Company Registration in Dubai - Business Starting & Setup

Want to set up a firm in Dubai? We can assist you in starting a business or in buying a shelf company in Dubai with a full package of necessary documents, legal advice and follow-up support. Incorporation of a firm in Dubai includes provision of a registered office (for at least 1 year in any of our service plans), an apostilled set of constitutional documents, secretarial services and assistance with compliance fee and pre-approval for opening an account in banks of the UAE. The total price of company formation in Dubai includes all necessary fees and charges for the first year of operation, as well as full one-year nominee service (package Optimum).

FEZ “Dubai Science Park” (DSP), Dubai, UAE
IFZA (International Free Zone Authority)
Meydan Free Zone (MFZ)
United Arab Emirates: Dubai Internet City Free Zone
United Arab Emirates: Dubai Mainland Company
United Arab Emirates: Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) Free Zone
United Arab Emirates: Dubai South Free Zone
United Arab Emirates: Offshore Company in Dubai (JAFZA)

General information about

The Emirate of Dubai is located on the Arabian Peninsula, in the south of the Persian Gulf.

Among the seven emirates that make up the UAE, it is the most populated one and second largest after Abu Dhabi. Dubai has more than 20 free zones.

  • Dubai Internet City. Free Zone specializes for the companies engaged in technologies. Here you can find the offices of such transnational corporations as Fortune 500, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as many other small and medium businesses.
  • Dubai Media City. Free Zone specializes for the companies engaged in media business. Here you can find the offices of such transnational corporations as CNN, Forbes, MBC, Reuters, Showtime, Sony and many others.
  • Dubai International Financial Center. The largest companies in financial and insurance markets use this jurisdictions enter the market of the UAE and other markets of the Middle East and Northern Africa.
  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre specializes on the companies engaged in trade on commodity markets (gold, diamonds, pearls, tea), and companies providing related services. The free zone plays a role of an international center of raw material in the region.
  • Dubai World Central. Free Zone allows to establish companies specializing in production, trade and service in various fields of economy. The Free Zone is located on the territory of the largest international airport Al Maktoum International Airport, what gives great opportunities for logistic companies and companies connected with international air carriage.
  • Dubai World Central. Free Zone allows to open companies focused on production, trade and services in various sectors of the economy. The Free Zone is open on the territory of the largest international airport Al Maktum International Airport, which opens up broad horizons for logistics companies and companies related to international air transportation.
  • Dubai South. Free Zone is located around the new international airport Al Maktoum International (South of Dubai). Companies operating in the aviation and logistics sectors, as well as in the field of trade, have already become residents.
  • Dubai Internet City. Free Zone has successfully established a thriving ecosystem for technology organizations and is one of the pioneers in the vision of transforming Dubai into a smart economy. More than 1,600 companies are registered with DIC, including several of the latest Forbes lists, as well as the most dynamic and successful small and medium technology enterprises and start-ups, which include all elements of the information and communication technology value chain.
  • Jebel Ali (JAFZA). It is the oldest economic zone of the Emirates (operating since 1985). FZ JAFZA has a strategic location. It is located in close proximity to the world's largest port, as well as a few minutes from the 8th largest airport Dubai International Airport and the new Al Maktoum International Airport. Offers excellent conditions for entrepreneurs of any sector. More than 7 thousand companies operate on its territory, which provide the UAE economy with 50% of the total export volume.
  • International Free Zone Authority (IFZA). One of the youngest Free Zones in the UAE. Offers licenses based on a portfolio of scalable business creation solutions spanning over 2,000 professional, commercial and industrial activities.
  • etc.

Corporate information

Legal System

Legal system of the UAE is a mixed legal system which combines:

  • Islamic law;
  • Civil law.

Codified laws regulating labor relations, maritime law relations, commercial transactions, civil acts, intellectual property, etc. apply in the UAE.

There are two main types of law in the UAE:

  • federal law;
  • local legislative acts (at the level of emirates).

Federal laws have effect on the whole territory of the UAE and are adopted by the legislative body or ministers. Local decrees and acts have effect only on the territory of a separate emirate. Local decrees is adopted by the Emir or Hereditary Prince of the emirate; local acts is issued by the member of the royal family of the emirate.

Types of Entity

Companies registered in the UAE can be divided into 3 categories:

  • Onshore companies: companies registered in Free Zones;
  • Offshore companies;
  • Mainland companies: types of such companies are regulated by the Civil Code of the UAE as well as federal Commercial Companies Act.

Besides, commercial activities can be established through Sole Establishment (sole trader). Foreign companies can also establish a branch or a representative office in the UAE or Free Zone.

Mainland companies may carry on business indicated in license on the territory of the UAE and Free Zones. They provide for obtaining visas for the founder and employees of the company and members of their families. At the same time, number of staff should be proportional to the occupied office space. The presence of an registered office is compulsory (from Flexi desk). Foreigners can own 100% of a local company, unless such a local company is carrying out activities of "strategic importance"

Onshore companies may carry on business indicated in license on the territory of the Free Zone or outside the UAE. It is envisaged to obtain visas for the founder and employees of the company and members of their families. At the same time, number of staff should be proportional to the occupied office space. The registered office can only be located in a Free Zone. Some Zones provide a seat in a business center. Possible 100% foreign ownership.

