Dubai is famed the world over for its thriving and diverse economy, attractive tax regime, and strategic global location.
So welcoming is the business landscape here that it regularly ranks in the top ten in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, winning praise for the ease with which it is possible to establish and run a company here.
It is perhaps unsurprising then that entrepreneurs of all nationalities come to start businesses here. And those that do, find another distinct advantage to doing business in this part of the world: with the right support and guidance, applying for a business license in the UAE can be both straightforward and affordable.
Applying for a business license in Dubai
There are several steps you must undertake before applying for your UAE business license. The first is to a choose your business activity or activities. There are over 2,000 activities permitted by the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), covering all manner of sectors and sub-sectors.
It is important that you take this decision first as the types of activities you wish to undertake have a great bearing on the license that you require. For example, if you wish to manufacture goods, you will need an industrial license; if you wish to trade goods you will require a commercial license; and If you wish to provide services, you will usually need a professional services license.
To save you sifting through the thousands of activities to find the right fit, a company formation expert can help with this step, suggesting the best options for your organisation.
Next, you should decide whether you wish to apply for a business license in a Dubai free zone or in the mainland. There are many advantages to both.
Apply for your license in the mainland via the DED and you are free to trade directly with the local UAE market and take on often lucrative government contracts. Apply for your business license in a Dubai free zone and as well as benefiting from the UAE’s zero percent tax rate, you can also take advantage of full customs tax exemptions, no currency restrictions and the ability to repatriate 100% of your capital and profit.
The final step before applying for your UAE business license is to choose a company name. It might seem peculiar to include this as a step in itself – it is, after all, a fairly routine event that every business in the world has to undertake.
However, it is worth highlighting when setting up in Dubai as the emirate – and the wider UAE in general – has a strict set of naming conventions that will not be familiar to anyone outside of the region.
When choosing a name for your Dubai business, you must keep in mind that it cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language, nor any references to Allah or Islam. If you wish to include your name in your company name, you must use it in full rather than just your surname or initials.
Finally, you must check that your chosen name is available to be registered. Again, a company formation expert can help you with this step, making suggestions and checking that your chosen name is free.
Making your UAE business license application
Once you have decided on the business activities you wish to undertake and whether you intend to do so in the mainland or a UAE free zone, you can make your license application.
In most cases, you are simply required to submit your completed application – along with some basic documentation about you and your company – either to the DED or directly to your chosen free zone.
As the application process is very particular – and inaccuracies and omissions can lead to delays and rejection – it is a good idea to work with a company formation expert such as Trade License Zone at this stage. We can handle every aspect of your application for you, liaising with all authorities on your behalf and advising on the type of setup that best suits your needs.
Your license is not the only application that you’ll need to make in order to do business in the UAE. You should also apply for any visas that you might require. This includes your own visa, as well as employee visas for your staff and any dependants you may have.
In most cases, the number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your business and where you choose to set up. When it comes to applying for visas for dependants, the process is very straightforward providing you meet the eligibility criteria.
You’ll also need to open a corporate bank account. This is not always easy for foreign business owners in the UAE. While there are many local and international banks to choose from in Dubai, all have different application and acceptance criteria and navigating them can be a minefield.
Working with an expert can help here too. As well as advising on the most suitable bank for your business, we can also organise meetings for you with financial institutions.
Dubai business license cost
Cost is, of course, an important factor for many entrepreneurs. However, it is not always easy to estimate the total costs of applying for a business license and starting a business in the UAE.
The exact costs will depend on many factors such as the size of your business, the nature of your business activities and whether you intend to set up in a free zone or on the mainland.
Generally speaking, setting up in a free zone is the most cost effective approach, with many offering license packages starting in the region of AED 15,000.
Are you ready to apply for your business license in Dubai?
As we’ve already mentioned, provided you have the right support and are armed with the correct information, applying for a business license in Dubai can be both easy and affordable.
However, while the application process isn’t difficult, it does require an expert eye. Any errors in your application could lead to it being delayed or rejected. That’s why it’s often a good idea to work with a company setup specialist to help you establish your business.
When you work with a company setup expert, 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.