How to start a business in UAE

Business Setup in UAE

In order to conduct any kind of business in the UAE, a company must acquire a trade license and be incorporated. The UAE has specific processes for license acquisition and incorporation, and businesses that are looking to establish locally must follow these processes to the letter.

To setup new business in UAE, you must first determine the corporate structure most suitable for the activities that you wish to be involved in. For this initial step in company formation, extensive market research and feasibility study is needed to determine aspects such as company type and target market. Data from this research could help determine whether it is more beneficial for you to establish as a free zone or on shore company.

Business setup in UAE: Onshore or Free zone?

Abu Dhabi currently has five fully operational free zones:

  • Kizad – for industrial activities
  • Abu Dhabi Airports Company – for logistics businesses
  • TWOFOUR54 – for media companies
  • Masdar City – for sustainable development/renewable energy
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market – for financial firms and companies
In addition, there are free zones located across Dubai and the other emirates as well. Investors can look into these areas for the most viable location to setup their business.

Free zone company formation in UAE

Free zones are home to a diversified range of companies from different industries, and these companies must conduct their activities within the geographical limits their designated free zones. Meetings, however, can be made outside of these areas.

Investors enjoy numerous benefits exclusive to free zones such as:

  • Complete ownership of the company
  • Complete exemption from income and corporate tax
  • Freedom to repatriate profits
  • Exemption from customs duties
  • Independent regulatory measures

There are also restrictions to free zone business setup, including:

  • Geographical restrictions for business operations
  • Business dealings with mainland clients to be processed through agents or distributors
  • Contracts, tenders, and other types of dealings with the government require a mainland DED license

Setup new business in UAE as a mainland company

Legal structure

For mainland company formation in the UAE, there are three main company structures for which a business may be qualified under:

  • Foreign Branch Office
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Representative Office

To setup new business as a mainland company, an investor must work with a local partner, who will serve as a National Service Agent (Foreign Branch or Representative Office) or a Sponsor (LLC). Ready to get started? Contact us today and talk to one of our setup specialists, for a more detailed guide.