Dubai company license: Everything you need to know

Woman getting her Dubai company license with TLZ

There are countless reasons to start a business in Dubai. The emirate is a world-renowned industry hub in everything from healthcare and hospitality to energy, manufacturing, tourism and trade.

The business environment is built for growth with low barriers to entry and numerous initiatives and government schemes aimed at supporting startups and SMEs.

On top of this there’s Dubai’s famed 0% tax rate to take into account along with its easy company incorporation process.

If this has piqued your interest in starting a business in the emirate, here’s everything you need to know about applying for a Dubai company license.

Things to consider before getting a Dubai company license

There are several steps required to start a business here in Dubai – from outlining your activities to choosing the right setup. 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.

First things first, you’ll need to be clear as to the industry you wish to do business in as this will affect the type of license that you need to apply for – a commercial, industrial or professional license, for example.

While your chosen industry may be obvious, your chosen activities may not be. Your activities must be chosen from the official Department of Economic Development (DED) list. This list contains thousands of activities from a wide range of sectors. However, while there are many to choose from, they can be quite specific. For this reason, it’s best to work with a company formation specialist who can align your business with a permitted activity.

You’ll also need to consider your company name. This needs extra care here in Dubai due to the UAE’s company naming conventions. You cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language and 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. 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.

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.

You’ll also need to consider visas. Not only will you need one to work in the UAE, but it will also be your responsibility to apply for those of your employees. It is also possible to sponsor others for their UAE visas too, such as your children, partner or parents.

Dubai company license activities

As I have already touched upon, there are thousands of potential business activities to choose from when starting your business in Dubai. Some specific, some less so. The activity you choose will depend on the nature of your business.

For example, if you are a manufacturing business, you must detail exactly what it is that you manufacture. There are many options, covering everything from shoe making and ladies or gents tailoring to packaging production and wig making.

With so many options, you are sure, 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 each one that you intend to carry out when making your application.

How can I get a business license in Dubai?

With these considerations out of the way, you’re ready to apply for your 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 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 decided that the mainland is a better base for your business, you’ll need to make your application directly to Dubai’s DED. Most of this process takes place online.

As well as a trade license issued by the DED, you may also need approvals from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Interior before you can do business.

Further approvals may be required depending on your sector – from the UAE Central Bank if in finance, the Health Ministry if in healthcare and so on.

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 will not require all of the additional approvals listed above. 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.

Whatever your chosen setup, it can be hugely beneficial to work with a company setup agent at this stage. Such agents can manage the entire license and visa application process on your behalf to ensure a seamless incorporation process.

Getting your company license in Dubai

The process of obtaining a company license 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.

By making use of a business setup service, 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.