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Start Business in UAE

A Detailed Guide on How to Set Up Business in UAE

As per the laws in the United Arab Emirates, foreign entities interested in setting up business in UAE have the following five options:

  • Build a permanent establishment (There are seven different types)
  • Set up a branch office
  • Create an entity in a UAE free zone
  • Set up a civil company (only in Sharjah and Dubai)
  • Get into a commercial agency agreement

Company formation in UAE

According to the UAE Commercial Companies Law (CCL), for company establishment one or more UAE national partners must hold at least 51% of the company's capital. Companies established in Free Trade Zones as well as those companies that are a part of oil industry, production of electricity and gas, treatment and distribution of water have been exempted from this 51% requirement.

You can get more information on company registration in UAE, for each Emirate's Department of Economic Development:

  1. Dubai Department of Economic Development
  2. Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development
  3. Sharjah Department of Economic Development
  4. Ra's al-Khaimah Department of Economic Development
  5. Fujairah Department of Economic Development

Chambers of Commerce

If you plan for UAE business startup, Chambers of Commerce of each emirate can share some valuable information on company formation. They maintain up-to-date investment databases, issue and authenticate licences and other documentation, arbitrate on disputes as well as provide business facilities viz., meeting and conference rooms. There are different Chambers of Commerce in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.

Free Trade Zones

For foreign entities, free zones in UAE offer an attractive option for starting a business in UAE. Listed below are the key attributes of UAE free zones:

  • 100% foreign ownership of the venture
  • 100% repatriation of capital along with profits
  • Exemption from paying Corporate tax for up to a period  of 50 years
  • Low or special trade barriers, quotas and tariffs
  • No liability of personal income taxes
  • Each free zone in UAE is governed by an independent authority that is accountable for issuing Free Trade Zone (FTZ) operating licenses and support companies in setting up business in UAE
  • Support with labor employment and several other assistance services such as sponsorship, housing, etc.

Free Zones in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi 

  • Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ)
  • Global Marketplace Abu Dhabi (GMAD)
  • Masdar City
  • Abu Dhabi Media Zone Twofour54
  • Kizad

Free Zones in the Emirate of Dubai

  • Dubai Airport Free Zone
  • Dubai International Humanitarian City
  • Dubai Flower Centre
  • Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park
  • Dubai Design District
  • Dubai Healthcare City
  • Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
  • Jumeirah Lake Towers Free Zone
  • Dubai International Financial Centre
  • Jebel Ali Free Zone
  • Dubai Internet City
  • Dubai Maritime City
  • International Media Production Zone
  • Dubai Knowledge Village
  • Dubai Outsource Zone
  • Dubai Media City
  • Dubai Multi Commodity Centre
  • Dubai Energy and Environment Park
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis
  • Dubai Studio City
  • Dubai Techno Park
  • Dubai Auto Zone
  • Dubai International Academic City

Free Zones in the Emirate of Sharjah

  • Hamriyah Free Zone
  • Sharjah Airport International Free Zone

Free Zones in the Emirate of Ajman

  • Ajman Free Zone

Free Zones in the Emirate of Umm al-Qaiwain

  • Ahmed bin Rashid Free Zone

Free Zones in the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah

  • RAK Investment Authority Free Zone (RAKIA FZ)
  • RAK Free Zone
  • Ras al-Khaimah Media Free Zone (RAKMFZ)

Free Zones in the Emirate of Fujairah

  • Fujairah Creative City
  • Fujairah Free Zone

Funding for UAE business setup

Loans is one of the best options to starting a business in UAE. Some of the banks that support UAE business startup are Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, RAK Bank, Noor Trade, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and National Bank of Dubai. Generally, banks offer up to AED 200,000 for investment in a new UAE business setup. However, the amount may vary as per the nature of the business. You must have the required documents such as ID proof, passport-size photographs, copy of passport, visa, and bank statements to apply for a bank loan.