If you want to start a business in Dubai, you will likely come up across many differences from what you are used to. After all, doing business abroad will never be the same as doing business in your home country. Don’t worry, though, since we will cover both the Dubai-specific knowledge and offer a brief overview of the steps you need to take in our guide on starting a business in Dubai and what you need to know about the process!        

The general steps

First and foremost, to start a business in Dubai without a hitch, you need to know what steps you should follow. This is especially important if you’re trying to set up a business abroad and are only vaguely aware of the correct steps. A rough timeline looks like this:

  • Memorandum of Association submission
  • Deciding on a jurisdiction
  • License Application
  • Attested LLC agreement
  • Relevant governmental forms
  • Name reservation certificate
  • Initial approval certificate
  • External departments approval
  • Tenancy contract
  • EJARI registration certificate
  • Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry Registration
  • Passport copies of all partners (If applicable.)
  • NOC of partners (If applicable.)
  • Endorsements from Governmental Agencies (Only if necessary for your business!)
  • UAE Central Bank Approval and License (Only if necessary for your business!)
  • Finance and Industry Ministry Certification (Only if necessary for your business!)
  • Economy and Commerce Ministry Certification (Only if necessary for your business!)
  • Health Ministry Certification (Only if necessary for your business!)

Know what type of license you need

You might be the owner of an established business that you want to relocate to UAE. But before you can focus on starting up or moving a business to Dubai or even decide to relocate your headquarters, it is best to familiarize yourself with the types of licenses enterprises need. They come in four variants: Professional, commercial, tourism, and industrial licenses.

Professional

Businesses that require a professional license are those that offer services. So, if you are planning to open a moving company, or even a clinic or a beauty salon, you would need this particular type of license.

Commercial

Commercial license holders are businesses that deal with purchasing or selling goods. Be it for import, export, logistics, sales, or even running a regular store, you would need this license.

Tourism

If you plan to run a business that relies on tourism as a source of income, you need a tourism license. This includes running a tourism agency, organizing local tours, etc.

Industrial

If you are planning to produce a product actively or are planning to refine natural resources, you need an industrial license. This does even include the textile and homemade goods industry. Of course, you might also need a commercial license in the latter case.  

Setting up your business

Naturally, it would be best if you also decided on how you want your business to be set up from the ownership point of view. Here, Dubai offers a wealth of choices:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Shared Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Branch Offices
  • Representative Offices
  • Joint Venture
  • General Partnership
  • Partnership in Commandite
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Private Shareholding
  • Public Shareholding
  • SME License

Remember that every option comes with both upsides and downsides, and think carefully about the best fit for you. Of course, this decision will depend somewhat on the jurisdiction you choose to set up in.

Choosing your jurisdiction

No guide for business setup concerning starting a business in Dubai can skip talking about jurisdiction zones. They are a unique feature of Dubai and need to be understood before you can use them. If you rush into selecting one, you can encounter trouble if it does not mesh well with your business model.

Tax heaven typed on an old-style typewriter
Every type of business jurisdiction still offers tax benefits in Dubai!

Mainland

Before mentioning anything else, it needs to be emphasized that if you want to have a ‘mainland business’, you will not be able to maintain full ownership of the business unless you are a Dubai native. A mainland business can make any trade or commercial activities, be it within Dubai or abroad, but it requires that a native sponsor has control of at least 51% of the shares in your business. However, the company would be considered officially registered with the government of Dubai and recognized as belonging to it.

Offshore

The most notable feature of offshore businesses in Dubai is that they are not allowed to do any business within the UAE or Dubai itself. They may become shareholders of mainland or free zone companies and do business that way. But they cannot get personally involved. However, they benefit from having access to all the services Dubai offers to businesses. Namely, they may open a bank account in Dubai, hold meetings, lease property in freehold areas, and even have access to auditing, accounting, and other services.

A business meeting in Dubai
You can use your right to hold business meetings in Dubai to host potential partners and associates!

Look for a reliable partner

We’ve already mentioned that to start a mainland company, you need a native shareholder. This might seem like too major a downside to most. However, consider this: mainland businesses are actually the best option if you are serious about doing business in Dubai or even using it to do business in the wider UAE. A partnership allows you to bypass many obstacles that come with owning and moving a business, such as hiring reliable movers like easymovekw.com, and true partnerships are always beneficial. So, it is possible that you, too, might be able to come up with an acceptable solution that would be reassuring to you and allow you to make it a mainland business. For example, you might make a silent partner agreement with the Dubai shareholder. This would enable both sides to benefit, and you would not need to worry about someone trying to affect the fact you run your business.

Shaking hands in honor of starting a business in Dubai
A good partner can simplify things when starting a business in Dubai.

Come up with a memorandum

Of course, now that you understand the more troublesome aspects of starting a business in Dubai, you can focus on step one of the process: writing a memorandum. A memorandum should be a statement of your goals and the planned development direction of your business. You can view it as the bedrock you will be developing your business on, so you should give it due consideration as soon as you’re done trying to acquaint yourself with Dubai!

Final comment

Now that you are familiar with our guide on starting a business in Dubai, you should be better prepared for the tasks ahead. Just remember to take things slow and thoroughly plan for each step of the process. The future of your business will depend on that!

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