How to get an alcohol licence in Dubai

Both residents and tourists can obtain licences in the emirate

RE15EK Dubai, UAE - November 28, 2018: View of the city from the top of the famous Dubai Frame, located in Zabel Park.
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To stay on the right side of the law in Dubai, you will need to obtain a licence if you wish to purchase and store alcohol.

Unlike in many other countries, where alcohol is freely available for sale in supermarkets and independent stores, you won't be able to pick up a drink while buying groceries.

Instead, the emirate is home to numerous stores dedicated solely to the sale of alcohol.

Much like hitting the road without a driving licence, there are stiff penalties if you are found to be flouting the rules.

According to UAE law, the penalty for consuming alcohol without a licence is a maximum of six months’ imprisonment with a fine up to Dh5,000.

The good news is, securing a licence is a quick and painless process that won't hit you too hard in the pocket, either.

How to get a licence

To obtain a licence you must be over the age of 21 and be a non-Muslim.

You have to either fill out an application form online with one of the major alcohol distributors in the emirate, African + Eastern or MMI, or visit one of the numerous branches in the city to do so.

You will need to provide copies of your passport, visa and a passport-sized photograph.

You can also be asked to provide a copy of your tenancy contract However, you can still obtain the licence even if the contract is not in your name.

To do this you will need to provide copies of your passport, visa and Emirates ID.

Previously a no-objection letter from an employer was required to obtain an alcohol licence. That is no longer the case after recent changes to the law.

Once your application has been submitted, you must also pay a fee of Dh270.

The application is then sent for approval to Dubai Police and it takes between two and three weeks on average for it to be approved.

Can my application be rejected?

There are a number of reasons why the police might reject your application.

These include religion, bounced cheques or being involved in a court case.

If you have been involved in an incident involving the police, you could be asked for a letter stating that the matter is now closed.

You would then have to visit Dubai police in person to receive approval for the application.

To purchase alcohol, the licence must be in your name. A husband or wife cannot use their partner’s licence.

However, if someone does not work but is under their husband or wife’s visa they can apply for an alcohol licence using their spouse’s documents.

What about when friends and family visit?

Authorities gave the green light to plans to allow tourists to obtain temporary alcohol licences during their stay earlier this year.

Previously, only Dubai visa holders were eligible to apply for the licence.

Retailers MMI and African + Eastern are working with authorities to manage the licence system.

Applicants can present their passport to stores and sign a form stating they are not a UAE resident and they will abide by the country’s rules regarding the consumption of alcohol.

The 30-day licence, which is free of charge, is only open to non-Muslims above the age of 21.

The process can be renewed if you decide on continuing your stay in Dubai.

Buying alcohol without a licence is not worth the risk

One of Dubai’s leading lawyers has called for people to ensure they protect themselves against prosecution by obtaining a licence.

“People often end up buying alcohol on the black market which can have significant consequences,” said lawyer Yousef Al Bahar.

“The government makes it clear that you need to have a licence to consume or purchase alcohol in Dubai, so I strongly recommend that you get it if you don’t already have one.

“It is a bad idea not to protect yourself, especially when the licence is so easy to get.”