A customs official inspecting goods in a Dubai free zone warehouse. Text overlay reads 'UAE: New Customs Compliance Requirements in Dubai Free Zones.

UAE: New Customs Compliance Requirements in Dubai Free Zones

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There are new customs compliance regulations that companies operating in Dubai’s free zones must adhere to. This guide will explain the key changes, challenges they create, and tips on how to adapt operations to comply.

Why Were the New Customs Regulations Introduced?

Dubai Customs implemented the new rules for these reasons:

  • Better Tracking of Cargo: To digitally track goods moving in and out of free zones.
  • Enhanced Security: To thoroughly inspect cargo and stop banned/illegal items.
  • Control Trade Violations: To reduce customs duty fraud and abuse of temporary admission.
  • Mandatory Information Submission: To make companies submit complete data on goods.
  • Oversight on Trade Activity: To give Customs visibility on all trade transactions in free zones.

Key Changes in Customs Compliance Requirements

The main changes that companies must comply with are:

Mandatory Registration on Dubai Customs Portal

Strict Reporting and Declarations for Goods Movement

Companies must report detailed information when importing or exporting goods including:

  • Product description, codes, and valuation
  • Origin and destination
  • Duty amounts
  • Customs procedure codes

Any errors or incomplete information will lead to penalties

Advanced Cargo Screening and Security Checks

  • Goods will undergo increased physical inspections and scans for restricted/prohibited items.
  • Customs is enhancing screening to detect banned substances like narcotics and unlawful wildlife trade.

Specific Guidelines for High-Risk Goods

  • Special categories like chemicals, pharmaceuticals, weapons, tobacco, etc. have stringentprotocols
  • Companies must comply with product-specific rules on labeling, storage, handling, and delivery.

Tighter Restrictions on Temporary Goods Admission

  • Goods brought in temporarily for events, exhibitions etc. must be re-exported as per submitted timelines.
  • The window for temporary admission is shorter with heavy fines for delays in re-exporting goods.

New Penalties and Fines for Non-Compliance

  • Violations of the new rules will incur heavy penalties and fines up to millions of Dirhams.
  • Examples include AED 50,000 for incorrect origin data and AED 5,000 for unpaid duties.

Challenges Created by the New Customs Regulations

Complying with the rules poses difficulties in some areas:

Increased Administrative Workload

Cargo Delays and Supply Chain Disruptions

  • With increased scans and checks, cargo clearance will take longer – impacting supply reliability.
  • Customers may face order delays leading to penalties on the company.

Complex Handling Rules for High-Risk Goods

  • Special category products need staff training to comply with protocols accurately.
  • Small mistakes can lead to confiscations, fines, and canceled trade licenses.

Higher Risk of Non-Compliance Penalties

Tighter Timeframe for Temporary Admissions

  • The shortened window leaves little margin of error in re-exporting temporarily imported goods
  • Overstaying goods even by a few days can mean massive fines.

Adapting Operations to the New Customs Environment

Companies can take these steps to comply with the rules:

Register on the Dubai Customs Portal Immediately

Review Information Required for Declarations

  • Analyze the data Dubai Customs needs for cargo declarations and ensure your ERP system captures it all

Train Employees on Protocols for Special Goods

  • Conduct workshops to educate staff on the specific compliance needs for high-risk goods

Streamline Processes to Meet Shorter Admission Deadlines

  • Pinpoint stress points and build buffers into cargo flows to re-export temporary goods on time.

Seek Customs Trade Compliance Experts’ Assistance

  • Consult specialists to implement robust customs mechanisms that fully meet regulations.

Pad Delivery Timelines to Absorb Cargo Screening Delays

  • Revise delivery schedules and contracts to factor in longer customs clearance times.


The new customs regulations in Dubai free zones mandate significant changes to trade operations. Companies must act quickly to comply and leverage experts, or risk major disruption, losses and penalties. With some adaptation of internal processes and bringing in advisors, businesses can effectively align to the new compliance regime. In the long run, the rules will benefit trade through enhanced oversight and security.


What are the fines for not complying with the new rules?

Fines start at AED 50,000 and go up to millions depending on the specific violation.

Do the regulations apply to all companies in free zones equally?

Yes, the rules are mandatory for every business operating in Dubai’s free zones.

What are some key goods categories requiring special handling?

Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, weapons, alcohol, tobacco, radioactive material, wildlife, oils/lubricants etc.

By when must we register on the portal to avoid penalties?

Registration should be completed urgently within the next few weeks to avoid fines.

How much will compliance overhead costs increase?

Main costs are for specialists, improving IT systems, extra staff, delays, and potential penalties.



Ms. Vibha Modi, CA, is supported by 13+ Years of Corporate Tax, International Taxation and Accounting Expertise.

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