The official weekend in the UAE is on Friday and Saturday. Some smaller private companies only close on Friday.
Government offices open at 7.30 a.m. and close at 3.00 p.m. Private offices tend to keep longer hours, adopting either “straight shift” or “split shift.” The former normally requires eight working hours beginning between 7:30am and 9:00am with a lunch break lasting 30 minutes to an hour. The latter involves commencing between 9:00am and 10:00am and ending between 8:00pm and 9:00pm, with a three- to four-hour break in between.
During Ramadan, working hours shorten by two to three hours, with most of the work accomplished in the early hours of the morning or much later in the evening after the day’s fast is broken at sunset.
Although Arabic is the official language, English is widely used in business transactions in the UAE. Print business cards in English and Arabic and make sure that all brochures and presentation material are full-color and well produced.
The UAE does not have any enforced federal income tax legislation for general business. Each emirate has enacted income tax decrees, but in practice, the enforcement is restricted to foreign banks and oil companies. Personal incomes, including all forms of salary and capital gains, are not subject to taxation in any emirates.
Other Local Taxes
Municipal taxes are levied in most Emirates on annual rental paid at 5 per cent for residential premises and 10 per cent for commercial premises. Other local taxes include a 5 per cent tax on hotel services and entertainment.
Labour Rules and Regulations
The rules and procedures for obtaining licences to recruit foreign labour to work in the UAE are applicable to all emirates. Application forms and other information are available at the Ministry of Labour’s website www.mol.gov.ae
Foreign companies are required to appoint a commercial agent in the UAE to import and sell its products in the UAE. The agent can only be a UAE national or a commercial entity wholly owned by UAE nationals. The agent has to register with the Ministry of Economy to engage in commercial activity and benefit from exclusive import and distribution rights. An exclusive agent provides a foreign company with in-depth knowledge of local customs and markets as well as a network of contacts and outlets to distribute its products.
Imports and Exports
The UAE has a liberal trade regime with tariffs based on the GCC tariff structure. Customs procedures are simple and largely computerized to facilitate trade, which in the case of several emirates includes a large re-export industry. It takes just six documents, three signatures and 18 days to move imported goods from the UAE ports to a warehouse. The cost of obtaining a licence is also the lowest in the world. An importer/exporter obtains a licence from the economic department of the relevant emirate.
Prohibitions and Restrictions
The GCC Common Customs Law distinguishes absolute import prohibitions from restricted imports. In the UAE, absolute import prohibitions are maintained for various reasons, including international conventions, environmental protection, health and safety, and religious and moral considerations.
They cover all kind of drugs; asbestos; used pneumatic tyres; industrial waste; forged and duplicate currency; Houbara falcons; ivory and rhinoceros horn; live camels; any printed material that does not adhere to religion or morals or that is aimed at causing corruption and disorder; or materials prohibited under any law in force in the country. All imports from Israel are prohibited.
The UAE maintains export controls on certain products for safety, security and environmental reasons, and to ensure compliance with international obligations under treaties and conventions (Basel Convention, CITES, Convention on Chemical Weapons, NPT) to which it is a signatory. Each emirate is responsible for its own export promotional activities, which are coordinated by the relevant departments of economy or tourism.
Each emirate has its own customs authority but customs procedures are the same throughout the UAE, and customs requirements are kept to a minimum so as not to impair the country’s active transhipment and re-export business. Since the establishment of the GCC customs union in January 2003, items imported into the UAE (or any other GCC State), and destined for another GCC market, are subject to customs duty only at the first point of entry into the GCC.
Under the terms of an agreement on customs tariffs with GCC countries, all emirates levy a minimum customs duty of 10 per cent on luxury goods and 4 per cent on the c.i.f. value of all other goods imported, excluding certain items such as alcohol and cigarettes. In practice, exemptions are made for a wide range of goods. In cases where customs duties are charged, it is generally restricted to 1 per cent.
Certificate of Origin
A certificate of origin is required to clear imports to the UAE. Full information regarding UAE certificates of origin (including fees) can be downloaded from the Ministry of Economy website: www.economy.ae.
Arbitration is currently governed by the UAE Civil Procedure Code, Federal Law 11 of 1992. Two arbitration services are available in the country and both have strong connections to the Chambers of Commerce in their respective emirates:
Abu Dhabi Commercial Conciliation & Arbitration Centre (ADCCAC) offers legal consultation and settles local and international trade disputes. The centre provides lists of arbitrators, conciliators, experts and certified translators. For further information please visit http://www.abudhabichamber.ae.
Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) is an autonomous, non-profit institution that offers a high calibre of arbitration services and facilities on an international scale. For further information please visit www.dic.ae.
Intellectual Property Rights
Recognition of the close link between protection of intellectual property rights and foreign investment has acted as an incentive for vigorous action against intellectual property violations in the emirates. The UAE has three intellectual property laws, which provide for registration procedures, enforcement procedures and penalties. At present there is no unified federal customs authority and each emirate’s customs authority is responsible for enforcement.
Registering a Trademark
All application forms and further information regarding trademark protection can be downloaded from the Ministry of Economy website www.economy.ae, which also provides instructions for submitting applications for trademark registration.