UAE is one of the biggest business hubs  in the world. It has started to woo every business investor because of it’s developed economy, diversified market with high global demand for imports and exports, and global connectivity with 90 airlines and 170 shipping lines. Also, business startups have always been encouraged in UAE making it a business hub. Current market trends in UAE offer plenty of opportunities

for foreign investors to get into imports and exports,  as well as taking advantage of the growing tourist attraction of the city for an almost unlimited number of potential clients and customers. There is top-notch accommodation for residential and office purposes, with cutting-edge venues for exhibitions and conferences. You need to be aware of various facts associated with a business startup in UAE.

How to set up in business in UAE?

  • In recent years tourism and a diverse economy have made the UAE a regional hub and an attractive country for foreign investment. The Dubai government offers different types of business models to be chosen from by foreign investors, such as direct sale, commercial agency arrangements, branch or representative office, limited liability company and special free zone investment. Company registration in such free trade zone provides foreign businessmen with the possibility of complete ownership and company management. What makes this country even better is the access to world class business infrastructure and that it attracts the world class talent.

Company Formation in UAE

Company Formation in UAE is another great thing due to it’s successful lifestyle and a fast paced corporate structure. Many determined business magnets are showing high interest in starting a business in Dubai and is welcomed by the UAE government open-heartedly. For business set up in Dubai one should track the rules and regulations regarding company formation.

Know about business rules and regulations of UAE here

UAE offers three different types of business structures for companies to conduct business which are

  • On-shore : Such companies are used to trade within the local UAE market as well as globally. There are several types of On-Shore companies which can be incorporated. On-Shore companies need a UAE National to act as local sponsor or local service agent depends on the company type.
  • Free Zone : Such companies may be 100% owned by expatriates without the need for a UAE national partner . Free Zone is designed for international Business however, business can be conducted within the UAE with some restrictions.
  • Off-shore : These companies are 100% owned by expatriates. Often used as asset, international trade, property or holding companies for other businesses inside or outside the UAE. This structure is suitable for international business. It cannot be contacted in UAE but outside UAE.

To know more about the structure and type of company visit the link below

Process of Company Formation in UAE

  • Find a local sponsor to act as the service agent for your business in the UAE
  • Submit an application for company registration to the Department of Economic Development (DED) with a suggested company name
  • Obtain a trade license by submitting the company’s documents to the DED or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Get the company’s Memorandum of Association (MOA) notarized
  • Get the trade name registered
  • Apply for an Establishment Card
  • Obtain the initial and special approvals
  • Sign the MOA and lease agreement in front of a public notary
  • Obtain location and inspection approval from the Municipality
  • Get a payment voucher issued
  • Pay the licensing fee
  • For hiring employees, get an approval from the Name Board and Ministry of Labour

Documents Required for Company Formation

  • Certified copy of tenancy contract
  • Photocopies of visa, passport, No-Objection Certificate (NOC), residency certificates, land map or ownership certificate, national ID and family book
  • Approval document from the Legal Affairs Department
  • Approval documents from the Ministry of Economy and other government entities, if required
  • License form
  • Partnership contract certificate from a public notary
  • Photocopies of Technical Evaluation Report
  • Trade name certificate
  • Stamped visa from the Immigration Department

Where to set up Business in UAE?

Setting up business on the mainland

UAE mainland companies are directed by the department of economic development in every emirate.  Mainland business offers tax advantage, talented workforce and rigid infrastructure. Unlike other countries, In UAE mainland , You can save yourself from corporate tax. You can set up business on the mainland across the 7 emirates of UAE.

The first step in this process is selecting the type of business/commercial activity that you want to do, Business types are mainly categorised into:

  • Commercial (trading)
  • Professional (vocational)
  • Industrial.

Further, you need to know that All businesses must have a physical address. The applicants must determine a site to conduct their businesses. The location must comply with the requirements set out by the Department of Economic Development in the respective emirate and the zoning regulations of the local municipalities.

You must determine the legal form of your business and get your trade name registered, To know in detail about the categories of the company and its trade name registration visit

Setting up business in Free Zone

Setting up business in a Free Zone is far more easier than setting up on the Mainland. Free zone authorities require least paperwork and duration. There are seven Emirates in the UAE having free zones. All of them welcome foreign businesses. UAE free zones are located in the Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah , Umm Al Quwain and Abu Dhabi

Basic Requirements among all the Emirates having free zones

  1. A free zone company must have a trade license in the activity of its intended business. This license must be renewed every year.
  2. It must have an office in its own name in the Free Zone – rented and to be renewed every year.
  3. It must have a Manager authorized to act as the legal representative of the company.
  4. It must have at least one shareholder and the mandated share capital.
  5. It must not trade outside the free zone without a local distributor.

