UAE

Tax exemptions, legally guaranteed confidentiality of foreign entrepreneurs, and free trade zones make the United Arab Emirates a leader in the market of business optimisation tools.

6 simple steps to purchase a company

  1. choosing a country

  2. choosing a bank

  3. payment (by any method)

  4. sending documents

  5. company registration

  6. bank account opening

Legal framework

Local legislation provides for the following types of companies:

  1. A professional company shall be set up as the local one (outside the territory of any free zone) and registered by the Department of Economic Development. There are two subtypes of professional companies:
    1. Sole Establishment is an appropriate option if an individual is willing to be the owner of the business. The latter assumes personal liability for the debts and financial obligations of the entity. Another feature is that a local service agent (UAE national) must be appointed.
    2. Civil Works Company is a suitable choice if two or more partners want to act as the business owners.
  2. Limited Liability Company can be registered offshore, in a free zone, or in the mainland. When establishing LLC, there must be at least two founding partners, and 51% of the company’s shares shall be allotted to an individual partner holding UAE nationality or by an entity wholly owned by the UAE nationals. Here are the major benefits of this legal form:
    1. Liability of each partner is limited to his or her share of the company’s capital
    2. LLC format does not imply issuing public shares, which guarantees full control over the company by its owners and investors
    3. The legislation provides for only minor restrictions on the activities carried out by LLCs
    4. Company’s capital and assets are managed on its own behalf rather than on behalf of a local partner
    5. LLCs are subject to an annual audit and prepare financial statements

Free trade zones (free zones)

One of the country’s hallmarks is free zones — the territories where 100% foreign ownership of enterprises is allowed. Business activities must be conducted only within the jurisdiction of the particular free zone or outside the UAE. At present, there are more than 30 free zones in the United Arab Emirates. Below you will find some information about the main ones.

Dubai

Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA)

Jebel Ali Free Zone is the oldest trade zone, which is established in the territory of Dubai. It is located close to a large port which facilitates arranging maritime cargo shipments to and from any place in the world.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. No minimum share capital requirements are imposed on the branches of a company
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai South Free Zone

Dubai South Free Zone is an attractive option for running logistics business since Jebel Ali Port, DWC airport, and Etihad railway are situated within the territory of the zone. Here the largest logistics service providers, including DHL, Aramex, and Panalpina, are registered.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 300,000 (about $82,000) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Internet City (DIC)

Dubai Internet City is a lodestone for IT business. First Step, in5, and other innovation centres are set up here.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (DTEC)

Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus is designed to attract technology start-ups and facilitate their development in creative environment. Here both physical and virtual offices can be rented. Сoworking is also widespread in DTEC.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 10,000 (about $2,800) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre is the fastest growing and the most modern trade zone in the UAE, where over 10,000 companies have been established to date. In 2014, a special web portal for DMCC-based companies was launched, so that the majority of services became available online, and document processing time decreased. It is where Dubai Immigration and Residency Office is located. When registering a business in the zone, a company can obtain a trade or a service licence.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

Dubai International Financial Centre is notable for its legal system based on English common law rather than on civil and commercial law of the United Arab Emirates. DIFC has its own independent courts, with US dollar being the main currency in the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of USD 50,000 is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account. After registration, the entity is free to manage the capital at its sole discretion
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Media City (DMC)

Dubai Media City is a free zone founded in 2002 and designed as a media hub. This is where more than 1,500 media organisations, including such business giants as CNN, BBC, and Reuters, are registered. DMC houses over 30 commercial facilities with offices offered for rent.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV)

Dubai Knowledge Village is the world's only free trade zone which targets human resources management and delivery of the highest quality educational services. DKV is owned by Dubai Holding's subsidiary — Tecom Investments. Branch campuses of the most prestigious universities are located here. Dubai Knowledge Village is an optimal choice for a business that specialises in providing services in educational sphere.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)

Dubai Silicon Oasis is a magnet for high-technology businesses. In this zone, one can rent an office or a storage facility and lease a development land. Particular attention should be paid to the local business incubator established to support talented youth. Its members enjoy special privileges when registering an enterprise in exchange for a share of the company being set up.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC)

Dubai World Trade Center is a free zone where international trade fairs and conferences are held throughout the year and a bustling centre where the flow of products and ideas never runs dry. DWTC is the largest specialised hub for various events, activities, and exhibitions.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 300,000 (about $82,000) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Gold and Diamond Park (DGDP)

