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Starting Business incorporation in UAE for foreigners

News & Blog

Business incorporation in UAE for foreigners

Have you been dreaming of starting a Business incorporation in UAE for foreigners, you may have some questions about how to legally set up and operate a company in the UAE. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from choosing a business structure to obtaining licenses and visas.

Business incorporation in UAE for foreigners | A Complete Guide

The UAE is one of the most entrepreneur-friendly places in the Middle East. Its world-class infrastructure, tax-free environment, and business-focused government policies make it an ideal location for foreign investors and entrepreneurs. While the process requires careful planning and adherence to regulations, it is completely possible for expats to successfully launch and grow a business in the UAE.

Choosing a Business Structure The first step is deciding on the legal structure that best suits your business. Here are some of the most common options for foreign-owned companies in the UAE:

  • Mainland LLC: This separate legal entity limits the owner’s liability to their share capital. An LLC in the UAE can be 100% foreign-owned. It requires a minimum of 2 shareholders and a minimum capital requirement of AED 300,000.
  • Branch of a Foreign Company: Rather than setting up a new legal entity, foreigners can register a branch office of their existing overseas company in the UAE. The foreign parent company retains full legal responsibility.
  • Free Zones: The many free zones in the UAE allow 100% foreign ownership with no local partner required. Each free zone has its own set of regulations and capital requirements.
  • Civil Companies: These include general and limited partnerships and share-based companies. UAE nationals must hold a 51% share in civil companies.

See: Company formation in UAE

Consider professional advice when choosing a structure that aligns with your business activities and needs. Factors like profit distribution, paperwork, and capital requirements will impact your choice.

Licensing and Registration Procedures

The licenses and permissions you’ll need depend on where you choose to base your business in the UAE. Requirements typically include:

  • Business Licenses: Issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED), these allow commercial activity. Free zones have their own licensing process.
  • Trade Name Registration: Your company’s trade name must be reserved with the DED or relevant free zone authority.
  • Lease Agreement: A tenancy contract will be required to show proof of commercial premises.
  • Approvals from Relevant Authorities: Certain activities like finance or healthcare require additional permits from governing bodies.
  • Immigration Documents: Foreign shareholders and employees will need valid residence visas sponsored by the business to legally live and work in the UAE.

Government Fees and Paid-in Capital

There are certain fees and minimum capital requirements that must be fulfilled to incorporate and license a business in the UAE. In the mainland, expect to pay around AED 14,000-20,000 to register an LLC. Free zones have their own fee structures starting from around AED 10,000. The more complex your activity, the higher the costs. Ongoing compliance fees will also apply annually.

While the process may seem daunting, our business setup consultants are here to help! Makateb guides foreign investors through every step required to successfully launch in the UAE. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

See: Pro & visa service


FAQ about Business incorporation in UAE for foreigners: 

ََQ: What are the benefits of starting a business in the UAE as a foreigner?

A: The UAE offers foreign entrepreneurs many advantages like tax incentives, world-class infrastructure, good geographic location, a multicultural environment, business-friendly government policies, access to capital, and more.

Q: What are the main steps to start a business in the UAE as an expat?

A: The key steps are choosing a legal structure, obtaining licenses and approvals from relevant authorities, registering a trade name, leasing commercial space, meeting capital requirements, and getting immigration documents for staff. Professional help is advisable.

Q: What are the visa options for foreign business owners in the UAE?

A: Foreign investors can get residence visas valid for 2 or 3 years tied to their business. Alternatively, a 6-month multi-entry visa allows set-up before transferring to a residency visa.

Q: Can foreigners fully own a company in the UAE?

A: Yes, foreign entrepreneurs can own 100% of mainland LLCs and free zone companies in the UAE. Local sponsorship is not required. Outside of free zones, civil companies require 51% UAE ownership.

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