Check the link below for details

Read this : Starting a business in Free ZONE ~ company formation

You can set up business across the Emirates having free zones which are stated below

Business setup in Dubai

There are more than 30 operating free zones in Dubai. Dubai has now managed to stabilise itself financially and is starting to show signs of a very strong revival. In some Free Zones, you can get the license within a few days only, in others – 30-40 days. Sometimes Free Zones have capital requirements, sometimes – not.

Know more about Dubai free zones and its licensing here:

Business setup in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital and the largest emirate of UAE. You can choose from among a free zone or a mainland company in Abu Dhabi. Free zones available in Abu Dhabi are

  • Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ)
  • Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM)
  • ADPC – Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KPIZ)
  • Twofour54
  • Industrial City of Abu Dhabi
  • Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones
  • Masdar City free zone

Visit for Visa licensing in Abu Dhabi

Business setup in Sharjah

Sharjah is the 3rd largest state of UAE and also the most populated city in UAE. Being in such a strategic location; it offers a wide range of opportunities. Thus entrepreneurs are highly looking for business setup Sharjah; Sharjah connects its business to Africa and Asia markets. 

Setting up in Mainland

Sharjah mainland business setup requires the minimum of 2 partners to start; and maximum of 50 partners. But the main point is that Sharjah business setup needs at least one local partner. Local will hold 51% of share in the business setup in Dubai, and the partner will only hold 49% of share in Sharjah business setup. In short one partner must be a local sponsor.

Setting up in Free-Zones

Sharjah has two main free trade zones which are SAIF Zone ( Sharjah airport international free zone) and Hamriyah free zone.

Hamriyah free zone is perfect for the type of business which falls in the category of SME. Hamriyah free zone business setup offers geographic advantage over the other free zone in the region. And also offers easy access to major international markets; that is by air, land or sea. Hamriyah free zone is an investor-friendly free zone and offers flexibility. 

SAIF is a large zone; in fact a home for about 6000 businesses addressing from over 90 countries. It has a very strategic location; that occurs between major trade routes that link the east to the west. Besides this, it is located close to the Sharjah International Airport and forms a major hub for cargo.

For trade licensing and other details visit

Business setup in Ajman

Ajman  is  strategically located at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf, seated next to Dubai and Sharjah. Business setup in Ajman is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for investors who are looking to get involved in trade with the smaller regional market.

For details about Ajman free zones, look up to

Business setup in RAK

Rak is one of the most developed economies in the Emirates that have seen tremendous economic development. It has a physical presence in the Emirate which builds trust among the natives and help in forging long-term customer relationships and obtaining trade contacts in the UAE.

Options for Expat to setup business in RAK

    1. RAK free zone
    2. RAK offshore
    3. Mainland Companies

Licenses Available in Ras Al Khaimah are Industrial / Service License, Trading / Commercial License, Professional / General Trading License.

Visit official portal of RAK government for more info

Business setup in Fujairah

Fujairah has liberal economic policies and legal framework. The procedure of recruiting and staffing is even more simple which is why it is preferred by most of the Business magnets. Types of business licenses available in Fujairah are General trading License, Commercial License, Service License, Industrial License, Warehousing License, and manufacturing License.

To know the complete process and licensing details, Visit

Business setup in Umm Al Quwain

UAQ has a Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQ FTZ) , It is a strategic initiative of the Government of Umm Al Quwain which offers a platform to engage micro business and companies with minimal budgets. There are lesser complications in terms of documents required and getting special approvals. Their main aim is to get your business up and running within no time.

Why set up in UAE?

  • No corporate taxes on the gained profits  for legal entities;
  • No income taxation for business owners and companies’ employees;
  • Simplified financial reporting system – no need to carry out annual audit or the simplified reporting.
  • Protection of the interests of the foreign business owners
  • The commerce in the UAE is based on free trade barriers (no quotas or exchange controls)
  • There are no currency restrictions on the exchange of money

Starting a business in the UAE should not take you more than a week once you’ve sorted all your legal procedures. For more further information about the capital requirements, business licenses and activities, Visit

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