Business setup in Dubai: 2019 quick guide

Dubai boasts many characteristics that make the ideal place to launch a business. The government is committed to initiatives to help small businesses grow, with a view to making the emirate the world’s leading startup hub.

This is on top of an incredibly attractive tax regime – still 0% on both personal and corporate income – and a strategically valuable location in the heart of the Middle East, granting easy access to markets in Asia, Europe, North Africa and beyond.

Setting up a business here is incredibly easy too, provided you take the time to get to know the process and its idiosyncrasies. To help you in that endeavour, here’s a quick guide on how to set up a business in Dubai.

How to set up a business in Dubai

There are several steps required to start a business here in Dubai – from outlining your activities to opening corporate bank accounts. A company setup agent can help guide you through every step of the process to ensure you are up and running in a smooth and timely fashion.

Step 1 – Activities

The first step on the way to starting a business is Dubai is to outline your business activities.

You’ll need to make this decision first as it will dictate the type of license you need to apply for further down the line. There are thousands of activities to choose from, as listed by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED), covering all manner of sectors and sub-sectors.

Although there are plenty of activities to choose from, it’s important that you clearly state every one that you intend to carry out when making your application.

To save you sifting through the thousands of activities to find the right fit, a company setup firm can help with this step, suggesting the best option for your organisation.

Step 2 – Setup

Another important decision when establishing a business in Dubai is to decide on whether you wish to set up in a free zone or on the mainland.

Free zones offer a range of benefits, including, but certainly not limited to, full customs tax exemption, no currency restrictions and the ability to repatriate 100% of your capital and profit.

Mainland companies cannot take advantage of these benefits, but they are permitted to trade directly with the local UAE market without the need for a service agent and take on government contracts – both things that free zone businesses cannot do.


Step 3 – Company name

The last step before submitting your application is to choose a company name – ensuring that your choice meets the emirate’s naming criteria.

You cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language, nor any references to Allah or Islam in your company name and if you wish to include your name, you must use it in full rather than just your surname or initials. You must also check that your chosen name is available to be registered.

Step 4 – License

If you haven’t already, it is a good idea to consult with a company setup expert before undertaking this next step as any mistake can cause costly delays.

The process here is slightly different depending on whether you have chosen to set up a free zone or mainland business.

If you’ve chosen to set up in a free zone, you’ll need to submit your completed application – along with some basic documentation about you and your company – directly to your chosen free zone.

If you’ve decided that the mainland is a better base for your business, you’ll need to make your application directly to Dubai’s Department of Economic Development.

Step 5 – Visas

You can also make your visa application at the same time as applying for your company license. You can do this yourself or work with a company formation expert who can manage the application as part of the business setup process. It is also possible to sponsor others for their UAE visas too, such as your children, partner or parents.

Step 6 – Bank account

There’s just one more requirement before you can trade in the UAE – a corporate bank account.

Again, it is advisable to work with an expert here to ensure you don’t waste time applying to a bank that is not suited to your needs. Bank account opening can be a complex process for overseas business owners, so it is best to make your application with the help of an expert that is well-versed in the process and its requirements.

Business setup in Dubai – cost

A key consideration when choosing to set up a business in Dubai is cost – and it’s not always easy to get a clear indication of how much capital you’ll require.

Business setup in Dubai cost can vary greatly and there are a number of factors in play. The size of your business, whether you require premises, the type of license required and the type of setup you choose will all have an impact.

But while it is difficult to give an idea of the cost of starting a business in Dubai, it should be said that there is an option for all budgets. If you are looking to set up a small business in Dubai and wish to keep costs down, there are plenty of avenues available.

Business setup in Dubai

Business setup in Dubai can seem a daunting prospect when you are new to the country. However, the process of starting a company here has been designed with simplicity in mind. That said, it does take some in-depth knowledge of the UAE and its many customs and regulations.

That’s why it’s always advisable to acquire the services of a business setup company who can not only advise on the process but also seek out the most suitable license and setup type for your business, based on your needs and your budget.

When you use business setup services, you also gain peace of mind that your license and visa applications are free from errors and omissions – both of which can lead to delays and rejection.

When you work with a company formation specialist, all you need to provide is some basic documentation and a little information about the nature of your business. Then, sit back and let the experts take care of the rest – managing your license and visa applications, communicating with all relevant departments and authorities, and reporting back when you’re ready to start trading. It really is that simple.