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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Can I host 'open house' events for my unlicensed business in the UAE?

It is illegal to trade in the UAE without proper documentation in place or to sell directly from a residential home, warns Keren Bobker.

I have a small business and in the past year I have sold the items I make via a few markets. I don’t want to pay for a full licence as it is a sideline, but I would like to know if I can sell some things from my house. I’d like to do some ‘open houses’ for friends and friends of friends, so do I still need to get any kind of permission as it isn’t a shop? Surely I can do what I want from my own home? SD, Dubai

The law regarding selling of goods, and indeed operating any kind of business, in the UAE is clear. Simply put, it is illegal to trade in the UAE without the proper documentation and licences. Businesses are permitted to sell via specific markets, whether in person or via a website, provided the organisation behind it is properly licenced to do so. This allows some small businesses to sell under the licence of the online store or market, but only via those routes. Any other kind of sale or business requires a proper trade licence, either via a free zone or set up as a LLC. A few other occupations can obtain freelance licences. In all cases, however, it is illegal for residents to sell from their homes and that includes any kind of ‘open house’. Any businesses that sell goods or services via social media or from their own home, without the proper permissions, run the risk of substantial fines, of up to Dh50,000, or even imprisonment, for operating a business illegally.

I have lived in the UAE for around five years but on my last exit I didn't cancel my visa and have been out of the country for more than six months. I now need to get police clearance from the UAE. Kindly advise if my employer has filed any absconding case and will it have any negative effects on my police clearance certificate. Also, am I able to return? AW, Pakistan

It appears that AW left the UAE without the agreement or knowledge of this employer. It is therefore highly likely that an absconding case was opened against him, partly because employers often need to do this to get the deposit repaid by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). He will also be subject to an employment ban in accordance with Article 128 of UAE Labour Law which states: "should the non-national worker leave work without a valid cause prior to the end of the contract with definite term, he may not get another employment even with the permission of the employer for a year from the date of abandonment of the work. No employer may knowingly recruit the worker or retain in his service during such period". This newspaper is unable to confirm whether an employer has registered a case and individuals much check this with MoHRE itself.

Residency visas must always be properly cancelled and so if the employer did not complete this process, on re-entry to the UAE AW will be detained by immigration officials until the visa is cancelled in the system. There will be a fee for this, although this will not be large and it should not take more than an hour or two in most cases.

The police department of each emirate can issue good conduct certificates and it is possible to apply while out of the country. While absconding is not really a criminal offence, if a case is registered it could affect the issue of the certificate. AW has not advised which emirate his residency visa was issued from and he will need to contact the police in the relevant emirate or the Ministry of the Interior, at www.moi.gov.ae . The standard fee is Dh210, but there will be some additional charges if applying from outside the UAE.

I was deported from Dubai in February 2012 after I was convicted of theft and sentenced to and served six months in prison. I wish to come back and work in the country again but I don’t know if I am allowed to come back. Is this possible? RA, The Philippines

Anyone who has been imprisoned for a criminal case of this nature and subsequently deported is likely to receive a lifetime ban. This will prevent them returning to the UAE for any reason. This is stated in Federal Law No 6 of 1973, and Ministerial Decree 83 of 2002 which states that a number of classes of people are prohibited from entering the UAE and this includes individuals who were involved in criminal activities and who were deported in accordance with UAE government orders. Note also that if someone is deported from one GCC country they are likely to be blacklisted in the other five countries in the GCC.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 20 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.