Are you looking for support with company formation in the UAE?
With strong economic policies and great infrastructure, there has never been a better time to consider UAE company formation. With a multitude of incorporation options and flexible regulations, the country caters to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and multinational corporations alike. Furthermore, multiple choices are available for every aspect of setting up your business in Dubai: budget, licence, location, and premises. All economic activities are regulated to ensure an efficient experience for all businesses in each Emirate. Company formation in Dubai allows you to choose from a range of business structures to help you succeed.
When setting up a company in the UAE, you need to establish the type of business you plan to operate. These can include Free Zone, Mainland (also known as onshore), Offshore or Financial Zone.
For licencing, you will also need to establish whether you will require a Commercial, Professional, Tourism or Industrial licence to conduct business in the Middle East.
Free Zone set up UAE
UAE or Dubai Free Zone company setup provides you with a trading location with many benefits. Some of these benefits include 100% foreign ownership, exemption from customs tax duties on imports and exports and a 50-year moratorium on corporate taxation.
Each Dubai Free Zone has a specific licensing authority, laws and regulations which govern the registration and operations of a Free Zone business.
You must provide various documents and attestations to apply for a general UAE Free Zones setup. You may be required to present other documents depending on the type of business you own and the Free Zone you are applying for. These company formation documents include but are not limited to:
- Your passport and proof of address
- Business plan
- Evidence of your trade licence or registration
- Specimen signature of other company owners or shareholders in the company
- Financial reports dating back two years
- NOC from sponsor (if applicable)
- Unit title deed
- Letter of intent
- Registry Identification Code
Providing that your application for a Dubai Free Zone company set-up is successful, you will need to register the company. This requires evidence relating to the Managing Director or General Manager. You will need the following:
- Power of attorney for Director
- Specimen signature of Director
- Passport photograph of the Director
- Memorandum information
There are various UAE free zones that you may wish to consider for your business setup. Each one will provide its own benefits, and some may fit your business more than others.
How long does a Dubai Free Zone Company set-up take?
Setting up as a Free Zone company is a fairly quick process, provided that you have all of the relevant documentation at hand. We advise around 30 days, but this depends on your circumstances.
What business licences do I need for a Free Zone company formation in Dubai & UAE?
Free zone companies will need to obtain the appropriate licence relating to the business industry. For example, if you are trading, you will need to have a commercial licence. If you run a service business, you will need to obtain a service licence. You will also need to follow the steps above to apply for a Free Zone licence.
World-Class Financial Zones
A Dubai financial free zone can be used by companies operating across the Middle East. There are two main financial free zones that you may consider, the DIFC and the ADGM.
Both of these financial hubs offer a strong foundation for your business. There are many advantages to these financial zones, such as 100% ownership as well as tax benefits.
ADGM – Abu Dhabi Global Market
CBD Corporate Services are a regulated company service provider in the Abu Dhabi Global Market and can assist with the setting up of:
- Special Purpose Vehicle
- Operating Company
- Tech Start-Up Licence
To set up a company within the ADGM financial free zone, you will need:
- Identification of your business nature as well as an appropriate legal structure
- Office space and address
- Articles of association
- Nominee arrangement forms
- Economic substance forms
- Formal identification, such as passports
- Up-to-date documentation to prove a source of wealth, such as a bank statement
How long does it take to set up in the ADGM zone?
Where essential information is prepared and readily available, it does not take long to set up a company. We typically advise around 30 days, though it can take less time.
There are various other free zones available in Abu Dhabi, including:
- Masdar City – Clean technology and renewable energy
- Twofour54 – Creative media companies
- KIZAD – Transportation infrastructures
- ADAFZ – Commercial office and business services
Our company formation experts can provide you with advice when selecting which financial free zone will best suit your business.
DIFC – Dubai International Financial Centre
- Non-regulated Company
- FinTech Company
- Prescribed Company
- Operating Company
To set up a company within the DIFC financial free zone, you will need:
- Business plan
- Details of shareholders with over 5% share
- Information on operating systems and controls
- Outlined company processes
- Accounts of shareholders over the last 3 years (must be audited)
- Completed anti-money laundering form
How long does it take to set up a company within the DIFC financial zone?
