Clearing and forwarding agents: who are they and how can they help


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The UAE is one of the best-connected countries in the world. With a strategic location at the centre of the Middle East, it boasts direct links to vast and emerging markets around the globe, including Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Naturally, such a location attracts a host of import-export businesses, keen to benefit from the country’s unique position and excellent links via road, sea, and air.

This thriving hub of import-export companies drives demand for many other services, including clearing agents.

Trading in goods with countries around the world is a complex business. And many companies do not have the expertise, time, or inclination to navigate customs forms and other associated paperwork. That’s where clearing agents come in.

So, if you think you have what it takes to make a name in this fast-paced world, keep reading to find out how to get started.

Benefits of becoming a clearing agent in Dubai, UAE

There are many incredible benefits to becoming a clearing agent Dubai, UAE. Aside from the incredible location and thriving market mentioned above, there is also the nation’s 0% tax rate on both corporate and personal income.

And finally, with the support of a local expert, becoming a licensed clearing agent can be both quick and straightforward.

What do clearing and forwarding agents do?

Clearing agents play a vital role in the importation of cargo to the UAE. Essentially, they process and oversee all required documentation and paperwork to the relevant authorities. Without this service, goods cannot be cleared to enter the country.

Many also organise onward transportation for goods coming into the UAE and use their expertise and connections to clear goods faster on behalf of importers.

What is the difference between a freight forwarder and a clearing agent?

A freight forwarder handles movement of goods from any given point A to point B. This can be within the same country or internationally.

Freight forwarders ensure that goods are collected as required and delivered to the right place, in the right condition for the right price.

A clearance agent, on the other hand, is solely concerned with clearing goods through UAE customs. Clearance agents do not work across international jurisdictions, they tend to be tied to the country in which they operate.

How to become a clearing agent in Dubai, UAE

The first step when starting a business in Dubai is to partner with Set Hub. We can assist you with the steps below, helping you choose and register your company name, and assisting you with your visa and license applications.

1. Choosing your company name

The first step is to choose a name for your business.

When choosing a company name out here in the UAE, you must abide by a strict set of naming conventions.

In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.

2. Making your license application

Next, we will assist you with your license application. This process will differ somewhat depending on whether you decide to set up in the mainland or in a UAE free zone.

To incorporate a mainland company, you must apply to the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED). To start a free zone business, you can apply directly to the managing authority. When making your application, you are usually only required to provide a few details and some basic documentation, including:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copy of the proposed owner or owners
  • Two colour passport size photos


Depending on where you set up and the types of services you wish to offer, you may need to hold appropriate qualifications. But whether a requirement or not, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the customs process here in Dubai. There are many clearing agent courses on offer to help you get up to speed.

3. Making your visa applications
As well as your license to trade, you will also need a residency visa to work in the UAE. The visa application process consists of several steps including biometric scanning, a blood test, medical test, and a chest x-ray.

As the holder of a UAE trade license, you can also sponsor others for their visas too. This could be a spouse, parent or child, or a domestic worker such as a housekeeper.

The maximum number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your company, your chosen setup and, for dependant visas, your personal earnings.

4. Opening a corporate bank account

Finally, you will need a corporate bank account to trade in the UAE. It is not always easy for non-GCC citizens to secure banking services, so it is once again a good idea to partner with a local expert at this stage.

Set Hub can handle all these applications for you, advising on suitable financial institutions and liaising with relevant authorities on your behalf.

Are you ready to become a clearing agent in Dubai?

Hopefully, this guide has made clear that if you’re armed with the right knowledge, setting up as a clearing agent in Dubai doesn’t have to be overly complex.

That being said, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.

To help you ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as Business Incorporation Zone when establishing a new company in the UAE.

We are a team of company registration professionals who are passionate about bringing the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs to life.

As well as handling your license application, Set Hub can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.

We also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visa applications that are required to trade in the UAE.

In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.