We make decisions every day and every hour of our lives. Some are great while others are not so much.
But your decision to start a business in Dubai is surely an incredible one. Why? Just for a couple of hundred reasons. The UAE government is extremely supportive and encourages investors and start-ups in their ecosystem, so you’ll find the process to be fairly convenient. Even as a foreigner, you’ll be welcomed with open arms to set up your business in Dubai. In fact, foreigners are encouraged to come and are now provided with long-term visas as well. The tax policies are quite possibly the biggest magnet that attracts investors and entrepreneurs to set foot In Dubai. You’re probably one of them too. These policies will certainly be a delight to you. The ease of doing business is high given all the encouraging policies and investor-friendly nature of Dubai, and UAE as a whole.
Clearly then, it’s of no surprise that Dubai has gained immense popularity and has become a hot spot for entrepreneurs and investors. Adding to the supportive jurisdiction is the picture-perfect location of the city, which aids Dubai to deal and connect with the Gulf, Asia, and even Africa.
Dubai has seen countless successful ventures and entrepreneurs. Which of course is attracting more investors regularly. The rate of success here is relatively higher due to a number of supporting factors.
- Low Taxation
- Support from Jurisdiction
- Amazing infrastructure
- High-quality labour supply
80% of the residents of the UAE are foreign-born. Even with this, the country boasts about 1,50,000 registered businesses as of 2018. Which makes it pretty clear that the scope for foreign investors is extremely wide in Dubai. In fact, UAE saw a whopping US$10.3 bn in foreign direct investment in 2018.
All this information is enough to tempt a man to set up a business in Dubai.
But how?How can you? What do you need to know to start that venture? What steps do you need to take? There are probably a ton of questions invading your mind right now.
But don’t worry—read on and all you’ll be ready to start your business by the end of this guide.
Here’s the ground we’re going to cover to help you start your business:
- The most profitable businesses in Dubai
- The pre-requisite—Your area of jurisdiction
- 7 steps to build a successful start-up in Dubai
- Your legal structure is important
- Getting approvals
- Trade license and registration
- Preparing your documents
- Your office space
- Finalizing and collect your license
- Visa processing
Here’s the ground we’re going to cover to help you start your business:
Before we get started with our ‘how’ let’s have a sneak at our ‘what’. What kind of business would be best for you? We’ve compiled a list of business ideas that are trending in Dubaiand have an amazing scope of expansion in the near future.
Before you start your business…
The pre-requisite—Your area of jurisdiction
The first and possibly the most important decision you need to make after deciding on your industry of business is fixing your area of jurisdiction in Dubai. This is what will be the foundation of your venture. The jurisdiction (or economic zone) you choose to set up your business in will define the laws and regulations that will apply to you.
You’ll get 3 different economic zones to choose from:
Free Zones are popular as they boast a 0% corporate or personal tax rate, along with a 100% ownership of your business. Different Free Zones have their own separate set of rules, so the regulations and your ventures’ operations will depend on the specific Free Zone it works in. Free zone companies, however, cannot trade with the local Dubai market.
If you wish to have a company that is free to trade with both the local and the international market, working in the Dubai mainland is your best bet. The process of setting up your company here is extremely systematic. Companies in the mainland need an Emirati partner with an ownership of 51% in the business.
Offshore companies in Dubai keep 100% of their profits and have the right to be the sole owner of their operations. In this case, your company will not get an operating trade license but just a certificate of operation.
With the pre-requisites conquered, let’s shift our focus to the main money—setting up your business.
7 steps to build a successful start-up in Dubai
After you’re done finalizing on the jurisdiction that your venture will be operating under, it’s time for you to get ready to set up your business. No doubt, this is insanely overwhelming, thanks to all the paperwork and the legalities. To make your life and business much easier, we’ve summarized all that you need to know to set up a successful venture in Dubai, in this 7-step guide.
1. Your legal structure is important
The move that will set the tone of your business and its operation is choosing the legal structure of your company. It will determine how you end up dealing and working with profits and losses, income and expenditures and even the organization of your assets and liabilities. In fact, you will not be eligible to receive a trade license in Dubai until you have a decided legal structure.
The different types of legal structures are mentioned below:
If you wish to own 100% of your company and have complete rights over its profits and operations, a sole proprietorship might do you good. In this structure, you are the sole decision-maker as well as bread earner. The ground covered by this includes sectors like consultancy, IT, pharmaceutical and so on.
These are businesses based on the professional services provided by doctors, accountants, and even lawyers. These and other professionals can offer their services in the form of a business operating as a Civil Company in Dubai. In this case, however, an Emirati partner needs to have at least a 51% stake in the company.
