Startup license Dubai: Cost and steps


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Thousands of new companies are formed in Dubai every year, with entrepreneurs flocking from every corner of the world to do business here.

There are many reasons for the Emirates’ popularity. For one, it still levies 0% tax on both corporate and personal income. It’s also home to numerous startup incubators aimed at helping startups thrive and grow.

On top of this, the nation’s free zones allow foreign investors to retain 100% ownership of their business, benefit from 100% customs tax exemption and repatriate all capital and profits to their country of origin.

If you’re ready to start a business in Dubai, here’s a breakdown of the costs and steps involved.


Is Dubai a good place to start a business?

In a word, yes. Dubai’s business environment is open and welcoming. It often ranks highly with regards to ease of doing business, as well as quality of life.

As well as an incredibly attractive tax rate, the UAE boasts a fast and affordable company setup process – a major reason behind its popularity with startups.

Dubai is also the ideal place from which to trade with the rest of the world, offering direct links to Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East and a time zone which accommodates many of the world’s key financial centres.


How to start a business in Dubai

 When working with a company formation expert, the business incorporation process in Dubai is incredibly straightforward. There are several key steps along the way. A company formation expert can assist you with every step of the process.

Free zone or mainland setup?

One of the first decisions to make is whether to set up in the mainland or in a Dubai free zone.
There are many advantages to both. Free zones such as Fujairah Creative City offer benefits such as a quick and easy incorporation process, ongoing business support and financial incentives such as tax exemptions and zero currency restrictions.

Alternatively, you can set up in the mainland.

Mainland businesses can trade directly with the UAE market and take on government contracts. The setup that’s right for you will depend on the nature of your business. An expert in company formation can help you make this decision, advising on the best option for your specific requirements.


What activities will you undertake?
At this early stage, you’ll also need to choose your business activities. The first thing to do when starting a company in Dubai is decide on your business activities. The important thing here is that your chosen activities are in line with those on the official Department of Economic Development (DED) list. Chances are, they will be – the list covers every industry imaginable, with over 2,000 options to choose from.


Choosing your company name

Here’s a step that is particularly important in Dubai: choosing a company name. There are a few key things to keep in mind at this stage – many that would not apply to anywhere else in the world.

Be aware that 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.


Time to make your license application

Now for the most important step – applying for your trade license.

There are several license types to choose from and the one that is right for you will be dictated by your chosen business activities.

If your business activities fall into the category of industrial or manufacturing, then you will require an industrial license. If you are in the commercial sector – i.e. the buying and selling of goods – then you will require a commercial license. Similarly, those offering professional services will require a professional license.

Whether applying to form a company in the mainland or in a 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.


Making your visa applications
Finally, you’ll also need a visa to work in the UAE – as will your employees, should you have any.

With the right guidance, the visa application process can be incredibly straightforward. Most company formation agents can help you with this step as well as with your license application.

As the holder of a UAE business 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.


Cost of startup license Dubai

When launching a startup in Dubai, there is much more to consider than just the cost of the license.

You must also factor in the cost of hiring staff, if required; visas for you and your employees; business premises, should you need them; along with marketing, promotion, stock and any number of other overheads.

The license itself is relatively inexpensive. You can expect to pay in the region of AED 10,000 to AED 20,000 for a trade license in Dubai.


Where do I get funding for my Dubai startup?

Getting a business off the ground requires funds. Exactly how much will depend on the nature and size of your business. If you need capital to start your business, here are three ways to raise it in Dubai.

  1. Save It sounds simple, but many of the best ideas are. If you know your venture is going to need funding, plan in advance. Build a slush fund of around three months expenses if possible. One you have your pot built up, you can start your business with the confidence that you have the capital to back it up.
  2. Apply for funding There are plenty of ways to get funding in Dubai. Many of the Emirate’s startup hubs and incubators offer prizes and grants to the most innovative startups. Alternatively, the UAE government offers a number of initiatives and schemes aimed at helping startups get off the ground.
  3. Start on a shoestring It may be that you don’t need funding at all. There are plenty of ways to start a low-cost business in Dubai – making use of coworking space and freelancers to keep overheads low where possible. Many of the world’s biggest businesses started by bootstrapping before finding funding further down the line including GitHub, Mailchimp, and eBay.


Starting your business in Dubai

If you’re armed with the right knowledge, launching a startup in Dubai 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 to ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as Set Hub when 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 visas 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.