Dubai free zones
Free zones in Dubai can provide a wide range of incentives for investors from around the world. Healy Consultants assists with all facets of FZ business, including i) company registration ii) assistance in obtaining the trade license and iii) assistance opening a corporate bank account. Our staff will handle all formalities without our Client needing to visit Dubai.
The following information will help you decide whether free zone company registration in Dubai is beneficial for achieving your business objectives:
Key considerations of free zone company formation
- The FZ company is a legally tax exempt entity incorporated by foreign investors wishing to use Dubai as a gateway to the consumer markets in Africa and the Middle East. Exemption on corporate tax minimizes withholding tax on remittance to other countries and no customs duties are imposed on goods imported and exported from the FZ;
- FZ companies do not require a UAE national shareholder. While it is mandatory to rent an office at a low cost, it is not necessary to hire staff;
- Other benefits include i) low bureaucratic requirements for incorporation ii) fewer restrictions relating to staff recruitment iii) no import/export taxes iv) high quality infrastructure facilities and v) competitively priced energy and utilities.
- A FZ company must confine its business activities to the zone itself and so, cannot cater to customers in Dubai and within the UAE. Violations of this provisions encompasses a fine up to US$35,000. For FZ established companies there are alternative option that allow to trade within the UAE;
- The paid up share capital of a FZ company ranges from US$14 to US$300,000 depending on i) the FZ chosen and ii) the company structure. After incorporation, the share capital can be used to fund daily business activities of the company;
- Company licenses are renewable annually after FZ laws are complied with including submitting annual audited financial statements to the authorities;
Trading within the UAE
A FZ company can conduct business in Dubai and within the UAE:
- If a UAE 51% local partner is appointed and The Department of Economic Development issues the trading license to the company; or
- If a branch office is incorporated in the city and the goods and services are distributed through a UAE agent, in the name of the FZ company; or
- The FZ company appoints a service agent to sell and distribute goods and services within the city in it’s name;
- Custom duty of 5% would be levied on free zones company sales within the UAE.
- Dubai FZ company can be setup using the following 3 entities: i) Free Zone Establishment (FZE), ii) Free Zone Company (FZ LLC) or iii) branch. While the FZE and the FZ LLC enjoy limited liability the branch will presents unlimited liability for the parent company;
- All three entities allow i) 100% foreign ownership and ii) appointment of corporate director(s) and iii) visa applications for foreign employees. A FZE is equivalent to a one-person company (OPC) allowing only 1 shareholder and 1 director. A FZ LLC however, requires a minimum of 2 shareholders (maximum up to 5 shareholders) and 2 directors;
- Dubai Free Zone entities are obliged to i) rent office premises in the zone ii) appoint a resident company secretary iii) submit annual audited financial statements and iv) annually renew the business license;
- Additionally, a branch is required to maintain a security deposit with the Dubai government until it is formally deregistered;
Dubai free zones comparison table
Dubai boasts 30 free trade zones catering for every industry sector. The most popular free trade zones include Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC-JLT), Dubai Airport Free Zone, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, and Dubai International Financial Centre
Dubai Multi Commodities Center Dubai airport free zone Jebel Ali free zone Our recommendation in order of preference 1 2 3 Summary Total Healy Consultants fees (US$) 25,500 22,063 22,413 Incorporation time 3 months 3 months 3 months Cheapest yearly office rent estimate (US$) 6,000 10,700 16,500 Yearly warehouse rent estimate (US$) 24,500 25,000 25,000 Paid up share capital estimate for free zone company (US$) 14,000
272 (per shareholder) 0 Paid up share capital estimate for free zone establishment (US$) 14,000 272 0 Virtual office allowed Yes No No All shareholders must travel required for company formation No No No Legal considerations Minimum number of shareholders 1 1 1 Minimum number of directors 1 1 1 Corporate shareholders allowed Yes Yes Yes Corporate directors allowed No No No 100% foreign ownership allowed Yes Yes Yes Public register of shareholders and directors No No No Tax considerations Exempt of corporate tax on profits Yes Yes Yes Annual tax return to be submitted No No No Statutory audit required Yes Yes Yes Access to UAE double tax treaties Yes Yes Yes Other considerations Yes No No Types of licenses allowed View PDF View PDF View PDF Can rent office premises outside free zones No No No Allowed to import raw materials? Yes Yes Yes Allowed to export goods? Yes Yes Yes How long to get work permit approved 4 weeks 4 weeks 4 weeks Free zone work permit fee per person 4,950 4,950 4,950 Draft Invoice View invoice PDF View invoice PDF View invoice PDF
Dubai free zones information
The information provided below will help you learn more about other Dubai FTZ options and how these can suit your business objectives.
