Moving to UAE Customs regulations guide

4th September 2018

When moving to a new country, one of the most important considerations is the packing and shipping of your personal belongings. A dedicated international removals service, like Cadogan Tate, is a good place to start. The experienced teams can advise you on the best shipping methods, packing solutions and storage. They are also knowledgeable about what you can and can’t take with you, and what paperwork might need to be filed for certain types of items.
With any international relocation, you need to research and understand the customs regulations. Every country has its own customs procedure, list of restricted items and duties payable. Moving to the UAE is not as straightforward as relocating within the European Union, due to stricter customs regulations. In 2017, the UAE topped the Efficiency of Customs Procedure Index in a report issued by the Global Competitiveness Center of the International Institute for Administrative Development in Switzerland. While this survey relates to businesses and institutions, rather than individuals, the same level of efficiency is present for personal imports.
Here we present a customs regulations guide for the UAE, which will help you prepare for your move.

What not to take

Expat life in the United Arab Emirates does take a little adapting to when moving from the West. Some of its laws and customs are quite different, which can impact upon what you can import into the country.
There is a list of prohibited items that you cannot import into the country by person or in your main shipment. Many of these are common sense and feature on most countries’ restricted lists, such as drugs, pirated content, gambling tools or counterfeit currency.
However, there are some exclusions you need to be aware of. As the UAE is an Islamic country, there are certain items that are not allowed into the country by law. This includes ‘publications and artwork that contradict or challenge Islamic teachings and values’. It is worth checking before trying to import works of art or books that may violate this regulation. If you are unable to import an item, you can look at long-term storage solutions to protect these assets. Trying to import items that are considered against UAE values can result in fines or imprisonment. This is one reason why it is worth investing in an international shipping company with experience in customs regulations for the UAE to accurately assess your belongings.
If you require regular medication, you can import small quantities for personal use while you arrange for your prescriptions in the UAE. You will need documentation from your doctor and the original prescription. Some medications are controlled and will need prior permission, even those that are more widely available in the UK. Codeine, for example, a common painkiller in the UK, is a controlled medication in the UAE and it’s illegal to have in your possession.
There are also restricted items, which may require special permits to import. This includes pets and domestic animals, and agricultural products. There are limits on imported food for personal consumption, and anyone travelling with more than AED 100,000 in cash (or equivalent) will need to disclose this at customs. Any form of weaponry, including antiquities, will also need permission in advance of your move.

Importing personal belongings

You are not required to pay a customs duty on your personal luggage and belongings, so long as they meet the entry conditions. Gifts, perfumes and personal luggage should not exceed AED 3,000; duty is payable if the value is higher than this. There are personal limits on alcohol, cigarettes, cigars and tobacco, and electronic devices. For the most up-to-date advice on the current limits and the duty rates, please visit the UAE Government website.
For the rest of your shipment, your household goods are eligible for duty-free customs clearance if they are in used condition and considered a reasonable amount in relation to the size of your household. New household goods are subject to duty (if they have been purchased within six months from their entry into the UAE).
You will need to report to the Federal Customs Authority and provide certain documentation to clear customs. This includes copies of your passport and residence visa, proof of employment and an inventory of your shipment (which can be arranged by your shipping company). You must be present in the UAE for your goods to clear customs, and your shipment needs to arrive within six months of your residence permit being issued.
You can find out more about what to expect when moving to the UAE from London in our detailed guide. Contact us to see how we can help you with your international move to the UAE.

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