With the e-commerce sector in Dubai booming, aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals are keen to start their online businesses. Getting an e-commerce license is the first step. An e-commerce license is a legal authorization or permit that allows companies to conduct e-commerce businesses within the UAE. This license is not required by companies that have physical inventories and only choose to do business through retail outlets.

The UAE’s e-commerce market has had a profound impact on the Middle East economy. In the last few years, the e-commerce sector has been on a consistent upward trajectory, supported by various government initiatives and technology implementation, coupled with a tech-savvy population. According to a Dubai Chamber of Commerce study, the e-commerce market is expected to be worth $9.2 billion in 2026, up nearly 92% from 2021.

Adding to the digital landscape, the UAE boasts an exceptionally high mobile phone penetration. According to the World Bank, there are 212 mobile phones for every 100 people in the country. This use of mobile technology not only underscores the nation’s tech-savvy populace but also contributes significantly to the burgeoning e-commerce sector, as consumers increasingly leverage mobile platforms for their shopping needs.

There is no doubt that e-commerce has created multiple entrepreneurial opportunities, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, resulting in economic growth. The expansion of the sector is driven by the rapid adoption of digital devices, increase in incomes and internet penetration rates, and the improving logistics infrastructure which has attracted global players to the market.

A Closer Look:

E-commerce License Types

Types of e-commerce license:

  • E-Trader License: This type of license can only be obtained under single ownership by UAE and GCC nationals. It is issued by the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). You are not able to open a shop or own a physical space under this license.
  • Portal License: Portal license is yet another e-commerce license in Dubai and non-UAE nationals can acquire it. You can also start an online business in Dubai with a portal license – to link buyers and sellers. A portal license is also ideal for listing a website that includes products, services, or reservations. The cost of a portal license is minimal when you are applying for a business establishment in the mainland region. Note that the cost of an e-commerce license in Dubai varies based on your business requirements.
  • Virtual Company License: A Virtual company license allows overseas investors and non-residents to carry out e-commerce activities in the UAE. This license, however, is limited to computer programming and designing activities, and services related to printing and advertising.
Benefits of having an E-commerce License

Benefits of an e-commerce license

Setting up an e-commerce company gives businesses access to a host of benefits:

  • Strategic advantages of the UAE: Businesses can take advantage of e-commerce growth and the local business landscape. Dubai lies at the cusp of East and West which makes it an ideal location for business. It is also very well connected with an excellent logistics and transport infrastructure.
  • No Physical Store Required: To obtain an e-commerce license, businesses do not require a physical store. This helps to reduce costs.
  • Easy To Set Up: Getting an e-commerce license, especially in a Free Zone, is a simple and straightforward process. You can have your business up and running in no time.
  • Free Zone benefits: Getting an e-commerce license in Dubai gives you access to Free Zone benefits such as 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation on profits and costs, no restriction on currency, and tax-free import and export in and out of the Free Zone.
  • Excellent Customer Service: Customer service is a top priority in Dubai, and you can expect to receive the highest level of service when doing business in the city. This is due to the city’s commitment to providing excellent customer experience.

How to get an e-commerce license in Dubai?

E-commerce License steps
  • The first step is to gain a deep understanding of the UAE market. This will help you understand your customer’s needs and expectations. This will also help you determine which business model (B2B or B2C) is right for you and gauge the market potential.
  • The next step is to choose the right jurisdiction. It is crucial to decide whether you want to set up your business in a Free Zone or mainland to obtain your license accordingly. Choosing the mainland option allows you to trade with the local UAE market directly without the need for a local agent. On the other hand, setting up in a Free Zone like IFZA offers various advantages such as a low tax rate, full customs tax exemption, no currency restrictions, and the ability to repatriate 100% of capital and profit. Although Free Zone companies may not be able to directly trade with the local UAE market, there are several options available if this capability is needed.
  • Choose a company name that adheres to the country’s naming regulations.
  • The next step is to submit your application. The type of application depends on whether you have opted to do business in the mainland or Free Zone. If you are planning to establish a business in a Free Zone, you can apply directly to the Free Zone of your choice. Whether you choose a Mainland or Free Zone setup, it is important to ensure that your e-commerce license application is complete and error-free. This will help avoid chances of rejections or delays.
  • After submitting your e-commerce license application, you can proceed with applying for your UAE residence visa. You can also apply for visas from your employees, family members, or domestic staff if applicable. The number of visas you can apply for depends on the size of your business and the location you have selected for your setup.
  • To start your business in the UAE, it’s essential to have a corporate bank account. The process of opening a bank account in the UAE can be tricky, it’s always recommended to seek professional assistance from a reputable business formation company in Dubai to ensure compliance with all formalities. As an exclusive service for all IFZA-registered companies, we have partnered with two esteemed banks in the UAE, WIO and Mashreq, to provide banking support like no other Our team of experts will guide you through the process and provide you with all the necessary information and documents required for the bank account opening process.

How can IFZA help?

IFZA is a renowned name for obtaining an e-commerce license in Dubai. Our streamlined processes and international network of Professional Partners make it easy for you to apply for an e-commerce license without the need to physically be present in the UAE.

With an IFZA e-commerce license in Dubai, you can choose from thousands of business activities and combine Commercial and Professional activities under a single license. Our Free Zone ecosystem provides ongoing support for your business, including assistance with corporate bank account opening and medical insurance coverage.

IFZA provides numerous Free Zone company establishment benefits such as:

without the need to be physically present

  • 100% ownership of commercial enterprises
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profit
  • Low taxes
  • No physical presence of the business owners is required during the company setup (incorporation) process
  • No mandatory office requirement under 4 visa allocation
  • All processes executed remotely (except medical tests and Emirates ID biometrics)
  • IFZA offers a multicultural and multilingual team that can advise on business activities
  • It offers transparent and competitive pricing
  • Professional and Commercial activities can be combined under one IFZA license
  • IFZA offers a competitive General Trading License
  • IFZA does not publicly disclose shareholders of licensed companies
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Frequently asked questions

01. Who needs an eCommerce license in Dubai?

Any business planning to sell goods or services online in Dubai, whether locally or internationally, typically requires an eCommerce license.

02. Can foreign businesses obtain an eCommerce license in Dubai?

Yes, foreign businesses can apply for an eCommerce license in Dubai. They may need to establish a presence in Dubai, such as through a local sponsor or setting up a branch office, depending on the legal structure chosen.

03. Are there any restrictions on eCommerce activities with this license?

Certain products or services may be subject to specific regulations or restrictions, such as pharmaceuticals. It's essential to research and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

04. How long does it take to obtain an eCommerce license in Dubai?

The timeframe for obtaining an eCommerce license can vary depending on factors such as the completeness of the application, approval processes, and any additional requirements. It typically takes several weeks to a few months to complete the licensing process.
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