Offshore companies may carry on any activity which is not specially regulated outside the UAE only. The company's activities must be carried out exclusively outside the UAE.  The company may not have an office in the UAE, Possible 100% foreign ownership through an individual or legal entity.

Types of companies in Dubai

Mainland Companies

According to the UAE Commercial Companies Act, the following business forma can be established in the UAE:

  • Sole Proprietorship;
  • Limited Liability Companies;
  • Private Joint Stock Companies;
  • Public Joint Stock Companies;
  • Joint Participation Ventures (or Private Unlimited Companies);
  • Limited Partnerships (or Simple Commandite Companies);
  • Partnership Limited with Shares (or Share Commandite Companies);
  • General Partnerships (or Joint Liability Companies);
  • Branch of a foreign company;
  • Branch of a Free Zone company.

According to the Civil Code civil companies can be established in the UAE. Types of activities of such companies are restricted – they can carry on professional activities in technologies, law, medicine, etc. The local shareholder is not required.

Onshore Companies

There are more than 40 Free Zones in the UAE. The federal laws, local laws and special laws adopted by the zone, regulate activities of the companies registered in a Free Zone. According to the general rule, local founder is not required.

To carry on international transactions a company is obliged to obtain a related license which is issued in the process of incorporation. The company may not carry on business outside the Free Zone. However, international activity is not restricted by the law if it complies with the issued license.

The law requires to lease a minimum office space in a Free Zone or a seat in the business center.

Free Zone companies can be established in the following forms:

  • branch or representative office of a foreign company;
  • Free Zone Establishment;
  • Free Zone Company.

Each Free Zone has its own requirements of share capital, number of directors, audit of accounts, etc.

Offshore Companies

The activities of offshore companies, along with federal law and the legislation of the relevant Emirate, are governed by special laws adopted in relation to such offshore jurisdictions.

The establishment of an offshore company does not require the involvement of a local partner as the founder.

Such companies generally do not have the right to conduct activities in the UAE, but are not restricted from conducting foreign trade operations outside the UAE. An offshore company cannot own real estate in the UAE and, unlike a resident company, cannot be used to obtain visas for its employees or directors.

Offshore companies are fully exempt from taxation in the UAE.

Such companies are not required to maintain an office or staff, or audit their annual financial statements.

Offshore companies cannot benefit from double taxation agreements.

Dubai company registrations

The Dubai company registration procedure includes the following steps:

  1. Select a company name to be checked for availability (at least three names);
  2. Select the company structure (shareholders, manager, local agent/partner);
  3. Select the type of license (service, trading, industrial, or tourism);
  4. Pay fees for services;
  5. Provide the documents for the directors / shareholders / attorneys (either originals or notarized copies);
  6. Choose an office space for the company and make a lease agreement;
  7. Prepare and submit a set of documents for company registration, get the documents signed by the officers and shareholders of the company;
  8. Receive the certificate of registration, articles and seal in the specified address.

Confidentiality

The UAE does not have public company registries that would contain details of shareholders or directors. Information about companies can only be obtained at the request of a local court.

The register of shareholders and directors of the company is not accessible to third parties.

Registered Office

Every Dubai mainland company must have an office in the Emirate of Dubai.

The area of the premises for one license must be at least 100 sq. feet.

Seal

Companies are required to have a common seal.

Redomiciliation

The redomiciliation of companies both to and from the UAE is permitted.

Company structure

The director can be an individual (in DMCC a corporate director can be appointed with the permission of the Registrar). There are no requirements as to the residence of the director. The minimum number of directors is one, the maximum is set by the local authorities (mostly without restrictions, but, for example, in the SEZ Dubai South - 7, and in the DIC - 5). Details of directors are not accessible to public.

The secretary can be either an individual (over 21 years of age) or a legal entity. There are no requirements as to the residence of the secretary. In some Free Zones there can be the same person as director. Details of the secretary are not accessible to public. In some Free Zones, as well as for local companies, there is no requirement for a secretary

The minimum number of members / shareholders in the company is one (maximum - 50 or more). Both individuals and legal entities can be shareholders. There are no residence requirements. Details of shareholders are not accessible to public.

The manager (if necessary) can only be an individual over 21 years of age (for Dubai South it can be a corporate person), the minimum number is one. Residence requirements depend on the Free Zone. It can be the same person as director / shareholder. Details of managers are not accessible to public.

Despite that many jurisdictions consider creating a public register of beneficial owners, the UAE does not have one yet. This means that there is no open access to the beneficial ownership information. It is stored by a service provider, namely a company registration agent, trustees, lawyers, accountants and other professionals, subject to strict confidentiality. Information about the beneficial owner can only be disclosed to regulatory authorities (for example, during inspections for its availability) or by court order.

The share capital can be denominated in UAE Dirhams (AED) only. Its size varies depending on the Free Zones (from AED  10,000 and more). For some companies, there is no minimum share capital. Sometimes a bank letter is required confirming the payment of share capital. Bearer shares are not permitted.

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