Zone authorities regulate their respective areas.

Benefits of having a valid trade license include:

  • Legal business operations – Invoice, rent office, open bank accounts
  • Visa eligibility – For investors, partners and employees
  • Access to services – Banking, payments processing, government services

Without a license, heavy fines can be imposed – so it’s mandatory to trade legally!

Types of Dubai Trade Licenses

A. Category by Business Activity

  • Commercial License: For importing, exporting, distributing and selling products
  • Professional License: For regulated professions like healthcare, legal, accounting
  • Industrial License: For manufacturing and processing operations

B. Location of Company

Each type has specific laws and costs. Consult experts on choosing the right one tailored for your business.

Should You Set Up Onshore or Offshore?

Mainland Dubai

  • Caters to UAE/GCC consumer markets
  • Requires 51% local ownership
  • No tax incentives
  • Lower cost than free zones

Dubai Free Zones

Over 40 free zones cater to various industries, so pick one that aligns best to your activities.

This graphical Image is Representing a Who Can Get a Trade License

Step 1: Documents Required for Application

  • Passport copies of shareholders and directors
  • Proof of shareholder address
  • Shareholders’ CVs
  • Detailed business plan
  • Office lease agreement in some cases
  • Relevant educational/professional certificates
  • Specialized documents depending on activity

Pro Tip: Work with a reputable agency to ensure correct attestation and compliance.

Step 2: Identifying Local Partners

  • Mainland Dubai mandates 51% local ownership. Finding a reliable, experienced Emirati partner through your networks is key.
  • Free zones allow 100% foreign ownership, so no local partner needed. This enables full expatriate control.

Step 3: Applying for Your License

While each location has unique application guidelines, the typical key stages are:

1. Finalize Activity & Location: Choose from commercial, professional or industrial trade license along with mainland Dubai or relevant free zone.

2. Prepare & Attest Documentation: Collate all paperwork as per license type. Get suitable attestations done.

3. Submit Fees & Application: Submit documents and fees via authority’s portal yourself or through expert agencies for faster processing.

4. Await Approval: DED approves mainland licenses while Free Zone authorities approve offshore applications.

5. Obtain Trade License: Upon approval, collect the physical copy of your Dubai trade license for display.

Step 4: Post-License Procedures

Upon approval, finish these crucial formalities within 30 days:

  • Lease office or warehouse as needed
  • Obtain establishment card from authorities
  • Open corporate bank account
  • Register for VAT, customs etc if applicable
  • Process employment visas for staff

Renewing Your Dubai Trade License

  • Licenses need renewal every year by paying fees on time.
  • Delayed renewals attract fines from AED 1,000 upwards plus suspension.
  • Renewal involves paying fees, updating details, renewing contracts.

So calendar those annual reminders to renew promptly!


Obtaining a trade license is an essential step for any business seeking to operate legally in Dubai. This comprehensive guide has provided a detailed overview of the process, from understanding the different types of licenses available to navigating the application process and post-license procedures.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, it is crucial to recognize the significance of having a valid trade license. Not only does it grant legal approval for your commercial activities, but it also opens doors to a wide range of benefits, including visa eligibility, access to banking and government services, and the ability to issue legally recognized invoices.

Throughout the guide, we have emphasized the importance of seeking expert advice and working with reputable agencies to ensure a smooth and compliant license acquisition process. Whether you choose to establish your business on the mainland or within one of Dubai’s numerous free zones, having a clear understanding of the specific requirements and regulations is paramount.


What is a trade license, and why is it necessary in Dubai?

A trade license is a legal document required for individuals or companies to conduct business activities in Dubai. It is mandatory to obtain a trade license before starting any commercial operations in the emirate.

What are the different types of trade licenses available in Dubai?

The common types of trade licenses in Dubai include Commercial License, Professional License, Industrial License, and Tourism License. Each license type caters to specific business activities and sectors.

Can a foreign national obtain a trade license in Dubai?

Yes, foreign nationals can obtain a trade license in Dubai by fulfilling certain requirements, such as having a local service agent or a UAE national partner, depending on the type of business activity and ownership structure.

What are the essential documents required for obtaining a trade license in Dubai?

The essential documents may include a completed application form, passport copies, proof of business premises, approval from relevant authorities (if applicable), and other supporting documents as specified by the licensing authority.

Can a trade license be transferred or sold to another person or company?

No, trade licenses in Dubai are non-transferable and cannot be sold or transferred to another person or company. A new trade license must be obtained for any change in ownership or business activity.

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Pranav Modi

Mr. Pranav Modi, CA is supported by 12+ years of Consulting, Auditing and Accounting practice across diverse sectors.

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