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Using JAFZA and Ras Al Khaimah companies to own property in Dubai. Supporting real estate transactions

The real estate market in the UAE is one of the most dynamic in the region. However, registering a real estate property for a non-resident may prove to be an uneasy task, especially given various tax risks that arise if the property is registered in the name of an individual. Previously, real estate would be often registered in the name of companies, including foreign ones, but following amendments to the legislation made in the recent years this practice has been adjusted.

In 2011, the Dubai Land Department banned registration of real estate to foreign companies. Therefore, the following real estate registration options appear to be optimal:

Registration of real estate for a JAFZA offshore company

Jebel Ali Free Zone is the only free zone in the emirate of Dubai which registers offshore companies that have the right to own real estate in the entire territory of the emirate. Such offshore companies do not need to obtain additional permits from local authorities to own real estate.

A quick company incorporation and the ability to form companies 100% owned by foreign individuals secured JAFZA’s position as a centre for registering companies to invest in UAE assets.

The whole company incorporation process takes about two weeks after the client has provided the necessary documents.

The cost of registering a JAFZA offshore company is USD 9 500, which includes:

  • Preparing and submitting all necessary constituent documents to the Registrar, and subsequently handing the original documents to the client;
  • Providing registered office and registered agent for the first year after incorporation;
  • Making a company seal;
  • Standard Compliance Fee; and
  • Shipment of documents.

Registration of real estate for a Ras al Khaimah offshore company

Since July 2019, offshore companies incorporated in Ras Al Khaimah International Corporate Centre (RAKICC) or in Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) can own real estate located in Dubai. In particular, the Dubai Land Department recognizes the registration of freehold (free ownership) property rights and other rights to land and real estate, subject to provision of necessary documents and payment of fees. Such registration is only possible where the shareholders of an offshore company are individuals or individuals and legal entities. As in the case of JAFZA, a company can be 100% owned by foreign citizens.

The cost of registering a Ras al Khaimah offshore company is USD 6 200, which includes:

  • Preparing and submitting all necessary constituent documents to the Registrar, and subsequently handing the original documents to the client;
  • Providing registered office and registered agent for the first year after incorporation;
  • Compliance Fee;
  • Making a company seal; and
  • Shipment of documents.

Company incorporation normally takes about 10 days from the date of submission of all necessary documents.

If an offshore company is to become the owner of real estate in Dubai, you will need to obtain a No Objection Letter from RAKICC / RAKEZ respectively and submit it to the Dubai Land Department.

The cost of obtaining such letter is USD 450.

Registration of real estate for other free zone companies

Technically, it is also possible to register property in Dubai for a company incorporated in Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Free Zone (DMCC) or Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). However, a special approval from the Dubai Land Department is required for real estate registration, and the Dubai Land Department reserves the right to withhold such approval at its sole discretion. Besides, setting up a company in these free zones is more costly and time-consuming than incorporating an offshore company.

The specialists of our company are also ready to provide support in various real estate transactions, including:

  • Drafting and registering real estate sale, lease and pledge contracts;
  • Advising on structuring real estate transactions of various degrees of complexity;
  • Assisting in out-of-court resolution and in litigation related to real estate disputes;
  • Searching for residential and commercial real estate at the request of the client.
These services are invoiced on a time spent basis, at a rate of USD 200 per hour.
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