Legally Speaking: Businesses and Startups in the UAE

dubai at night

The United Arab Emirates is a businessperson’s dreamland. It offers an extremely enticing tax system of zero percent for both personal and business income. The UAE’s business laws now allow for greater ownership percentages by foreign investors. The UAE is positioned in the heart of the Middle East to make trading in the region – and the world – easy. The UAE has sculpted a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that attracts the best and most highly skilled individuals to its cities.

And, the process of starting a business here is incredibly straightforward – provided you work with a local expert such as Trade License Zone.

So, legally speaking, here’s everything you need to consider before you get started with your own business in the UAE.

Getting to Know the UAE’s Legal Business Structures

Business and commercial laws in the UAE are designed to help businesses select the correct business structure. The laws offer a framework specific to each industry and business activity. This makes it easier to regulate – and also to help support future growth and funding.

If you’re looking to start a business in the UAE, first consult with Trade License Zone. We’ll help you decide on the setup type and legal form, business license, location and manage the license application, visa, and bank account opening process.

There are six main legal business structures in the UAE. Our company formation experts at Trade License Zone have the details on what you need to know about each one.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship company is one in which the owner has complete control over everything. As a result, that person has absolute management and revenue authority. Only UAE and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens can establish a commercial or industrial business, however, everyone may form a sole proprietorship firm.

Civil Company

Professionals such as physicians, accountants, and lawyers can establish a civil company in the UAE. The business must be owned by an Emirati national.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The number of owners in an LLC must be between two and 50. Each individual is responsible for only his or her share of the company. Profits and losses are shared among shareholders based on their holdings, too. A UAE national must own at least 51% of the company’s shares to run it as an LLC. Furthermore, a board with at least three members.

Foreign Company Branch

A foreign business may establish a subsidiary in the UAE. In this scenario, the firm is entirely controlled by its parent organization. Any items, on the other hand, must be imported via a local trading company.

Free Zone Company

Two to five people are required for every company working in a Free Zone. There are several advantages and perks for creating a firm in the UAE’s Free Zones, but you should be aware that these firms will not be able to trade directly with the UAE market. As a result, there may be various criteria for starting a business in the region.


In the UAE, establishing a freelance business is surprisingly simple. You’ll need to submit an application form, CV, bank reference, and notarized Registry Identification Code Form to join a Free Zone. A work visa will also be available.

Steps to start a business in Dubai

By consulting Trade License Zone, we can help you decide on the company formation, business licenses, visa, and bank account requirements.

We’ll start by helping you choose between mainland or free zone establishment types. Next, we’ll help you choose your company name. It is important that you comply with the UAE’s naming criteria.

You cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language, nor any references to Allah or Islam in your company name, 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. And, of course, you must also check that your chosen name is available to be registered.

You’ll need to outline your business activities at this stage too. The next step is to make your trade license application. If you’ve decided that the mainland is a better base for your business, you’ll need to make your application directly to the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED).

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

To work in the UAE, you will also need to apply for your residency and employment visa. Again, the application process differs slightly depending on whether you are starting a mainland or free zone business. However, in both cases, you will need to visit an immigration centre to provide biometric information. The visa application also includes a fitness test, blood test and chest x-ray.

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

Finally, you will need a corporate bank account to start trading in the UAE. Bank account opening can be a complicated process for overseas business owners, so once again, it is best to make your application with the help of a local expert.

Documents Required to Start a Business in Dubai

Starting a business in Dubai must meet the approval of the relevant government authorities. The company structure is straightforward to create. You’ll need to submit a few details, your company’s trade name, and several identification documents for a smooth process when you submit documents.

Trade License Zone will work with you to collect your paperwork for a successful application.

The documents you’ll need to apply for a trade license are:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copies of all company shareholders
  • Copies of residence visas of all shareholders
  • Company’s Memorandum of Association (MOA)
  • Company’s Articles of Association (AOA)
  • Bank Account Reference Letter
  • Copies Personal Bank Accounts
  • Copies of Corporate Bank Accounts
  • Business plan

Start your Business in Dubai with Trade License Zone

Setting up a business in Dubai is uncomplicated. However, the framework requires a trained eye and in-depth knowledge of the UAE and its changing business landscape and laws.

Map your company’s setup the right way without delay. Trade License Zone is a company aimed at helping and supporting your business – no matter your business size, budget, or market aims. Make use of our business setup services to gain peace of mind for your license and visa applications.

Trade License Zone’s specialists and experts only need some basic documentation and information about 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