Dubai Mainland Business Setup

Dubai Mainland Business Setup

Dubai offers many investment opportunities for international investors seeking to do business in any sector. Investors are attracted to Dubai primarily due to the welcoming nature of the Dubai government, their fast-growing economy, and future centric programs. With access to world-class infrastructure and transportation, many new business owners open shop in Dubai Mainland, which is a favorite choice among other locations. Startups in Dubai also receive advantages on investments and taxes when compared with other regions.

Why Dubai?

Many reasons to start your business in Dubai - Visionary leadership | Future-centric programs | Exponential economic growth | Global gateway & financial hub | 100% Foreign Ownership | Top class Infrastructure & Transportation

Benefits of Setting up a Company in Dubai Mainland

  • No restrictions on multi-currency
  • 100% corporate tax exemption
  • Location flexibility for operating offices
  • Affordable rents for office spaces
  • No annual auditing
  • No minimum capital required
  • Unlimited employment visa options
  • Wider scope of business
  • No restrictions on trading with other mainland companies
  • Enhanced presence in the local market

Types of Licenses for Mainland Companies

With a mainland license, also known as an onshore license, you can run your business both inside the UAE and internationally.

For any business activity, trade licenses issued by the Department of Economic Development is required and should fall under any of the below categories of licenses:

  • Commercial Licenses (covers all types of trading activities)
  • Professional Licenses (covers professional businesses like carpentry, artisanship, printing, repair services, beauty salons, consultancies, and many other professional services)
  • Industrial (covers activities related to manufacturing and industrial)

Steps to setup a Company in Dubai Mainland

1) Choose the business activity and trade name in accordance with Dubai laws.

2) Check for suitable locations in Dubai to operate the business.

3) Determine the structure of the company

  • a. Limited Liability Company (LLC)*
  • b. Sole Establishment
  • c. Branch
  • d. Civil Company
  • e. Representative Office

*UAE law mandates that LLC companies need to have a local sponsor and will hold 51% shares of the company.

4) Get the initial approvals for trade licenses and other approvals like DED approvals, MOA Notarizations (Memorandum of Association).

5) Setup corporate bank accounts and rent office space.

6) Get the establishment card and start applying for residence visas.

Getting your business up and running in Dubai shouldn't take longer than a week after you have sorted all your legal paperwork.

Several factors need to be considered while establishing a company in Dubai. Some of these factors are:

Selecting the location

There are different zones of business jurisdictions in Dubai to increase the competence and productivity of businesses. Companies can be started in any of the following jurisdictions, each with its own benefits and processes:

  • Mainland – Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman
  • Free zones – Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah
  • Offshore – Jebel Ali, Ras Al Khaimah

Choosing the right jurisdiction will depend on the nature of your business activity. Business owners need to evaluate whether their company adheres to Dubai standards during the decision stage as not all activities are permitted in Dubai. The Department of Economic Development (DED) is the regulatory body that decides, classifies, and permits business activities. This is not applicable to Free zones and Offshore business setup.

Registering the business and obtaining trade licenses

All approved businesses need to be registered with the Department of Economic Development (DED). The name of your company must conform to the standards set forth by the Department of Economic Development (DED). Trade names serve as an identity for your business, and thus DED emphasizes the importance of matching the name to the type of license. Registration takes about three days, and the trademark is valid for six months.

Finding local sponsors

To start a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Dubai Mainland, business owners need to find a reliable local who can become your business partner.

Operating a company in Dubai Free zones won’t require a local sponsor and offers 100% ownership to the foreign investors. However foreign investors who intend to operate an LLC in Mainland UAE are required to have either a local Emirati sponsor or a local service agent. The local sponsor could be a corporate, individual or a local service agent.

Local Sponsors are Emirati nationals who can provide sponsorships to foreign nationals within their capacity. These sponsors will hold the 51% shares and liability of the company, but they can transfer the power of attorney to their foreign partners in the exchange of the decided fees which they will charge for their services. It is not necessary for these local sponsors to do the investment in the business because they charge the fees of the services which they provide in form of taking responsibility of foreign investors.

Corporate Sponsors are UAE-owned companies and will hold 51% shares and liabilities of the business. They operate just like the individual sponsors and can be any local or government authority. These authorities can have different fee structures depending upon business factors.

Local Service Agents are the representatives of professionals like Doctors, Engineers, and Artisans etc. Local agents do not hold any shares or liabilities in the business and will merely act as representatives of the company. They charge pre-approved fees from the professionals in return for their service.

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