Limited Liability Company
This is arguably the most popular and sought-after legal structures in Dubai, since it permits open trade with both the local market of Dubai and the international market, in a streamlined fashion. These companies need to have shareholders ranging from 2 to 50, each of whom will be liable for only his/her percentage of share. Even the profits and losses are divided accordingly amongst the shareholders. An added benefit is that the visa and immigration process of individuals related to the company becomes much simpler. Again, however, a UAE national needs to head over 51% of the business to function legally.
Although it is possible for a foreign national to completely own the company, it isn’t a simple or a cheap process.
Foreign Company Branch
A company operating overseas may establish a branch in Dubai and expand its reach in the market. Doing this will let the parent company have 100% ownership and rights over the business’ operations, profits and losses. Any goods required by the company would need to be imported via a local trade firm in Dubai.
Free Zone Company
As we noted before, companies operating in the free zone are devoid of corporate and personal taxation, while giving 100% ownership to you. However, the catch is that the Free Zone companies are not permitted to trade with the local market. The shareholders required vary from 2-5. The rules and regulations that apply to your business will depend on the Free Zone your company is operating in. For example, the Dubai Airport Free Zone needs a minimum capital of AED 1000, while in the Hamiyra Free Zone sits at AED 150,000.
2. Getting approvals
Everything—from your venture’s name to its activities and operations—needs to be approved the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai. This is a necessary stage for you to move forward in setting up your business. Choosing a legally appropriate name becomes crucial. The name should be compliant with your business activity, not violate any morals, or even be previously registered.
3. Trade license and registration
Once you have your approvals in place, you need to apply for a business license. The DED will be issuing your license in Dubai.
You’ll get 4 types of licenses to choose from:
- Commercial—For trading businesses.
- Professional—For service companies.
- Industrial—For manufacturing and packaging industry.
- Tourism—For the tourism industry, issued by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
In Free Zones, however, you need to go through a different procedure to get your trade license. Here, you will need to apply with the Free Zone you wish to operate in. Of course, the Free Zone you establish yourself in will depend on the industry and the activity of your business.
With the licensing, comes your registration. To register, you will again need the approval of all the relevant government authorities as mentioned by the DED (or go directly to the Free Zone).
4. Preparing your documents
The documents required to register your business are:
- Completed application form
- Business plan
- Passport copies of shareholders/directors
- Specimen signatures of shareholders/directors
- Letter of intent
- Board resolution appointing a company manager/director
- Power of attorney given to manager/director
- Memorandum and articles of association
- Specimen signature of manager/director
- Photo of manager/director
- Share capital information
This pile of documents may get overwhelming and complicated, so expert guidance and advice is recommended. More specifically, the complexities of the Memorandum of Association is relevant to be thoroughly understood to start your business in Dubai. The MoA needs to be drafted while complying with the UAE governments’ rules and regulations, while staying in terms with your specific business activities.
5. Your office space
Once you are done with the legalities, you have the option to either rent an office workplace or even go for a shared workspace where you work with other entrepreneurs in the same spot, under one business center. Your decision to pick one would depend on your business needs and professionalism. To give you a sense of direction, you’d probably need a serviced office space if you have employees working for you. In free zones, you are given guidance in finding the perfect promises according to your requirements.
There is a tenancy contract between you and the real estate agency you choose to rent an office or get the shared workspace with. This is called an Ejari. It is an online system regulated by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency and provides transparency between the involved parties. To activate your Ejari account, you need to submit your tenancy contract and some other relevant documents.
6. Finalizing and collecting your license
After receiving your approvals from the DED and other relevant authorities, you can collect your license from the DED, by submitting the required documents and the necessary government fees. Again, you might be collecting your license from your local free zone, in accordance with your legal form.
7. VISA processing
Of course, you will need a business visa to finally start your business in Dubai. The jurisdiction gives you two options—a 5-year visa and a 10-year visa. Neither of the two requires any sponsorship.
To get the 5-year visa, you will need a link to an existing project with a minimum capital of AED 500,000. Approval from an accredited UAE business incubator is also required.
For the 10-year visa a deposit of AED 10 million is supposed to be made in the form of a public investment. Other options are to set up a company with a capital of AED 10 million, or even investment the same amount in an existing company.
The mega step—getting professional help.
It isn’t wrong to admit you’ll need assistance and guidance to effectively set up your business in Dubai. After all, you want to leave no stone unturned. An expert team to walk your vision through every step of the way is a need of the hour for you. And that’s exactly how we help you.
You’ve seen us simplify Dubai’s complicated business set-up process in a crisp guide. It’s time you check out how we bring your dreams and business to life in Dubai.
Our team of dedicated of experts are passionate and excited to set up your business.