In accordance with the Fair Trading Act 2015 businesses in Gibraltar that are not regulated by another enactment are required to obtain a business licence issued by the Business Licensing Authority.

Licence renewal notices are sent out by e-mail automatically. In the unlikely event that you do not receive a renewal notice by e-mail please first check your spam folder. If no e-mails have been received by the date of the licence's expiry, please e-mail business.licensing@gibraltar.gov.gi stating your licence's 'BL' number. We will then send you payment details. If you do not have an e-mail address please call 200 71700.

Licensing requirements

Under the Fair Trading Act 2015 (FTA) any person wishing to carry on business in Gibraltar by:

  1. trading in goods; or
  2. providing a service,

must hold a valid business licence issued by the Buisness Licensing Authority (BLA) (unless the relevant business is already licensed by separate local legislation, please see below).

Licences to trade

Schedule 3 of the Fair Trading Act 2015 sets out the following business licensing class:

  1. Trade to include, but not limited to, the buying or selling whether by wholesale or retail, of any goods by way of a business and also means the importing of any goods into Gibraltar in commercial quantities.

Persons seeking to carry out business by way of trade are therefore required to be in possession of a business licence to do so. Trade can be carried out by:

  1. Wholesale - the sale of goods by a business to another businesses for onward sale to the end user;
  2. Retail - the sale of goods by a business to the end user exclusivley; or
  3. Export - the sale of goods exclusively for exportation out of Gibraltar. 

List of goods

Any application for a licence to trade, be it for retail, wholesale and/or export, should specify the goods which are to be traded from the approved goods list:

Approved goods list

The list has been prepared by the OFT in conjunction with HM Customs. You can find the relevant application forms at the bottom of this page.

Customs and importation of goods

A Business Licence is necessary for a business to obtain a HM Customs code for the importation of goods in commercial quantities into Gibraltar. It is a legal requirement for any Business registered in Gibraltar to obtain a Customs registration number in order to be included within the Customs database. Without this registration number the Business will not be allowed to import any goods in its name. See the HM Customs section of the Single Point of Contact for more information.

Premises requirements for traders

Traders are required to have appropriate commercial premises from which to trade as set out in the Fair Trading Act. Traders' premises shall allow for the type and volume of trade envisaged to take place and have sufficient and appropriate space to hold stock and samples of the goods to be traded.

Appropriate premises are usually either a retail unit or a store. Traders cannot operate from their homes (see 'business from home' section below) and office space is not generally considered appropriate commercial premises for trading. These premises requirements apply even where the business is delivering the goods being sold to consumers.

Online retailers

Where a person is selling its goods online they will be regarded as a trader and will need to comply with the premises requirements set out above. This is the case even where the goods are delivered to the consumer. They will not be regarded as a person providing online services from Gibraltar for the purposes of business licensing category B(vi) (see above).

An online service is one where:

  1. the main benefit of the service provided by the business to consumers is carried out online; and/or
  2. where the service cannot be provided without the use of the internet.

A business trading in goods is not regarded as providing an online service simply because it:

  1. advertises its goods online;
  2. makes contact with consumers online;
  3. receives an order for the goods online; and/or
  4. makes a sale online.

These are ancillary activities related to the main purpose of the business which is to sell the goods. The business's use of the internet to promote and to advertise these goods and take orders from consumers does not make it an online service provider. The business could also, for example, sell its goods in person, advertise its goods elsewhere (e.g. in a newspaper) or take orders on a telephone.

Drop shipping

Businesses that provide a fulfilment service (also known as drop shipping) are regarded as providing a service and are not considered to be traders. These are business which meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Does not handle goods or keep goods in stock;
  2. Only take orders for goods (usually online); and
  3. Arranges for a manufacturer or retailer of the goods to deliver the goods directly to the consumer.

A licence for drop shipping does not permit the licence holder to import goods sold into Gibraltar in its own name. For more information about importations please contact HM Customs.

Licences for services

Schedule 3 of the Fair Trading Act 2015 sets out the following business licensing classses:

B. Services, to include, but not limited to-

  1. construction services road transport contracting and crafts;
  2. business-related services to include office maintenance, management consultancy, event organisation, debt recovery, advertising and recruitment services;
  3. tourism services to include travel agents;
  4. leisure services to include sports and amusement centres;
  5. installation and maintenance of equipment;
  6. online services provided from Gibraltar;
  7. information society services to include publishing – print and web, news agencies, computer programming;
  8. accommodation and food services to include hotels, restaurants and caterers;
  9. training and education services;
  10. rentals and leasing services to include car rental;
  11. real estate services;
  12. beauty therapists and hairdressers;
  13. car repair workshops;
  14. builders/carpenters/plumbers/electricians and decorators; and
  15. self-employed persons who provide services.

Persons seeking to carry out business by providing a service are therefore required to be in possession of a business licence to do so.

Note that the list of licensing classes in B. is non-exhaustive and the BLA may issue a licence for any service not specifically referred to in i. to xv..

Specifying the service to be provided

Applications for a licence to provide services must identify which of the services, i to xv, they shall be providing. If the service the business is to provide is not within the list the applicant should specify what the alternative service is in the application form in the 'Other (please specify)' box.

It is important that the BLA understands what type of services will be provided by the business. It is therefore essential that each application provides a full description of the services to be provided in the application form. If the information is not sufficient for the BLA this it may delay the processing of the application while the BLA gets in contact with the applicant to find out more information about the type of services to be provided. If in doubt provide as much information as possible about the type of business to be carried out.

For guidance for online retailers and business that provide a fulfilment service (also known as drop shipping) please see the 'Licences to trade' section above.

