Q: I want to setup a business in Dubai. What are my options?

A: You can either setup in the mainland or in a free zone. The biggest difference is in the ownership regulations.

If you setup in the mainland, you will need a UAE national to be your sponsor. For a trading company, this means the local sponsor must own 51% of the shares. However, the sponsor can provide you with a power of attorney and avoid any involvement in the operations or profit sharing. For a professional company, the ownership is 100% for the investor, but a local service agent is still a requirement.

In a free zone, there is no such sponsorship required.

Q: What will the cost be of a new business setup in Dubai?

A: That depends on the activities in the business, investing partners, business location and various other factors. The cost will also change according to whether the business in the mainland or free zone.

Q: What is the process of setting up my business in Dubai?

The licensing procedure happens in three stages. The first stage is Initial Approval, where you need to submit an application to get approval for the activities you intend to undertake in your business and provide a list of choices for your trade name.

The second stage is for ensuring all legal requirements are met by the investor. The relevant authority (Economic Department for mainland and Free Zone Authority for free zones) will carry out the necessary steps to authenticate the investor’s identification documents, educational qualifications and any financial statements provided.

The third and final stage involves verifying the business premises, issuing the license and processing the investor visa.

Q: What difference will it make to my business operations if I setup in a free zone?

Firstly, your business activities must be permitted by the chosen free zone. Secondly, a free zone business can only operate within the free zone and outside the UAE, meaning no business can be conducted within Dubai or any other emirate. This poses a problem if your main market is Dubai/UAE.

However, you may legally appoint a broker or service agent for local market distribution.

On the other hand, if you setup in the mainland, you may carry out business activities both locally and internationally.

Q: What are the documents I need to submit to get my business license?

Stage 1:
Passport copies of all partners (and sponsor, if applicable)
Initial approval application with your signature and your chosen sponsor’s signature
Trade name reservation application with at least five possible name choices

Stage 2 and 3:
Notarized and signed agreements (varied according to formation type)
Passport copies of all partners (and sponsor, if applicable)
Tenancy contract for the selected business premises
Attested educational certificates (if required)
12 Passport size photographs
Specimen signature card

Other documentation may be requested by the relevant authority in the case of special activities or changed regulations at the time of license application.

Q: How much time will it take to setup my business in Dubai?

In general, initial approval is obtained within 2 days. The actual licensing process will depend on the department’s current schedule and under normal circumstances, a license is issued within two to three weeks at the most. If special approval or certificate attestation is required for your activity, this time will be lengthened accordingly.

Q: What if I require some other business consultation?

You’re most welcome to call or email us between 09:00 am and 5:00 pm (GMT +4), Saturday¬†through Thursday.