Dubai Gold and Diamond Park is a free zone where retail spaces and offices are available for rent within a large mall. All the contracts are concluded with Emaar Properties company. DGDP is a part of another zone, JAFZA, and administered by its Authority. Multiple well-placed shopping spaces, production facilities, and offices are situated here.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 300,000 (about $82,000) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Sciense Park (DSP)

Dubai Science Park is a free zone located in the heart of Dubai. DSP provides companies of any size with great opportunities for growth and participation in international trade. Enterprises can be established with 100% foreign ownership and are guaranteed 50-year tax holiday on personal and corporate income. It should be kept in mind that only virtual offices are available for rent in the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 300,000 (about $82,000) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Meydan Freezone (MFZ)

Dubai Meydan Freezone targets the development of promising start-ups. This free trade zone houses the world's largest hippodrome Meydan and features commercial real estate, hotels, entertainment centres, and sports facilities, thus having a strategic location. As is the case with DSP, enterprises can be established with 100% foreign ownership and are guaranteed 50-year tax holiday on personal and corporate income. It should be kept in mind that only virtual offices are available for rent in the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 300,000 (about $82,000) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Dubai Design District D3

Dubai Design District D3 is a free zone attracting talented representatives of the creative industry. The district was designed so as to establish a special ecosystem based on inspiring and relevant ideas which shape the future of Dubai. Offices can be rented both under a licence and without it. The main activities carried out in the zone are modelling business, fashion design, production of clothing, event management, and art business.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry. It should be emphasised that regulations regarding licences are quite strict: failure to renew a licence results in its revocation after the period of 4 months from the date of expiry. Once that occurs, a company must undergo licensing procedure for the second time and pay the fine.
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required. It shall be formed by depositing funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually

Sharjah

Sharjah Airport Free Zone (SAIF)

Sharjah Airport Free Zone is a free trade zone located in the Emirate of Sharjah, close to the eponymous international airport. The advantageous location of SAIF also resides in its proximity to the city centre and access to maritime ports in the Gulf (Port of Khalid) and in the Indian Ocean (Port of Khor Fakkan). To date, over 7000 companies from 150 countries carrying out a wide range of activities (from heavy industry to the services sector) have been registered here, what makes this zone a multi-functional one.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 150,000 (about $41,100) is required. A company may confine itself to specifying the amount of the capital in the constituent instrument, without any funds being deposited into company’s bank account, but in this case share certificates will not be issued
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Sharjah Publishing Free Zone (SPFZ)

Sharjah Publishing Free Zone was established to promote the development of printing and publishing industry. SPFZ is the subsidiary of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA). The mission of the zone is to stimulate investment in the relevant sector, both locally and globally. Offices, retail spaces, and storage facilities are available for rent here.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 100,000 (about $27,400) is required. A company may confine itself to specifying the amount of the capital in the constituent instrument, without any funds being deposited into company’s bank account, but in this case share certificates will not be issued
  4. Audit report must be provided annually
Hamriyah Free Zone (HAFZA)

Hamriyah Free Zone founded in 1995 is one of the country’s main industrial development centres. The advantageous location of the zone is attributed to its proximity to the city centre and access to maritime ports in the Gulf (Port of Khalid) and in the Indian Ocean (Port of Khor Fakkan). HAFZA territory is divided into subzones, each corresponding to a certain type of activity and sector (oil and gas, steel, timber, perfumery, etc.). Offices, storage facilities, and living accommodations are offered for rent here, with land lease being also available.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 150,000 (about $41,100) is required. A company may confine itself to specifying the amount of the capital in the constituent instrument, without any funds being deposited into company’s bank account, but in this case share certificates will not be issued
  4. Audit report must be provided annually

Ras Al Khaimah

Rak Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ)

RAK Free Trade Zone is the fastest growing zone among the ones neighbouring Dubai. RAK FTZ features more than 9000 companies owned by residents of over 110 states. There are 4 areas tailored to meet the requirements of any investor: Business Park with offices for rent, Industrial Park for heavy manufacturing companies, Technology Park for trading and light manufacturing enterprises, and Academic Zone for educational institutions. This zone has an excellent worldwide reputation, with offices in India, Germany or Turkey.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed prior to the expiry
  3. No minimum share capital requirements are imposed, though it is recommended to have a capital of at least AED 1,000 (about $275)
  4. No requirements for annual audit report are set down
Rak Investment Authority (RAKIA)

