Dubai free zone company setup (2023 Guide)

UAE company formation

Dubai has long been famed for its incredibly enticing business landscape. As well as its strategic global location and a very attractive tax regime, the emirate’s free zones also garner much attention.

Set up in a free zone here and as well as 0% on both personal and corporate income, you can also take advantage of full customs tax exemption, no currency restrictions and the ability to repatriate 100% of your capital and profit.

And the best part is, Dubai free zone company setup is incredibly straightforward and affordable. The whole process is so easy, in fact, that it can be completed in just a few simple steps.

Why set up in a Dubai free zone?

Setting up in a Dubai free zone is often the most cost-effective and flexible approach for entrepreneurs. As well as 0% tax on both personal and corporate income, free zone businesses benefit from:​

  • 100% foreign ownership
  • No paid up share capital requirements
  • Physical presence in the UAE not required for incorporation
  • No NOC requirement from current visa sponsor
  • Low startup and operational costs
  • No mandatory office rental requirements
  • No visa restrictions
  • No annual audit requirement
  • No currency restrictions
  • Access to state-of-the-art facilities

Depending on the free zone you choose, you could also benefit from working among peers in your industry, sharing knowledge and collaborating across projects. Many free zones also offer startup support in the form of incubators and growth accelerators.

How do I set up a free zone business in Dubai?

The first step before establishing any company in Dubai or the wider UAE is to choose your business activity. There are more than 2,000 to choose from as outlined by the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED). The permitted activities cover all manner of industries from manufacturing to consultancy.

But while there are many to choose from, it is vital that you stipulate every activity that you wish to carry out on your license application. In many cases, you can list multiple activities under a single license.

The reason it is advisable to take this step first is that your chosen activity or activities could have a bearing on the free zone that is best suited to your needs – but more on that later.

Once you have decided on your business activity, the next step is to choose a company name. This step takes a little more thought here in Dubai than in much of the rest of the world as the UAE imposes a strict, yet easy-to-follow, 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.  

Company formation specialists

Choosing a free zone

The free zone that’s right for you will depend largely on your industry. Many of Dubai’s free zones are tailored towards specific sectors. Dubai Media City caters for media-related businesses, for example, while Dubai Science Park caters for those involved in the sciences.

You do not have to opt for an industry-related free zone, however. Many other Dubai free zones, such as Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and Dubai World Trade Centre cater for most DED listed activities.

Working with a company formation expert is the best way to establish which free zone best suits the needs of your business. We’ll work with you to understand the support and facilities that you require before making our recommendation.

How can I get a business license in Dubai?

Once you have decided on the free zone that’s right for you, 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 – directly to your chosen free zone.

As the application process is very particular, it is again a good idea to work with a company formation expert 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.

In terms of Dubai free zone company setup cost, this will depend largely on the size of your business and the free zone you choose to set up in. On the whole, free zone setups are often the most cost-effective way to do business in Dubai.

As well as applying for your license, you’ll also need to make applications for any visas that you might require. This includes your own visa, as well as employee visas for your staff and those of your dependants.

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. The Dubai free zone visa cost is often discounted as it can be applied for along with your business license as part of a package.
Finally, you’ll also need a corporate bank account in order to trade. There are many local and international banks to choose from in Dubai, all with different application and acceptance criteria and navigating them can be a minefield.

This is another reason why it is a good idea to work with an expert during this process. As well as advising on the most suitable bank for your business, we can also organise meetings with financial institutions too.

Starting your business in Dubai

As I mentioned at the start, Dubai free zone company setup is both easy and affordable.

Be warned, however: while the application process isn’t difficult, it does require an expert eye. Any errors in your application could lead it to be 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.

Contact us to get a personalized quotation based on your business activity