How to Do a Business Setup in Dubai?

By: Olivia Anderson

Whether you are looking to Business Setup in Dubai or simply a branch or subsidiary of your company, the process is quick, easy and straightforward. All you have to do is obtain the necessary permits and approvals from the pertinent authorities, along with the trade licence applicable to the chosen business activity. The procedure to apply for the relevant licence remains almost the same, except in some scenarios where you need specific approvals from non-governmental or semi-governmental bodies. You may process the licence application either by yourself online or simply through an experienced business setup advisor in Dubai. Most entrepreneurs who are new to the UAE choose the latter as this way gives them mental peace while saving their time, money and energy. No matter what way you choose to establish your presence in Dubai, knowing the business setup process is extremely helpful. Here’s your step-by-step guide to business setup in Dubai.

Dubai Mainland Company Formation

Choosing a Mainland licence (aka LLC, Onshore or DED licence) has its own set of benefits. You may select amongst more than 2000 commercial and industrial activities to enjoy complete ownership of your business without engaging an Emirati partner unlike previously. To establish a mainland business in Dubai and Dubai Trade License , you must apply for a trade licence with the Department of Economic Development (DED). Here’re the key steps to obtain a DED licence and start a business in Dubai mainland.

  • Determining the primary and related business activities
  • Deciding an appropriate legal form for the company
  • Proposing & registering the trade name
  • Receiving an initial approval from DED
  • Drafting a Memorandum of Association and local service agent agreement (if applicable)
  • Rent a business location for office premise
  • Get additional government approvals (if required)
  • Submit documents along with the licence application to DED, pay fees and collect the licence once ready

Dubai Freezone Company Formation

Boasting about 30 free zones, Dubai is a treat to your entrepreneurial senses when it comes to taxes and global market accessibility. Companies based in free zones are regulated by the rules of the respective free zones. Starting a business in a free zone is somewhat easier. Thanks to the free zone authorities that require minimal paperwork and duration. If you’re doing it online, most free zones such as DMCC allow you to set up a company from the comfort of your home. You just have to express your interest and their representative will connect with you to help you in no time. Initiating a free zone business in Dubai usually involves the below-mentioned steps:

  • Decide on your licence type and business activities
  • Do your free zone company’s legal structuring
  • Select an appropriate trade name
  • Prepare the relevant documents as required
  • Submit all the supporting documents with the business licence application to the chosen free zone authority
  • Pay the registration and licence fees and sign the legal documents
  • Lease suitable office space in the free zone
  • Attain pre-approvals, register the business and duly collect your licence when ready

Required documents for company setup in Dubai

The list of business setup documents varies depending on the nature of the business activity, the type of company and the requirements of the free zone authority. Here’s a general guideline of steps and documents needed for approvals.

  1. Initial approval
  • Properly filled-in application form
  • A detailed business plan
  • Copy of existing trade licence/registration certificate (if you are an existing local company)
  • Coloured passport copies of the company’s shareholder/s and the appointed Manager/Director for the new company
  • Specimen signature of the company’s shareholder/s and the appointed Manager/Director for the new company
  • 2 years’ audited financial reports for a corporate entity or certificate of reference from a personal bank of the individual shareholder
  • NOC from current sponsor (for individuals)
  • Unit title deed
  • Letter of Intent
  • Registry Identification Code Form (RIC) for Manager/Director (Original and notarised)

Documentation requirements for freelancers are minimal. In general, they are required to submit:

  • Application for registration
  • CV
  • Bank reference letter
  • Registry Identification Code Form (RIC) (Original and notarised)2.
  1. Registration

After receiving initial approval, pay registration fees and licence fees. The fees depend on the requested licence type. At this stage, you have to submit the registration application (properly populated) along with a passport-size photo (against a white background) of the Manager/Director, share capital information and the below-listed documents, duly notarised and attested.

  • Board Resolution appointing Manager/Director
  • Power of Attorney given to Manager/Director
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Specimen signature of Manager/Director
  1. Licensing & Visa Process

You must know that certain activities are subject to approval from external authorities. You may check with your business setup service provider or the officials in charge of licencing. At this stage:

  • Your lease agreement will be prepared by the authority
  • Then trade licence will be dispensed by the officials
  • Visa processing will be initiated by you

The average timeline for business setup in Dubai is around 10 working days.

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