Business premises

Pursuant to subsection 60(2) of the FTA, all businesses in Gibraltar are required to carry on their business from premises which are appropriate for the intended use of that business. Businesses are required to produce proof that they can occupy the premises at the time of their application to the BLA. These are normally tenancy agreements or leases and should be for a minimum term of 12 months.

Unless the requirements for a premises are waived (see below), business licences are issued in respect of the business premises and allow the applicant to conduct the business from those premises. Thus, prior to submitting an application for a Business Licence, applicants should ensure suitable commercial premises have been acquired. Without suitable commercial premises the licence cannot be issued. For businesses wanting to trade in goods, an office shall not generally be considered appropriate premises.

Please note that the following shall not be regarded as appropriate premises by the BLA:

  1. a company's registered offices address which is provided by a trust and corporate service provider; and
  2. "virtual office" addresses where a business can only receive mail etc. but from where the business does not operate.

Businesses from home

Subsection 60(8) of the FTA stipulates that "a licence shall not be granted to any premises which are residential Government premises, nor to any non-Governmental premises under which the terms of the title deeds to such premises restrict commercial activities to be carried on from such premises”. A business cannot therefore operate from a home unless the title deeds or head lease of the home do not restrict its use for commercial activity.

Premises waiver

Businesses that do not need premises from which to operate may apply for a waiver from the requirement of subsection 60(2) pursuant to subsection 60(9) of the FTA. An application for such a waiver should be clearly set out in Form 1a (see below). Waivers are not considered appropriate for business that want to trade in goods and for some services providers who, for instance, handle client monies.

The grant of a business licence under a premises waiver does not grant the licence-holder any right to operate their business from any premises that are residential Government premises, or from non-Governmental premises under which the terms of the title deeds restrict commercial activities. Furthermore, businesses operating without a premises are required to obtain separately all necessary approvals and consents from the headlessor or freehold owner of any premises from which the licence-holder is to operate all or any part of their business.

The granting of a waiver from the requirement to have premises is a matter for the BLA to determine based on the information received with the relevant application. If you wish to apply for a premises waiver you will therefore be required to provide information about how, in your view, your business can operate without a premises. This can be provided in a letter accompanying the application. We recommend you refer to our applicant checklists which provides an easy to follow list of all documents you must provide with your application (see elbow).

Please note that the granting of a waiver from the requirement for premises will ordinarily result in a condition being imposed on the licence restricting the number of workers that the business can have, usually to a maximum of two (including working directors and managers as well as employees). This reflects the BLA's concession to permit applicants to operate without meeting the premises requirement in the Act, but only on the basis that the business remains small. At present this is determined based on the number of workers that operate the business, with two being the maximum. If your business wishes to operate with more than two workers then your business would be expected to comply fully with the requirements of the Act and obtain appropriate premises from which to operate. For more information please e-mail business.licensing@gibraltar.gov.gi.

Co-existence of two businesses in same premises

Subsection 60(6) of the FTA permits businesses to share business premises where the BLA, in its sole discretion, is of the opinion that any licences granted in respect of the premises can co-exist in a compatible manner.

If you wish to apply for co-existence would therefore suggest that you provide information about how, in your view, the businesses can both operate in the same premises. This can be provided in a letter accompanying the application.

Postal address

The OFT may only accept postal addresses in Gibraltar with applications.

Persons licensed under separate legislation

Business or professions regulated by any other enactment shall not require a separate licence under the FTA to carry on that business or profession. This includes, but is not limited to, a person carrying on investment business, a regulated activity or a controlled activity as defined in the Financial Services Act 2019, Financial Services (Investment and Fiduciary Services) Act, a Supervisory Act or the Financial Services (Moneylending) Act, a gaming operators licensed and regulated by the Gambling Act 2005, licence holders under the Leisure Areas (Licensing) Act and port operators with a Port Operator's Licence issued by the Gibraltar Port Authority.

Unlicensed businesses

A person who trades without a valid Business Licence, or who contravenes the Fair Trading Act may be guilty of an offence and may be liable on summary conviction to a fine and/or a continuing fine.

The OFT has systems in place to identify those businesses who may be operating without a business licence. If you identify a business which you believe is operating without a licence please provide the relevant details to the Business Licensing Team and they will investigate it on an anonymous basis.

 

Licence renewals

Business licences are renewable every year on the anniversary of the date on which the licence was issued. The OFT will send out a renewal notice approximately a month before the renewal date using the contact details on the OFT's records. It is the responsibility of licence-holders to inform the OFT if there has been a changed to their contact details. The OFT cannot be held responsible for the failure by a licence-holder to receive a renewal notice.

Renewals are usually carried out electronically by e-mail. Please ensure you have provided the OFT with your up to date e-mail address so that you can receive your renewal notice. The notice shall include card payment details so that you can renew your licence easily online.

In the unlikely event that you do not receive a renewal notice by e-mail please first check your spam folder. If no e-mails have been received by the date of the licence's expiry, please e-mail business.licensing@gibraltar.gov.gi stating your licence's 'BL' number. We will then send you payment details. If you do not have an e-mail address please call 200 71700.

If your licence expires your business will not be licensed from that date until the licence is renewed. During that time you will be trading unlawfully and the OFT may take enforcement action against you in this regard.

If you licence remains expired for a period of more than six months the OFT shall commence the process of revoking your licence permanently. Once a licence is revoked you will need to re-apply for a new licence.

 

Cancelling your business licence

If you wish to cancel you business licence you may do so by submitting a cancellation form at the OFT's public counter.