How to set up a company in Dubai

If you want to set up a company in Dubai, you’ve got two options.

You’re either going to go with opening up a business locally (onshore) or you’re going to open a business in one of the many Freezones in the UAE (offshore).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

Visit your Freezone for a chat while enjoying a cheap hotel in Dubai.

Differences Local Business Freezone Business
Ownership Local (UAE National) partner must own 51% of the business You can own 100%
Tax Status 100% tax free 100% tax free
Scope of Business Free to do business throughout the UAE in any market May only do business within the Freezone and requires a local agent to sell in the local market
Customs Duties Normal customs duty 100% duty exemption on exports to non-GCC countries
Capital and Profit Repatriation 100% Allowed 100% Allowed
Hiring of Expats Local labour laws apply No restrictions

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How to set up a Local business

To open a local business, first, you must find a local partner.  This person will have a 51% interest in your business, so choose them wisely.

Once you’ve found a local partner, you’ll have to decide on a name for your business.  You’ll need to take this name to the Licensing Department of the Economic Development Department and have it approved.

You’ll then be required to draw up a Memorandum of Association which should then be notarized by a Notary Public in a Dubai Court.

Then you have to apply for entry into Commercial Register at the Economic Development Department.

Once the Once approval is granted the Economic Development Department will issue a license and the company’s name will be entered into the Commercial Register. The MoA will be published in the Ministry of Economy and Commerce’s Bulletin.

And then, finally, register the company with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

How to set up a Freezone Business

If you’re going to open up a Freezone company, you’ll have to choose which of the 30+ Freezones you’re going to decide on.

The current Freezones in the UAE are:


  • Abu Dhabi Airport Business City
  • Abu Dhabi Media Free Zone
  • Masdar City (Abu Dhabi)
  • Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi
  • Dubai Internet City
  • Dubai Media City
  • Dubai Production City
  • Dubai Studio City
  • Dubai Outsource City
  • Dubai Knowledge Park
  • Dubai International Academic City
  • Dubai Science Park
  • Dubai Design District
  • Under Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority:
  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)
  • Jebel Ali Free Zone (Dubai)
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis
  • Dubai HealthCare City
  • International Humanitarian City (Dubai)
  • Dubai Maritime City
  • Gold and Diamond Park (Dubai)
  • Dubai South
  • Dubai International Financial Centre
  • Meydan (Dubai)
  • National Industries Park (TechnoPark) (Dubai)
  • Sharjah Airport International Free Zone
  • Hamriyah Free Zone (Sharjah)
  • Sharjah Media City Free Zone (announced)
  • RAK Free Trade Zone (Ras Al-Khaimah)
  • Ajman Free Zone
  • Ajman Media Free Zone (announced)
  • Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone
  • Fujairah Free Zone
  • Creative City (Fujairah)
  • Special cases (Fujairah)



Apart from the respective free zone authorities, certain industries/sectors of businesses are additionally governed by other government entities. Some of them are mentioned below.


  • National Media Council
  • Department of Culture & Information – Sharjah (in Arabic)
  • Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority
  • Dubai Municipality
  • Sharjah Municipality
  • Ras Al Khaimah Municipality
  • Ajman Municipality and Planning Department
  • Umm Al Quwain Municipality (in Arabic)
  • Fujairah Municipality


Once you’ve decided which Freezone you’re going to open up your company with, you can either go direct to them or opt for one of the companies that offer to do all of the set up for you.

If you go with a business set-up company, you’ll have to pay slightly more than you would if you went direct to the Freezone but it is a much smoother and simpler process.

If you go direct to the Freezone, they will outline the process to you and you’ll have to complete each step as you go along.