The length of time it takes to get set up will depend on the nature of your business and the preparation of documentation. The process typically takes a few months to complete. We can provide you with a more accurate estimation upon conducting a feasibility study.
What licences do I need for setting up in the DIFC?
There are different licence types depending on the type of business you plan to run. These include:
- Professional services
- Regulated/non-regulated business
- Holding/Regional Headquarters
- Proprietary investment
Mainland company set up Dubai
Mainland companies can operate onshore in any area of the UAE. Operating in Dubai means that you are part of the Dubai Economy or the Department of Economic Development (DED). A UAE mainland company formation allows full location flexibility and no trade restrictions.
To set up a Mainland company in Dubai, you will need to provide evidence relating to your business. These can include but are not limited to:
- Application for your Mainland business licence
- LLC agreement (must be attested prior)
- Completed necessary government documents
- Initial approval certificate
- External department approval
- Tenancy agreement
- NOC for partners (if you are a UAE resident)
- Industry relevant registration
How long does it take to set up a mainland company in the UAE?
Providing that you can present all of the necessary information on time, setting up a mainland company can take between 5 and 12 working days.
What licences are required for mainland companies?
You must obtain the relevant company licence relating to your industry. This depends on your method of trading and your products or services. Your UAE trade licence will be issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED).
After receiving the relevant licence, you will need to register for a corporate bank account.
LLC – Limited Liability Company
Foreign investors can conduct business through an LLC. There are regulations that must be met, such as the LLC must have a minimum of two and a maximum of fifty shareholders. In some cases, at least 51% of the business must be owned by a UAE national, and this is determined by the activity of the business.
All LLCs must be registered to a suitable office address and have a General Manager.
When considering company formation in the UAE, an LLC is a great option to consider. By setting up an LLC, you’ll have freedom of location, no minimum capital requirements, and the ability to run a business of your choice. There are restrictions on insurance, banking and investment.
Branch of Commercial Companies
A branch office is an extension of an existing company. To set up a branch office in the UAE, you will be required to obtain an operating licence from the relevant Emirates’ DED. A branch can be used for a number of company types, including professional or service activities.
A branch set-up allows you to have 100% legal ownership of the company. Due to the tax implications associated with this ownership agreement, you should seek tax advice before setting up the company.
You may not require a UAE national to act as an agent for the company. Some business owners do find that it’s best to continue having a UAE national onboard.
Each branch set-up requires an office space; however, there are a few restrictions on this. Many branch-based businesses find they can operate from a ‘hot desk’ inside of a local Business Centre.
You must apply for the relevant licence through the Department of Economic Development.
A representative office is an extension of an existing company that operates in the UAE or elsewhere. A representative office can provide you with the opportunity to promote products and services in the UAE. This type of company setup does not allow you to trade in the UAE.
Foreign companies with a UAE agent can benefit from this company structure. This type of company setup is easy to establish, affordable and has tax benefits.
Professional Service Licence/Civil Company
This type of licence is most appropriate for those operating in professional or consultancy-based companies. For example, engineers, lawyers, doctors and accountants.
There are two types of company formation you may consider, including an Establishment (suitable for sole traders) or a Civil Company (suitable for professional partnerships). Foreign investors can benefit from 100% ownership with a professional service licence.
In comparison to an LLC setup, companies that choose the Professional Service Licence will have personal liability over the financial outcomes of the company. LLCs offer business owners limited liability protection.
To operate with a professional service licence, you must appoint a UAE national agent. In this business structure, the agent has no management control or financial liability for the company.
Having multiple business owners means you will be liable to form a Civil Company. All licences must be obtained through the Department of Economic Development.
Living and working in Dubai
After you have successfully completed your UAE business formation, you must register with the Labour and Immigration authorities. We can support you with this to ensure that all necessary aspects are completed in a timely manner.
At CBD Corporate Services, we work closely with company owners to assist with business formation and restructuring.
Are you considering a company set up in Dubai? We can support you with the entire process of company formation in UAE, including obtaining relevant licences and providing you with a fast turnaround so that you can focus on growing your business. Get in touch with our company formation specialists.