How to Do Business Setup in Dubai

With its booming economy, strategic location, and business-friendly conditions, has become a hotspot for entrepreneurs examining to launch their ventures. A business setup in Dubai can be a rewarding endeavor, but the process requires careful planning and adherence to regulations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to successfully navigate the business setup process in Dubai.

The Available Jurisdictions in Dubai

Free Zone Business Setup in Dubai

Setting up a business in a Free Zone in Dubai offers a myriad of advantages, making it a popular choice for many entrepreneurs. One of the key benefits is the provision for 100% foreign ownership, empowering investors with complete control over their ventures. These zones often come with tax exemptions, providing businesses with a grace period for income and profit taxes. Moreover, the ease of repatriation of profits and capital without constraints is a significant appeal for businesses in Free Zones.

The streamlined customs procedures within Free Zones simplify import and export processes, making international trade more efficient. Additionally, businesses within these zones enjoy freedom from import and export duties, contributing to cost-effectiveness. However, it’s important to note that while Free Zones offer autonomy and tax benefits, companies established here are typically confined to operating within the Free Zone and overseas.

Mainland Business Setup in Dubai

Opting for a Mainland business setup in Dubai comes with its collection of edges and considerations. Mainland businesses have the advantage of broader market access, allowing them to operate anywhere in the UAE. This opens up opportunities for engaging in government contracts and reaching a larger clientele. Additionally, there are no limitations on the number of visas, providing flexibility in managing the workforce.

However, Mainland businesses require local sponsorship, meaning a local partner or sponsor must hold at least 51% ownership. This local partnership is a mandatory aspect of the Mainland business setup. Additionally, strict compliance with UAE labor laws, including the hiring of local staff, is essential for businesses operating in the Mainland.

Offshore Business Setup in Dubai

For businesses with an international focus, opting for an Offshore business setup in Dubai offers unique advantages. Notably, complete foreign ownership is permitted, providing investors with significant control and flexibility. Offshore entities often benefit from tax exemptions and financial privacy, making them an attractive choice for those seeking a tax-efficient corporate structure.

One of the key advantages of offshore entities is the lack of a necessity for a physical office in Dubai. This adaptability makes it an excellent option for businesses primarily engaged in international operations. However, it’s important to note that Offshore companies cannot conduct business within the UAE and may face restrictions on certain activities.

Steps for Business Setup in Dubai

1.  Market Research and Business Plan

Perform detailed market analysis to recognize possibilities and challenges. Develop a detailed business plan outlining your objectives, target market, and financial projections.

2.  Choose the Right Business Activity

Specify the essence of your business activity, as it will influence the type of license you require for a business setup in Dubai.

3.  Select a Business Name

Choose a unique and memorable business name. Ensure the name complies with the naming conventions set by the relevant authorities.

4.  Legal Structure and Ownership

Determine the lawful structure based on your business goals. Determine the ownership structure, keeping in mind the regulations for foreign ownership.

5.  Secure Initial Approvals

Obtain initial approvals from the relevant authorities, such as the Department of Economic Development (DED) or the respective free zone authority.

6.  Office Space and Location

Pick a suitable office space depending on your business necessities. Ensure compliance with the physical office requirements, especially for mainland businesses.

7.  Submit License Application

Prepare and submit the license application along with the needed documents to the appropriate authority.

8.  Visa Process

Arrange for employee visas if needed. Understand the visa categories and requirements for your business setup in Dubai.

9.  Bank Account Opening

Open a corporate bank account in a reputed bank in Dubai. Ensure compliance with the Central Bank of the UAE regulations.

Documents Required for a Business Setup in Dubai 

  1. Passport Copies – Copies of passports for all shareholders, directors, and relevant stakeholders. Passport copies should be clear and up-to-date.
  1. Visa Application – For shareholders and employees, if applicable. The visa application process may vary depending on the business setup type and jurisdiction.
  1. Board Resolution – A resolution from the board of directors approving the establishment of the company. This document demonstrates the official consent of the company’s leadership.
  1. Memorandum of Association (MOA) and Articles of Association (AOA) – These documents outline the company’s structure, objectives, and rules governing its internal operations. They are vital elements of the lawful framework for the business setup in Dubai.
  1. Proof of Address – Utility bills or a tenancy contract for the proposed business address. This document functions as evidence of the company’s physical presence.
  1. Tenancy Contract – A valid tenancy contract for the business premises in Dubai. This is specifically vital for Mainland business setups.
  1. Professional Reference Letter – A reference letter from a professional or legal advisor, providing additional credibility to the business.
  1. Bank Reference Letter – A reference letter from the shareholder’s bank. This is often required to verify the financial standing of the individuals involved in the business.
  1. CV of Shareholders and Directors – Detailed resumes or curriculum vitae of shareholders and directors, emphasizing their proficient backgrounds.
  1. Local Service Agent Agreement (for Mainland) – If applicable, a Local Service Agent Agreement is required for companies with foreign ownership in the Mainland.

