Business Setup in Dubai

  • Overview

With over 40 years of combined team experience in Big-4 consulting frims and catering to the niche SME UAE market, AKW will be able to assist you with setting up a thriving business in the middle east's cosmopolitan capital - Dubai.

Dubai - A lucrative Offshore Destination

Dubai has gained the reputation of a leading trading hub in UAE, owing to premier business locations and an environment that is not unduly restrictive. It offers International businessmen most liberal operating conditions, tax exemptions, asset protection, complete privacy, and limited liability, in setting up a business in Dubai. The tax haven also offers tremendous promise to overseas companies, as it has:

- Excellent growth trajectory (imports have doubled since 1990) and unique policies of liberalization

- Prosperous market located in one of the world's richest regions that is diversified and offers wide opportunities to traders

- No trade barriers, quotas, exchange controls (open market)

- High accessibility through air or water (around 90 airlines and 170 shipping lines)

Creation of Legal Structures for Business Set up

In order to provide maximum benefit to the business owners, we take care of all the legal requirements for setting up a business in Dubai:

- Submit proposed company name and registration application to the Department of Economic Development (DED)

- Get the company's Memorandum of Association in DED Notarized

- File documents of the company with DED to obtain trade license from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry

- Create a name board

- Submit the application at the Ministry of Labor for Establishment Card

-Ensure registration of native workers with the Ministry of Labor and General Authority for Pension and Social Security


The basic requirement for all business activity in Dubai is to acquire one of the following three categories of licenses:

- Commercial Licenses - Includes all kinds of trading activity

- Industrial Licenses - for setting up manufacturing or an industrial activity

- Professional Licenses - Encompassing Artisans, Craftsmen, Professions and Services

Department of Economic Development, Dubai is the licensing authority that issues license for major activities; however certain activities require special approval from the related ministry /department. These are:

    • Medical Pharmacy etc.
    • Telecommunication Equipment
    • Air Transport, Air Cargo etc.
    • Financial Institutions, Banks, Money Exchange, etc.
    • Agriculture, Veterinary, etc.
    • Engineering and Constructing, etc.
    • New Industrial Project, Expansion
    • Legal consultancy
    • Education, Training etc.
    • Publishing, Printing, Newspaper, Advertising, Video Film, Photography, etc.
    • Branch of Foreign Company, Insurance Company, Chartered Accountants Firm, etc.
    • Customs Clearance, Freight Forwarding Sea Cargo, etc.

     : As per the Federal Law, it is mandatory to have not less than 51% local equity (participation of UAE nationals) in any commercial companies. The law also defines seven categories of business organisations that are permitted to establish in Dubai. These are:

    Out of these seven company types mentioned above, LLCs are mostly chosen by the foreign investors. 51% participation of UAE nationals is the general norm in the aforesaid seven categories, except:

    • Where 100% local ownership required
    • Free Trade Zones where 100% foreign ownership is granted
    • In activities with 100% AGCC ownership, where wholly owned AGCC companies partner with UAE nationals
    • Where foreign companies register a representative office or branches in Dubai
    • In Artisan or Professional companies where cent percent foreign ownership is allowed

    Prominent Categories of Business Organization in Dubai Onshore and offshore sectors dominate

  • the UAE economy; with the primary difference that Offshore Sectors contain Free zones that award foreign investment, while Onshore Sectors put restrictions on the foreign ownerships and take care of local business interests. Three prominent categories of organizations that can be setup a business in Dubai are:

    1. Free Zones in Dubai

    Free zones in Dubai are the most sought after locations for international business operations and attract FDIs due to its policies that generate employment while supporting economic reforms. Free zone setups are highly profitable investment options for organisations as they offer incentives like:

    • 100% foreign ownership
    • Customs privileges
    • No taxes
    • Greater growth potential due to strategic location
    • Well established transport network and road connectivity
    • Proximity to large customer base
    • Affordable cost for high quality labor

    AKW has expertise in helping professionals and companies setup their business in the 23 premier Free zones in Dubai.

    2. Offshore Company in UAE

    Businesses prefer to setup an Offshore Company, also known as Non-resident Company in Dubai as the income obtained from the holding company (Offshore Company) is not taxable. AKW has the right expertise and resources to help you setup your offshore business operations in most popular rewarding destinations; namely, 'JAFZA Offshore' and 'RAK Offshore'.

    Other than tax savings, people prefer having an offshore company as a holding company so that they can hold:

    • Interest of Other Companies in Different Jurisdictions
    • Licensing of Franchises
    • Intellectual Property Rights
    • Trademarks
    • Copyrights, etc.

    3. Mainland Companies

    All Business Entities that fall under commercialized geographical areas and are directly registered under the Emirates government and its authorities, are known as UAE Mainland. Mainland represents the most developed economy as it is setup directly in accordance to the legal structures of the Government policies. AKW's Mainland business setup services in Dubai comprise:

    Limited Liability Company

    Limited Liability Company can be formed by a minimum of two and a maximum of fifty persons, and takes approximate 1-2 weeks for formation from the date of receipt of all the documents. This is the only option that provides maximum legal ownership i.e. 49% to expatriates (local sponsors must have 51% equity shares) for a trading license, and is therefore largely preferred by companies with expatriate partners. This condition is only for equity distribution, and profit & loss distribution and management responsibility can be shared as per mutual agreement.

    Professional Firms

    Sole proprietorships, 100% foreign ownership, and civil companies are allowed to engage in professional or artisan activity, and set up a professional firm. Professional firms mandate the appointment of a UAE national as local service agent, who is paid a lump sum and/or percentage of profits or turnover, but has no direct involvement in the business.

    Branch Offices

    As per the Commercial Companies Law, branch offices of foreign companies in UAE can be 100% owned by foreign nationals, provided a local service agent is appointed. Though legally regarded as part of its parent company, branch office is essentially a full-fledged business permitted to conduct all activities specified in its license. However it can perform only those activities that are similar in nature to its parent company.

    Representative Offices

    Representative offices, like Branch offices are regulated under Commercial Companies Law, and can be 100% owned by a foreign national if a local service agent is appointed. However, a representative office can only promote its parent company's activities, i.e. gathering information and soliciting orders and projects to be performed by the company's head office. Also, there is a limitation on the number of employees that Representative offices can sponsor.

    Public Shareholding Companies

    Law stipulates that capital should be divided into equal negotiable shares to form a Public Shareholding Company, where 65% of the share capital is offered to the public and only 35% can be held by founder members. Additionally, UAE nationals must hold at least 51% of the shares. The minimum capital requirement to form a public shareholding company is AED 10 million. Companies engaged in financial activities like Insurance (AED 25 million), Banking (AED 40 million), Investment (AED 25 million) etc. can function as public share holding companies provided they meet the minimum capital requirement.

    Setup a business in Dubai with Ease

    We can help you minimize your business liability by setting up your dream business in Dubai. We have the expertise and resources to handle everything you need for business setup in Dubai. Our team has complete knowledge of local affairs, and will help you handle documentation / paperwork formalities, strategise business plan, select free zones, and evaluate the structure that best suits your business requirements without any hassles.

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