Company formation in Dubai free zones: step-by-step

Dubai free zones – also known as free trade zones – offer a range of benefits to the companies that set up within them.

As well as the advantages of doing business in the emirate, including a strategic global location and 0% tax on corporate and personal income, free zone companies also benefit from import duty exemption, the option to repatriate all capital and profits and a range of business support services.

These are just some of the reasons why entrepreneurs from all over the world choose to set up in Dubai free zones. If you’re considering doing the same, here’s everything you need to know about the advantages, the process and the cost.

An introduction to Dubai free zones

Before getting into the details, let’s start with the basics.

What is a free zone?

In short, free trade zones are special economic areas which allow for the storage, handling, manufacture and trade of goods and services with exemption from duty and taxes.

Free zones are often linked to or in the proximity of seaports and airports making them popular among import/export businesses and those that conduct international trade. This is not always the case, however, and Dubai has many across the length and breadth of the emirate.

How many free zones are there in Dubai?

Dubai is home to over 30 free zones – more than any other emirate.

Dubai Airport Free Zone

Dubai Design District

Dubai Healthcare City

Dubai International Academic City

Dubai Internet City

Dubai International Financial Centre

Dubai Knowledge Village

Dubai Maritime City Authority

Dubai Media City

Dubai Gold and Diamond Park

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre

Dubai Outsource City

Dubai Silicon Oasis

Jebel Ali Free Zone

Dubai Production City

Dubai Science Park

Dubai South

Dubai Studio City

Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre

Dubai Wholesale Centre

Dubai World Trade Centre

What is the cost of a free zone license?

The cost of company formation in Dubai free zones is made up of several components. As well as the cost of a free zone license, you’ll also need to consider Dubai free zone visa costs.

Many Dubai free zones offer packages that include both a trade license and one or more visas, so if you’re looking for the cheapest free zone license package, it pays to look around at all of the options available.

A company formation expert can help you in your search, understanding your needs and your budget before finding a package that fits the bill.

Company formation in Dubai free zones

With the help of an expert, company formation in Dubai can be completed in just five simple steps.

  1. Choosing your activities

Before applying for your Dubai free zone license, you need to clearly outline the business activities you wish to perform.

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 set up firm can help with this step, suggesting the best option for your organisation.

  • Choosing your company name

You will also need to choose a company name before making your application. It is important that you comply with the UAE’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.

  • Applying for your license

As this is the most important step in the process, it is a good idea to consult with a company formation expert before undertaking this next step, if you haven’t already, as any mistake can cause costly delays.

You should apply for your free zone license directly to the managing authority of your chosen free zone. A company formation expert can help you with this step, managing the entire process for you and communicating with the managing authority and other relevant bodies on your behalf.

  • Applying for your visa

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

  • Opening your corporate bank account

The final requirement before you are ready to trade in Dubai is 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.

Dubai is home to a wide range of banking institutions, both local banks and international brands. However, 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

The process of setting up in a Dubai free zone 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.