Company Setup in Dubai: 2020 Quick Guide

man starting his company in Dubai

Dubai is one of the world’s most prestigious hubs for businesses of all sizes from a wide range of industries.

There are many reasons why entrepreneurs flock here. The 0% tax rate, the welcoming business environment, the high quality of life, world-class infrastructure – the list goes on and on.

However, one major benefit to doing business here is often overlooked. Dubai offers an incredibly fast and efficient company incorporation process. While it does require some in-depth knowledge, there are plenty of experts on hand to guide you from start to finish. With the right support, you can be running your own business here in a matter of days.

If you’re looking into starting a company in Dubai, here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Company setup in Dubai free zone: Step by step

Step 1
Having decided to open a company in Dubai, your first big decision concerns your business activities. Not only must your licensed activities match exactly to those you intend to carry out, your chosen activities will also determine the best setup option for your business and the license that you require.

There are thousands of business activities listed in Dubai. The activity or activities that you choose will depend on the nature of your business. For example, if you run a manufacturing business, you must detail exactly what it is that you manufacture.

The official Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) list covers everything from all manner of trading through to the arts, consultancy and much more. 

With so many options, you are certain, with the help of a company formation expert, to find an activity or activities that cover your business. What’s most important is that you clearly state every activity that you intend to carry out when making your application.

Step 2
The next major decision is choosing a company name. When doing this, you’ll need to adhere to the UAE’s naming criteria.

You cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language, nor any references to Allah or Islam in your company name. If you wish to include your name in your company 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 3
Next, you’ll need to decide on a free zone or mainland setup. 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.

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.

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

It is often most cost effective to set up a company in a Dubai free zone rather than opting for the mainland.

Step 4
Now for the pivotal step – applying for your company license. If you haven’t already, it is a good idea to consult with a company formation expert before undertaking this next step as any mistakes 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 decided that the mainland is a better base for your business, you’ll need to make your application directly to the DED. Most of this process takes place online.

Alternatively, if you have decided on a free zone setup then you can make your application directly to your chosen free zone. As free zones are self-regulated, you do require additional approvals to trade, making the process faster and more efficient. This is one of several reasons why free zone company setup is often the most straightforward and cost-effective method of starting a business in Dubai.

Step 5
With your license application taken care of, you can now apply for your visa.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.

You will need to visit an immigration centre during the process to provide biometric information. The visa application also includes a fitness test, blood test and chest x-ray.

Providing you meet the salary criteria, it is also possible to sponsor others for their UAE visas too, such as your children, partner or parents.

Step 6
The final requirement before you can start trading in Dubai is a corporate bank account.

Dubai is home to 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.

Company setup costs in Dubai

Company setup costs differ for a wide range of reasons. Do you require a large premises or can you use a flexidesk or coworking facility? Do you have any employees? What industry are you in? What are your planned activities?

The answers to these questions and more will have an impact on the cost of getting set up. So will the setup type you choose – mainland or free zone.

Free zones often offer the most cost-effective route to business ownership in Dubai.

Many offer license packages inclusive of visa costs, as well as providing co-working spaces and the use of business facilities on an ad-hoc basis, helping you to keep overheads down.

For consultancy and service activities, free zone licenses range from AED 9,600 with no visa application, up to AED 19,700 inclusive of the cost of three visas, AED 24,700 inclusive of six visas, and so on.

For trading activities, license packages start from AED 11,500 without a visa application, and again up to AED 19,700 inclusive of the cost of three visas, and AED 24,700 inclusive of six visas.

Business setup in Dubai

The process of company creation in Dubai 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 UAE 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.