Paperwork and Permits

Paperwork and Permits

One of the most significant aspects of any halal cart business in New York is the legal documentation that allows any such entrepreneur to begin his or her endeavor. The process includes a variety of detailed components that are not completed just once, but in some cases must be renewed after a duration of years of doing business. The length and complexity of the entire process proves to be difficult for any person who wishes to open a food cart, and can be seen as a major contributing factor in the black market for permits.

The Department of Consumer Affairs reported in an interview that before a prospective halal cart owner can even begin to apply for the proper permits, he or she must first take a 15 session course. The course is completed either online or in person and leads to a culminating final exam. This information is not as easily found when completing research on the DCA’s website or NYC government’s website, but is among the first steps explained by employees of the agency. The lengthy time requirement for the course suggests that it may be infeasible to many looking to begin the process of being certified. For those that are able to commit to the duration of the program, they must pass a culminating final exam. After doing so, they receive a certificate in food protection from the Department of Health, allowing them to move on to the next stages of approval. The course and exam are among the most involved of the process in getting certified to own a halal cart, but information from the DCA reveals that the process continues well beyond that stage. Prior to applying for any actual permits, a prospective halal cart owner is placed on a Food Cart Waiting List, and only once they are accepted off of the list can they be considered for the required permits. Further information about the number of permits given out to food carts in New York annually, is not advertised or disclosed to interested parties on the website for the DCA or when calling their customer service line. Further research does reveal that there are no restrictions for selection once people are added to the waitlist, rather candidates just need to wait for their turn on the list.

Permit affixed to the side of “Habibi Halal Food” Cart

Before a food vendor can begin running his or her business, two permits must be secured. The Department of Consumer Affairs explains that neither is permanent, as both have a process of renewal associated with them. The first of the two permits is the “Mobile Food Vendor Personal License.” Once received, the permit is valid for 2 years but may take up to 2 or 3 months to be approved for any given vendor. The second permit is known as the “Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit,” and can only be received after the Personal License has already been granted. Similarly to the Personal License, the Vending Unit Permit validates a vendor for 2 years of business. Beyond receiving the appropriate permits, a prospective halal cart owner must also pay a fee of $200. In order to be considered for this step of certification, a prospective cart owner must visit the Department of Consumer Affairs and apply in person for the two permits. Once approved for the permits, the Department of Health is also involved in inspecting the vehicle. If the cart passes their inspection, they will receive a letter grade that is mandatory to affix to their vehicle. Violations of any of the required permits and inspections can lead to NYPD involvement. The process for the initial steps in starting a halal cart business, before even beginning to think about the logistics of selling the food, can be lengthy and overwhelming for prospective food vendors. For any person interested in owning a food cart, and especially someone who is trying to use it to make their start such as an immigrant, it may not be a feasible project to undertake.

Further research into the regulations found within the Department of Consumer Affairs can reveal that there are no restrictions for halal cart owners based on citizenship, classification as immigrants or otherwise. As long as the prospective food vendor is legally able to work in the United States, they have the same ability to sell street food as any other applicant. Similarly, the permit process for halal carts themselves does not differentiate from the process for any other type of vendor. As long as the owners complete the process of applying and getting approval, they are able to sell their food products legally. Unfortunately, as the situation is further analyzed it becomes apparent that actually getting the proper permits is unattainable for many. Whether it be an issue of time or legal residence, prospective halal cart owners may struggle to get their businesses running before even setting their carts on the sidewalk. From such a situation arises further difficulties in the market for halal carts, making many turn to unorthodox methods such as the black market.

Once approved for all of the necessary permits to sell food from a halal cart, vendors still need to consider restrictions that exist. The DCA clearly outlines restricted areas in which street carts cannot sell to customers during certain operating hours.

The Health Department’s Compliance Guide provides more information on regulations for food vendors. Visit:



Want to learn more? Visit the Department of Consumer Services at:


NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)
Licensing Center
42 Broadway, Lobby
New York, NY 10004



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