Import/export, trade, manufacturing and logistics
Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre
- 100% foreign business ownership is permitted for company within the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre (DMCC). Furthermore, there are no restrictions on the repatriation of capital or profits from the UAE;
- The Dubai Commodities Centre offers investors the ability to purchase premises within the FZ.
Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA)
- DAFZA is within the boundaries of Dubai International Airport and is a popular business location for electronics, engineering, logistics and cargo, aviation and pharmaceutical firms;
- DAFZA is popular because of i) the proximity of Dubai Cargo Village and the FLC Air Cargo Terminal ii) an on-site customs inspection iii) operates 24 hours a day;
- Dubai’s Free Zone Logistics Centre (FLC) is a dedicated freighter terminal for both scheduled and charter operators and is located in the Dubai Airport FZ. FLC offers flexible, cost-effective handling between tenants’ warehouses, the main cargo terminal, and the cargo planes;
- The FLC is located on a 26,000 sqm site, which includes a docking area capable of handling up to 50 trucks. Some 200 sqm in the FLC is dedicated to specialized storage facilities including cooler, freezer, and vulnerable and valuable storage rooms;
- Dubai airport currently services over 150 airlines serving more than 200 destinations worldwide, and is considered to be the Middle East’s premier airport.
Jebel Ali (the JAFZ)
- The Jebel Ali FZ is located next to Jebel Ali Port, the largest port in the Middle East and 30 minutes drive from the Dubai International Airport. With a six lane highway, Jebel Ali FZ will facilitate the transportation of goods from sea to air in just 20 minutes;
- JAFZ has Light Industrial Units (LIU) as storage warehouses for distribution and storage, and as factories for light-production and assembly. Sizes of LIU’s range from 313 square meters to 619 square meters. Power supply ranging from 10 to 50 KVA for warehouses and 100 to 125 KVA for factories;
- JAFZA boasts showroom and warehouse facilities structured into eight blocks comprising 68 showroom-cum-warehouse units. Each unit contains a warehouse at the rear with a glass façade showroom frontage. The showroom features a mezzanine floor, which is used as office space. The units are designed for the product display as well as storage and distribution.
Dubai Industrial City
- The Dubai Industrial City hosts a number of different facilities that are intended to support investors and meet their various business requirements. This Dubai FZ is perfect for investors looking to set up a presence in the UAE to conduct one of the following types of industry: i) base metals ii) mineral products iii) transport equipment and parts iv) mineral products v) transport vi) machinery and mechanical equipment vii) chemicals viii) food and drinks ix) logistics;
- Dubai Industrial City purpose built facilities include i) labour accommodation ii) offices iii) warehousing;
- Setting up a company in the Dubai Industrial City requires some payment in advance for lease of the facilities.
Dubai Maritime City
- Foreign investors choose Dubai Maritime City to provide maritime-related products and services to their global Clients. Company incorporation in the Maritime City is ideal for investors specialising in i) ship repair and maintenance ii) yacht manufacture and repair and iii) industrial maritime parts supplies;
- The Dubai Maritime City offers high quality maritime operation facilities;
- As the Dubai Maritime City is not classed as a FZ, a company here requires a UAE sponsor with a minimum 51% shareholding.
Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
- Dubai Gold and Diamond Park is ideal for investors looking to set up a presence in the UAE to import, export and sell gold, diamonds, and fine jewelry;
- Dubai Gold & Diamond Park is available via two different entities: i) a proprietorship ii) a partnership, although the company enjoys the benefits of a FZ company.
The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)
- The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is the sole independent regulator of all financial services conducted through the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a purpose-built free zones in the city;
- The DFSA’s regulatory mandate covers asset management, banking and credit services, securities, collective investment funds, custody and trust services, commodities futures trading, Islamic finance, insurance, an international equities exchange, and an international commodities derivatives exchange;
- DIFC offers an attractive environment, including i) 100 percent foreign ownership ii) no tax on profits while enjoying a network of over 60 double taxation treaties iii) no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital/profit repatriation iv) strict supervision and enforcement of money laundering laws and v) ultra-modern office accommodation, state-of-the-art technology, sophisticated infrastructure, data protection/security, operational support, and business continuity facilities;
- Healy Consultants assists our Clients with i) selecting the appropriate DFSA Category for Authorization ii) creation of DFSA systems and controls iii) completion of the application forms iv) preparation of DFSA Regulatory Business Plan v) advice on corporate governance.
Dubai Internet City
- Dubai Internet City is ideal for international entrepreneurs who specialize in IT services and who wish to gain access to the Dubai, UAE, and regional Middle East markets. This FZ is suitable for i) IT ii) software development iii) business services iv) web-based and e-commerce services v) consultancy vi) sales and marketing businesses;
- A Dubai Internet City company is freely able to conduct business within Dubai and the UAE;
- There is a minimum capital requirement of US$14,000, which must be paid during incorporation, for a Dubai Internet City company.
Incorporation costs in Year 1 amount to US$4,870. The average fee per Dubai Internet City engagement amounts to US$24,670, which includes company incorporation, opening a local corporate bank account, and all government fees. Refer to draft invoice embedded here.
Dubai Silicon Oasis
- A Dubai Silicon Oasis company is suitable for investors conducting business in the following areas: i) information technology ii) telecommunications equipment iii) electronics and computer hardware iv) software development and solutions v) consultancy and business development vi) electrical appliances and equipment vii) engineering related to technology viii) logistics ix) IT security x) talent development and recruitment’
- Any entity wishing to perform a (commercial) activity within DSOA is required to establish its legal presence in DSOA and obtain a valid license for such an activity. There are three licences: i) service licence ii) industrial licence iii) trade licence.
Dubai Media City
- International entrepreneurs running niche media businesses often choose Dubai Media City, a jurisdiction that has evolved into a recognised regional media hub. This can suit investors looking to set up a presence in the UAE to conduct i) publishing ii) broadcasting iii) film production iv) media and marketing services v) music & entertainment vi) advertising agencies vi) new media vii) media consultancy;
- Dubai Media City has some of the lowest registration fees of any free trade zones in Dubai. For example, the one-off registration fee (payable to Dubai Media City Authority) is DHS 3,500;
- A potential drawback of the Dubai Media City could be the relatively high annual licence fee.
Dubai Media Production Zone
- International business people active in the graphic art, publishing, and packaging industries have the option to register a company in the Dubai International Media Production Zone (IMPZ) to fulfill their international business objectives;
- The Dubai International Media Production Zone can be a cost effective alternative to Dubai Media City, with lower registration fees.
Education, research and healthcare
Dubai Biotech and Research City
- Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) is the Middle East’s first Science and Business Park dedicated to global the life sciences. This DuBiotech is ideal for investors looking to set up a presence in the UAE in the following industry segments: i) biotechnology ii) medical iii) industrial iv) agricultural v) environmental vi) equine vii) animal/marine viii) pharmaceutical ix) neutraceuticals x) nanotechnology xi) medical devices xii) bioinformatics xiii) forensic science;
- The Dubai Biotech and Research Park also has low one-off registration fee of DHS 3,500;
- It can take up to 5 weeks to complete business registration in the Dubai Biotech and Research City.
