Registering a Company in the UAE

Registering a company in Dubai and the Emirates gives you the ability to perform business in a setting that offers ample benefits. Depending on the business structure you adopt, it’s possible to create a company with full foreign ownership. The company registration process is relatively simple as long as you take the right steps. Keep in mind that company registration within the UAE is separated into several registration types, the primary of which include free zone and mainland. This guide tells you all you need to know about creating and registering a company in the UAE.

What This Process Entails

Registering a company in UAE requires a certain amount of steps to ensure that the process is handled without issue. The initial step in this process involves selecting a name for your company, after which you can choose specific business activities that fall under your trade license.

Once the correct business activities have been chosen, you can conduct trade based on your selections. Keep in mind that an application and various documents will need to be submitted to the appropriate authorities. Here’s the step-by-step approach for registering a company in the UAE.

Partner with Reputable Business Consultants

The very first step in this process is to partner with reputable business consultants or real estate companies such as ours to ensure that this entire process is handled with care. The company you partner with can take care of everything from document processing and company registration to collection and delivery.

Obtain Approval for Name and Business Activity

Next, you’ll want to obtain approval for your company name and business activities, which requires submitting certain documents. The business activities you select are then entered under your company’s trade license. Once the trade license has been created, you should be able to perform trade legally throughout the UAE.

Gather Necessary Documents

Now it’s time to gather all of the necessary documents that need to be submitted alongside the registration application. This documentation includes updated company stamps. In most cases, you should be able to send documents online.

Apply for Residency Visa

This step involves applying for a UAE residence visa as well as a company immigration card. Keep in mind that both of these applications require you to submit supporting documents.

Begin Visa Application and ID Processing

During this stage of the process, you’ll be tasked with flying over to the UAE to take a medical test and have your residence visa stamped on your passport. In order for an ID application to be processed, an in-country medical exam must take place. Once the medical exam and ID application have been submitted, the residence visa application will begin.

Open a Business Bank Account

The final stage of the company registration process involves opening personal and business bank accounts. Shareholders must have a physical presence in the UAE to open a business bank account because of KYC compliance.

Registering a Mainland Business

During this stage of the process, you’ll be tasked with flying over to the UAE to take a medical test and have your residence visa stamped on your passport. In order for an ID application to be processed, an in-country medical exam must take place. Once the medical exam and ID application have been submitted, the residence visa application will begin.

This form of investment gives you the opportunity to tap into local UAE markets. If you would like to register as a mainland company within the UAE, you no longer need to seek a local sponsor to represent your business as it operates in the UAE.

When registering as a mainland company, it’s possible to operate as a fully expatriate-owned business across numerous categories like trading, commercial, and industrial. Keep in mind, however, that sectors such as oil and gas, banking, and energy don’t accommodate 100% ownership. The same is true of sectors like:

  • Defense and military
  • Security
  • Exchange shops
  • Banks
  • Telecommunications
  • Fisheries

At the moment, there are 122 distinct business activities that are able to be 100% owned by expatriates. However, a minimum capital requirement must be met for some of these activities. When it comes to the services sector, all business activities allow for full foreign expatriate ownership.

Professional Company

One type of business structure available in this situation involves a professional company. Professionals who work as doctors, legal experts, accounting specialists, or consultants can create a Civil Work Company. The owner of this company is able to retain full ownership of company shares. This type of company needs to be registered through the Department of Economic Development.

This option is ideal for skilled professionals who want to obtain a professional license and work as an entrepreneur. Along with 100% ownership, professionals also benefit from being able to start the company without needing to first partner with a UAE national.

Limited Liability Company

This particular structure is the most common option throughout the UAE. When you want to register a company in the UAE, the limited liability company structure is available if you have at least three shareholders but not more than 50. Because the UAE region is set up for entrepreneurs to garner success, there are several benefits associated with registering as a limited liability company.

A person’s liability in this company only extends to the amount of shares they own. These companies are able to be created in the UAE mainland for numerous business activities, which include industrial, services, and commercial activities. When creating an LLC company, full expatriate ownership is available for most business activities. You can also avoid the UAE national sponsor requirement that some businesses are tasked with obtaining before registering in the UAE.

Representative Office or Branch for a Foreign Company

If you currently have a company that was placed in the free zone of the UAE or have a company outside of UAE, you can choose to create a representative office or branch within the mainland. Keep in mind that your business must meet specific criteria before being able to form this type of company.

This business structure allows larger organizations to effectively streamline their operations across multiple markets. The company can also test nearby market conditions as well as customer response before going forward with a wider plan for expansion.

Registering as a Free Zone Company

Registering a free zone company in Dubai is more straightforward than forming a mainland company. Dubai consists of 40 multidisciplinary free zones. Many businesses prefer forming in the free zones of Dubai because of the world-class facilities, how simple it is to register a business, and the broader business ecosystem that they have access to.

One of the primary advantages that comes with registering as a free zone company is that you’re essentially exempt from VAT taxes. Fees are also relatively low when compared to the fees that must be paid when running a mainland company. The payments that must be made for amenities, utilities, and office space in the free zone are paid annually. The numerous benefits associated with registering as a free zone company in Dubai include:

  • Exemption from audit report filings
  • Exemption from VAT
  • Having access to premium quality warehouses
  • Simple process for transferring ownership
  • 100% profit transfer

Keep in mind that the lowest cost for registering this type of company is Dubai is right around AED 13,900, which is just under $4,000. If you want to start a free zone business in Dubai, there are numerous business activities that are acceptable for free zone companies.

Potential Costs and Necessary Documents

When taking the potential costs of registering a company into account, Likely the largest expense associated with registering your company is renting office space. It’s highly recommended that you take your time to research potential office locations, which gives you the opportunity to select an option that best suits your business and any employees.

You can expect the costs associated with registering a business in Dubai to be around AED 10,000 and up. Keep in mind that visa fees and office rent aren’t included in these calculations. These costs are associated with the trading license that must be obtained when registering a company.

The type of license and company structure you select will determine how much you pay. Make sure that office rent and visa expenses are included in your calculations. There are many documents that you’ll need to submit alongside your application, which include:

  • An application form
  • Two photographs with a white background
  • Copy of your passport
  • NOC document if you already have UAE residency visa
  • Map of location
  • Copy of tenancy contract
  • Details of designation

Make sure that you also select the right business activities before paying the necessary trade license fee.

Registering a company in Dubai requires a considerable amount of patience and knowledge of what the registration process entails. Focus on identifying the type of company you want to create as well as your preferred ownership structure. From here, you’ll need to obtain extensive documentation that allows you to legally operate as a mainland or free zone business.

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