RAK Investment Authority founded in 2005 is situated in the vicinity of 3 maritime ports, 3 international airports, and 2 highways. The zone is 45 minutes drive from Dubai. At present, RAKIA is the place of incorporation of over 8000 enterprises providing industrial, trade and other services.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 100,000 (about $27,400) (in the case of a sole owner) or AED 150,000 (about $41,100) (if there are two or more owners) is required. Its amount may be specified in a constituent instrument without depositing any funds into company’s bank account
  4. No requirements for annual audit report are set down
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone is an industrial and business centre offering unique solutions for onshore and offshore companies. There are 6 subzones within RAKEZ: Al Ghail Industrial Zone, Al Hamra Industrial Zone, Al Hulaila Industrial Zone, Al Nakheel Business Zone, Al Hamra Business Zone, and RAKEZ Academic Zone. To date, more than 6000 enterprises providing services in over 60 sectors have been registered here.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 100,000 (about $27,400) (in the case of a sole owner) or AED 150,000 (about $41,100) (if there are two or more owners) is required. Its amount may be specified in a constituent instrument without depositing any funds into company’s bank account
  4. Audit report must be provided annually

Ajman

Ajman Free Zone (AFZA)

Ajman Free Zone is a rapidly developing zone which is located in proximity to international airports and the Port of Ajman. Companies registered in AZFA can obtain the following types of licences: General Trading Licence (allows to trade any number of unrelated goods), Trading Licence (licence to trade in certain groups of goods), Industrial Licence, and Service Licence. Offices and storage facilities are available in the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 185,000 (about $50,400) is required. Its amount may be specified in a constituent instrument without depositing any funds into company’s bank account
  4. No requirements for annual audit report are set down
Ajman Media City (AMC)

Ajman Media City is a free zone tailored to attract leading representatives of the creative and media industries. It should be noted that in AMC a company can get a trade licence for conducting business. Flexible licensing system allowing to carry out various activities under one licence is an undeniable advantage of the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 100,000 (about $27,400) (in the case of a sole owner) or AED 150,000 (about $41,100) (if there are two or more owners) is required. Its amount may be specified in a constituent instrument without depositing any funds into company’s bank account
  4. No requirements for annual audit report are set down

Abu Dhabi

Masdar City Free Zone

Masdar City Free Zone was founded in 2006 in Masdar City, a well-known ecological project, close to Abu Dhabi International Airport. The zone is intended to transform the renewable energy industry into effective, lucrative business and to make Abu Dhabi the centre of excellence on green technologies. Various offices, including coworkings, can be rented within the territory of the free trade zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required
  4. No requirements for annual audit report are set down
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)

Abu Dhabi Global Market was established by the government of Abu Dhabi and designed to become a large financial centre serving as a link between the economies of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The zone houses the companies carrying out such activities as banking, insurance, management of assets, etc. ADGM is the only financial zone in Abu Dhabi and the second one in the United Arab Emirates. The possibility to obtain a special licence to operate crypto assets is a distinctive feature of the zone.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually commencing from the second year of operation
Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD)

Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi is one of the largest free trade zones, which includes a maritime port (Khalifa Port) and vast industrial areas. It is noteworthy that the port was engineered in such a way so as to be able to accommodate the largest modern vessels and to handle, if needed, 2 million TEU containers and 12 million tonnes of general cargo a year. KIZAD is an appropriate option for entrepreneurs conducting industrial activities.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. Minimum share capital of AED 50,000 (about $13,700) is required
  4. Audit report must be provided annually commencing from the second year of operation
TwoFour54

TwoFour54 is a free trade zone which attracts media business representatives due to the variety of customised office spaces, production capacities, and world class services. Special centres aimed at promoting talented youth and providing support to business are another characteristic of the zone. Its advantageous location resides in its proximity to Abu Dhabi International Airport and the Emirate of Dubai which is less than an hour drive from TwoFour54.

  1. Totally tax-free zone
  2. Licences are valid for 1 year and shall be renewed no later than 30 days prior to the expiry
  3. No minimum share capital requirements are imposed
  4. Audit report must be provided annually commencing from the second year of operation

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