Common Challenges and Solutions

1.  Understanding Local Regulations

  • Challenge – The regulatory landscape in Dubai can be complex.
  • Solution – Pursue professional advice from business consultants or legal specialists to guide local regulations effectively.

2.  Local Sponsorship Requirement

  • Challenge – Mainland businesses require a local sponsor or partner.
  • Solution – Choose a reputable local sponsor and clearly define the words of the collaboration in a legal agreement.

3.  Cost Management

  • Challenge – Establishing and running a business in Dubai can be costly.
  • Solution – Plan your budget meticulously and explore cost-effective options, such as shared office spaces in free zones.

4.  Cultural Sensitivity

  • Challenge – Understanding and respecting local cultural norms is crucial.
  • Solution – Educate yourself with local customs and conventions, and consider hiring local staff for cultural insight.

5.  Documentation and Paperwork

  • Challenge – Extensive documentation is required for business setup.
  • Solution – Stay organized, seek professional assistance, and use technology to streamline document management processes.

How To Do Business Setup – A Video Guide

Source: Start Any Business


Embarking on a business setup in Dubai journey is an exhilarating venture, but it demands detailed planning and compliance with regulations. By conducting thorough research, understanding the legal landscape, and seeking professional guidance, entrepreneurs can navigate the complexities and establish a successful business presence in this dynamic and thriving city. Whether choosing a free zone, mainland, or offshore setup, Dubai provides a diverse range of options to suit various business needs.


What are the main types of business setups in Dubai?

The main types of business setups in Dubai include Free Zone, Mainland, and Offshore entities. Each has its advantages, regulatory requirements, and target markets.

How do I choose between Free Zone and Mainland business setups?

The choice depends on factors like ownership preferences, the nature of the business, and the target market. Free Zones offer 100% foreign ownership, while Mainland setups require a local partner but provide access to the entire UAE market.

What are the documents required for business setup in Dubai?

Common documents include passport copies, visa applications, board resolutions, MOA and AOA, proof of address, tenancy contracts, professional reference letters, and CVs of shareholders and directors.

Can I repatriate profits in a Free Zone business setup?

Yes, Free Zone businesses typically allow 100% repatriation of profits and capital without restrictions.

Is local sponsorship required for Mainland business setups?

Yes, Mainland business setups require a local sponsor or partner with at least 51% ownership. However, certain business activities permit 100% foreign ownership.

What are the visa requirements for business owners and employees?

Visa requirements vary based on the business setup. Generally, passport copies, visa applications, and medical fitness tests are standard for shareholders and employees.

How long does the business setup process take in Dubai?

The duration varies depending on the type of business and jurisdiction. Free Zone setups are often quicker, while Mainland setups may take longer due to additional approvals.

What is the role of the Memorandum of Association (MOA) and Articles of Association (AOA)?

The MOA and AOA outline the company’s structure, objectives, and internal operations rules. They are crucial for legal compliance and defining the business framework.

Can I operate internationally with a Free Zone business setup?

Yes, businesses in Free Zones can operate internationally. However, they are typically confined to operating within the Free Zone and overseas.

Are there specific regulations for Offshore business setups?

Yes, Offshore businesses cannot conduct business within the UAE and may face restrictions on certain activities. They are often chosen for international operations and financial privacy.

What is the role of a Local Service Agent in Mainland business setups?

A Local Service Agent is a requirement for certain Mainland businesses with foreign ownership. They act as a local representative but do not have an ownership stake in the company.

Can I get a business license for any business activity?

The types of business activities allowed depend on the business setup and jurisdiction. Some activities may be restricted or require specific approvals.

Also Read: Top Startups In UAE 2023

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