Due to their advantageous geographical position and diversified economy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have become a crucial commercial base for many multinationals and the starting point for serving all the fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa. Setting a company in UAE grants several benefits, like the absence of foreign exchange controls and trade barriers; moreover, there are no corporation taxes,except for oil and domestic banking. These features make it an ideal location for company formation and business setup.


If you want to obtain a business license in UAE, firstly you need to register the trade name and to obtain an “initial approval”, released by the emirate’s Department of Economic Development. The request can be done either visiting their office or via their online services. This procedure is the first step to proceed for additional approvals in case of particular trade activities.

Starting a business in the UAE implies a variety of factors:

Costs: they depend on the nature of the activity and license required (commercial, industrial or services), as well as on its legal entity (company, establishment or branch of a company)

Capital requirements: they vary according to the legal form of the business. For the PJSC (Public Joint Stock Company) and PrJSC (Private Joint-Stock Company) the minimum capital is respectively AED 30 million and AED 5 million. With regard to other type of businesses, the minimum capital isn’t specified, however it should be a sufficient amount to achieve the corporate’s purposes

Partners nationality: only UAE nationals may set up companies like Joint liability companies, simple commandite companies, industrial or commercial type sole proprietorship, license for home-based businesses and SME license (in Dubai). People of other nationalities can conduct the other businesses; however, they’ll need to involve a UAE national partner as a sponsor

Company types: LLC (Limited Liability Company), PJSC, PrJSC and civil company with an engineering activity require a UAE national partner (with at least 51% ownership of the business); professional type sole establishments, civil companies with no engineering activity and foreign company branches require instead a LSA (Local Service Agent).

The Local Service Agent is a UAE national who has no civil responsibility to the company. He is a business consultant and he supports the foreign companies in setting up their branches in the emirates and guaranteeing the continuity of their activities there. The LSA will not have legal interests in the company’s assets and profits.

Business setup and company formation in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman and the others emirates is basically structured as we explained above, although there are some differences from an emirate to another. For more information about this theme, you should refer to the Department of Economic Development of each emirate.

An alternative way to launch your business in UAE is setting it up in a Free Zone.

If you want more information about setting up your international company in UAE, read our analysis about Import and Export activities.