How to Start a Representative Office in the UAE

representative office in the UAE

Dubai’s ever-expanding business landscape and global influence offer a golden opportunity for foreign companies looking to establish a foothold in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates boasts a strategic location in the region, a business-friendly environment, and forward-thinking policies.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of setting up a representative office in the UAE. From understanding the legal framework to navigating the financial aspects, this article will equip you with all the necessary information to successfully launch your representative office in this dynamic and promising market.

Understanding representative offices in Dubai

A representative office in the UAE offers foreign companies a strategic way to establish a market presence without direct sales or commercial activities. Focused on marketing, market research, and brand presence, representative offices differ from full-fledged branches as they do not engage in revenue-generating transactions, leaning more towards liaison and promotional roles.

A critical step in establishing a representative office in the mainland is appointing a local service agent who handles administrative and legal matters in the UAE without holding an equity stake in the office. Once a visa is issued for an employee, the service agent can be removed. Additionally, there are limitations on employee numbers, underscoring a focus on market research over operational activities.

Representative offices must be licensed and registered with UAE authorities, ensuring compliance with local regulations. These serve as strategic bases, enabling foreign companies to understand local market dynamics, forge essential business relationships, and prepare for future expansion. This approach allows businesses to tap into the UAE’s diverse market with minimal risk.

A representative office in the UAE also enhances a company’s profile and acts as a gateway to the wider Middle Eastern and North African markets. For businesses in 2024, a representative office in the UAE is not just about market presence but also about connecting, understanding, and preparing for future growth opportunities. 

How to start a representative office in the UAE, UAE: Step-by-step

The five steps to start a representative office company in the UAE are:

Step 1: Partner with Trade License Zone

Step 2: Choose a local service agent

Step 3: Register your trade name

Step 4: Apply for initial approval

Step 5: Apply for a trade license

Step 1: Partner with Trade License Zone

Trade License Zone specialises in making the process of establishing a representative office in the UAE both streamlined and straightforward. Our team, seasoned in navigating the intricacies of UAE government regulations, provides expert guidance in ensuring your business is fully licensed, registered, and compliant. With our deep understanding of the legal and procedural aspects, we’re committed to assisting your business setup journey with accuracy and efficiency.

Step 2: Choose a local service agent

To operate a representative office in the UAE, partnering with a Local Service Agent (LSA) is crucial. The LSA must be an Emirati individual or a fully Emirati-owned company. They will act as your liaison with government departments and handle essential administrative tasks without holding executive roles in your business. The LSA is compensated through an agreed fee. This partnership is vital for smooth compliance with UAE regulations. Once a visa is issued for the General Manager, the local service agent can be removed. A company formation specialist, such as Trade License Zone, can help you select an LSA.

Step 3: Register your trade name

When registering your representative office, for branding purposes, it should share the same name as its parent company. However, challenges may arise, such as the desired name already being registered in the UAE or falling under the category of names that are not permissible. The UAE has specific naming regulations prohibiting the use of names associated with religion, countries, or cities.

One solution to navigate the issue of an already registered name is to append ‘Middle East’ to your parent company’s name. For other naming challenges, enlisting the help of a company formation expert, such as Trade License Zone, is advisable. We can assist in selecting a name that closely aligns with your company’s identity while adhering to the UAE’s naming regulations.

Step 4: Apply for initial approval

The next phase entails applying to the Ministry of Economy (MOE) for initial approval. For this, the LSA must submit to the MOE a detailed overview of the company to be established in the UAE and its parent company, business activities, certificate of incorporation, memorandum of association, and shareholders and directors’ permission to set up the representative office in the UAE.

Step 5: Application for trade license

This is the final step. Having gained the initial approval from the MOE, your LSA partner can now proceed to apply for a trade license from the DED. Once this final license has been granted, you can begin operating your representative office in the UAE.

Cost of starting a representative office in the UAE

The cost of opening a representative office in the UAE is between AED 15,000 and AED 100,000, depending on the jurisdiction and its subsequent requirements. However, this estimate can vary based on several factors, including the location of your office, the scale of your operations, and the type of business activities you intend to conduct.

Here is a breakdown of the primary costs involved:

Registration and licensing fees: Approximately AED 15,000 – AED 25,000. This covers the cost of initial approval, name reservation, and the issuance of a trade license.

Local service agent fees: The annual fee for a local service agent typically ranges from AED 20,000 to AED 30,000. This fee may vary depending on the agent and the specific services provided.

Office rental costs: Office space rental in prime business districts of cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi can range significantly. For a small office, expect to pay around AED 40,000 – AED 100,000 per year, depending on the location and amenities.

Legal and consultancy fees: Engaging legal and consultancy services may cost around AED 10,000 –AED 20,000, though this can vary based on the complexity of your business requirements.

Employee-related costs: For visas and related expenses per employee, budget around AED 3,000 – AED 5,000. Salaries will vary based on the roles and market standards.

Insurance and other miscellaneous costs: Business and health insurance can add up to approximately AED 5,000 – AED 10,000 annually, depending on the coverage and number of employees.

Operational costs: Monthly expenses like utilities, internet, and maintenance could range from AED 1,000 to AED 3,000, depending on the office size and usage.

Marketing and promotional expenses: Allocating AED 10,000 – AED 25,000 for initial marketing and promotional activities is reasonable, depending on the scale and scope of your marketing strategy.

These figures are approximations. It’s essential to conduct comprehensive research and consult with local business setup experts such as Trade License Zone for precise and up-to-date cost estimations.

Why work with Trade License Zone?

Trade License Zone is your indispensable ally in establishing a representative office in the UAE. Our expertise lies in simplifying the intricate process of business setup, providing specialised guidance in licensing, regulatory compliance, and valuable market insights. We are committed to streamlining every phase, from the initial company registration to the operational kickoff, to facilitate a smooth entry into the UAE business arena.

Partnering with us means accessing comprehensive support and strategic counsel, transforming your venture from an idea to a thriving reality. Let Trade License Zone be the cornerstone of your success as you embark on your business journey in the UAE.

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