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Setting up Business

Under UAE law, foreign entities interested in establishing a formal presence in the UAE have five options: create a permanent establishment, of which there are seven different types; establish a branch office; create an entity in a UAE free zone; create a civil company (only in Sharjah and Dubai); or enter into a commercial agency agreement.

The UAE Commercial Companies Law (CCL) requires that each company established in the UAE has one or more UAE national partners who hold at least 51 per cent of the company's capital. Companies that undertake certain activities (oil industry, production of electricity and gas, treatment and distribution of water) are exempt from the 51 per cent requirement. Companies established in free zones are also exempt from the 51 per cent requirement, if the relevant free zone has special provisions regulating the company. Foreign banks are exempt from having to appoint a sponsor.


Click here for more detailed information on company formation.

Further information is available on the UAE Ministry of Economy website and through each Emirate's Department of Economic Development.

Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development

Dubai Department of Economic Development

Ra's al-Khaimah Department of Economic Development

Sharjah Department of Economic Development

Fujairah Department of Economic Development


Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce in each emirate are invaluable sources of information and assistance for anyone intending to do business in the country: they keep investment databases, issue and authenticate licences and other documentation, arbitrate on disputes and provide business facilities, such as meeting and conference rooms.

Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce
Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Ajman Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Umm al-Qaiwain Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Ra’s al-Khaimah Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Fujairah Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture

Free Trade Zones
Establishing a business entity in one of the UAE’s Free Trade Zones (FTZs) can be an extremely attractive option for foreign investors. The major attributes of a free zone are:

  • 100 per cent foreign ownership of the enterprise
  • reduced or different trade barriers,tariffs and quotas
  • 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits
  • Corporate tax exemptions for up to 50 years
  • No personal income taxes
  • Assistance with labour recruitment, and additional support services, such as sponsorship and housing.
  • An independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) governs each free zone, and is the agency responsible for issuing FTZ operating licences and assisting companies with establishing their business in the FTZ.
  • Investors can either register a new company in the form of a Free Zone Establishment (FZE) or simply establish a branch or representative office of their existing or parent company based within the UAE or abroad. An FZE is a limited liability company governed by the rules and regulations of the Free Zone in which it is established. Except for acquiring nationality in the UAE, the provisions of the CCL do not apply to FZEs, provided that the Free Zones have special provisions regulating such companies.
  • However, free zone companies may only operate within the free zone boundaries and are generally limited to performing solely thouse activities listed in their licence.

In addition to free zones, major industrial clusters are hubs for manufacturing, logistics and trade across a number of sectors, offering unique opportunities for efficiencies of scale and market access. Specialised economic zones offer investment incentives such as reduction on infrastructure costs, administrative support, simplified approvals procedures and residential cities for workers. Companies situated in these zones are subject to the requirements of the CCL, including the 51 per cent UAE participation requirement.

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ)
Abu Dhabi Media Zone Twofour54
Global Marketplace Abu Dhabi (GMAD)
Masdar City

Dubai International Humanitarian City
Dubai Airport Free Zone
Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park
Dubai Flower Centre

Dubai Design District
Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
Dubai Healthcare City
Dubai International Financial Centre
Dubai Internet City
Dubai Knowledge Village
Dubai Maritime City
Dubai Media City
Dubai Multi Commodity Centre
Dubai Outsource Zone
Dubai Silicon Oasis
Dubai Studio City
International Media Production Zone
Jebel Ali Free Zone
Dubai Techno Park
Dubai Auto Zone
Dubai International Academic City
Dubai Energy and Environment Park
Jumeirah Lake Towers Free Zone

Sharjah Airport International Free Zone
Hamriyah Free Zone

Ajman Free Zone

Umm al-Qaiwain
Ahmed bin Rashid Free Zone

Ra’s al-Khaimah
RAK Free Zone
RAK Investment Authority Free Zone (RAKIA FZ)
Ra’s al-Khaimah Media Free Zone (RAKMFZ)

Fujairah Free Zone
Fujairah Creative City

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