How to start a business in the UAE


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Dubai is one of the most popular places in the world among entrepreneurs looking to start a new business. So much so that its population is almost 90% expatriate, while some 35,000 new businesses launch in the wider UAE every year.

There are many reasons for this, not least the country’s advantageous location at the centre of the world, strategically placed between the markets of East and West. Its comprehensive links with the rest of the world via land, air and sea also make it an incredibly popular spot with international businesses people.

Then there is the UAE’s time-tested company formation process which, with the right support, is simple, fast and affordable. So, if you’re looking into setting up a business in Dubai, UAE, here’s everything you need to know to get you on your way.

What are the benefits of starting a business in the UAE?

There are numerous incredible benefits to starting a business in the UAE. On top of its great location and transport links, the country’s tax rate is a major reason behind its popularity. There remains zero taxation on personal and corporate income, while VAT is low at 5%.

The UAE’s thriving and welcoming business environment and minimal bureaucracy are also major draws as are the nation’s free zones, offering a range of benefits, from 100% customs tax exemption to zero currency restrictions, plus capital and profit repatriation.

What are the steps to start a business in the UAE?

First things first, you will need to decide whether your business is better suited to the mainland or a free zone.

Free zones such as Fujairah Creative City offer benefits such as a quick and easy incorporation process and ongoing business support. Mainland businesses meanwhile can trade directly with the UAE market and take on government contracts.

The expert team at Set Hub can help you make this decisions as well as guiding you through the four-step process below.

1. Choosing your company name

The first step is to choose a name for your business. When choosing a company name out here in the UAE, you must abide by a strict set of naming conventions.

In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e., Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.

2. Making your license application

Next, you’ll need to apply for your trade license.

If you wish to set up in a free zone, you’ll need to make your application directly to the managing authority of your chosen zone. Alternatively, if you opt for a mainland license, you should make your application to the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) or the equivalent in another emirate.

In both cases, Set Hub can manage this process for you, liaising with all necessary authorities and third parties.

3. Making your visa applications
You will also need a residency visa to work in the UAE. The visa application process consists of several steps including biometric scanning, a blood test, medical and a chest x-ray.

As the holder of UAE trade license, you can also sponsor others for their visas too. This could be a spouse, parent or child, or a domestic worker such as a housekeeper.

The maximum number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your company, your chosen setup and, for dependant visas, your personal earnings.

4. Opening a corporate bank account

Finally, you will need a corporate bank account to trade in the UAE. It is not always easy for non-GCC citizens to secure banking services, so it’s once again a good idea to partner with a local expert at this stage.

Set Hub can handle all these applications for you, advising on suitable financial institutions and liaising with relevant authorities on your behalf.

Documents required to start a business in the UAE

Whether you choose to set up in the mainland or in a UAE free zone, you are usually only required to provide a few details and some basic documentation, including:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copy of the proposed owner or owners
  • Two colour passport size photos

What is the cost of starting a business in the UAE?

The total cost of company formation in Dubai, UAE, depends on many factors. The size of your company, setup type, location and industry will all play a part. In most cases, the most cost-effective way to start a business in the UAE is to incorporate a free zone company.

Free zones such as Fujairah Creative City offer many affordable license packages with no paid-up share capital requirement, no annual audit, and an easy incorporation process. There is also no need to be present in the UAE to establish your new company.

A license package in Fujairah Creative City, inclusive of one visa application and use of the free zone’s co-working facility costs just AED 24,775.

For a full and personalised breakdown of the costs involved, get in touch with Set Hub.

Are you ready to launch your business in the UAE?

If you’re armed with the right knowledge, setting up a business in the UAE doesn’t have to be overly complex.

That being said, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.

To help you ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a Dubai business setup specialist such as Set Hubwhen establishing a new company in the UAE.

We are a team of company registration professionals who are passionate about bringing the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs to life.

As well as handling your license application, Set Hub can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.

We also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visa applications that are required to trade in the UAE.

In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.