Dubai Knowledge Village
- The Dubai Knowledge Village is perfect for educational investors looking to set up in the UAE to conduct one of the following types of business: i) professional training courses and certifications ii) eLearning technologies and support services iii) research and development iv) human resource development activities;
- Like other Dubai free trade zone establishments, the Knowledge Village permits 100% foreign ownership and enjoys 100% legal exemption from all import and export duties.
Dubai Health Care City
- The Dubai Health Care City is targeted at the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries. This FZ is ideal for investors looking to set up a presence in the UAE to operate one of the following types of entities: i) Dubai Healthcare City free zone (DHCC FZ) ii) Center for Healthcare Planning and Quality (CPQ) iii) Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) iv) Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research (DHFMR);
- The Health Care City has a low registration fee of DHS 3,500;
- The Dubai Health Care City has high licence fees compared to other free zones.
International Humanitarian City
- The International Humanitarian City (IHC) is a global humanitarian and aid hub that aims to facilitate aid and development efforts in the UAE. The IHC is an independent free trade zone authority formed by the Dubai government via the merger of Dubai Aid City (DAC) and Dubai Humanitarian City (DHC);
- The advantages that the IHC provides include i) it is a community of local and international humanitarian non-profit and commercial organisations with common areas of interests ii) a fully integrated environment ideal for networking with potential procurers, suppliers, and business partners iii) exceptional infrastructure and government support iv) modern office, warehousing, and meeting facilities v) a platform for the development and promotion of corporate social responsibility programs vi) the normal FZ benefits such as 100% foreign ownership, repatriation of profits, etc.
Other UAE free zones comparison table
RAK Free Zone Sharjah Airport International FZ (SAIF) Our recommendation in order of preference 1 2 Summary Total Healy Consultants fees (US$) 21,800 29,890 Incorporation time 3 months 3 months Cheapest yearly office rent estimate (US$) 2,000 12,500 Yearly warehouse rent estimate (US$) 25,000 27,000 Paid up share capital estimate for free zone company (US$) 0 41,000 Paid up share capital estimate for free zone establishment (US$) 0 41,000 Virtual office allowed Yes No All shareholders must travel required for company formation No No Legal considerations Minimum number of shareholders 1 1 Minimum number of directors 1 1 Corporate shareholders allowed Yes Yes Corporate directors allowed No No 100% foreign ownership allowed Yes Yes Public register of shareholders and directors No No Tax considerations Exempt of corporate tax on profits Yes Yes Annual tax return to be submitted No No Statutory audit required Yes Yes Access to UAE double tax treaties Yes Yes Other considerations Yes No Types of licenses allowed View PDF View PDF Can rent office premises outside free zones No No Allowed to import raw materials? Yes Yes Allowed to export goods? Yes Yes How long to get work permit approved 4 weeks 4 weeks Free zone work permit fee per person 4,950 4,950 Draft invoice View invoice PDF View invoice PDF
10 steps to setting up a free zone company in Dubai
Industries such as manufacturing, trading, services, and holding companies can benefit from the tax free zones. Healy Consultants will efficiently and effectively project-manage the engagement and keep our Clients apprised with weekly status updates:
- Prior to company incorporation, our Client i) settles Healy Consultants’ Dubai free zone business registration fees ii) signs the Client engagement letter and iii) sends all the requisite due diligence documents;
- Our experts will draft a detailed Dubai free zone company setup project plan which will map out by week every step to engagement completion. This will optimize business transparency and set Client expectations for the incorporation process;
- Healy Consultants assists our Clients determine i) the free zone location ii) type of Dubai business setup and corporate structure iii) what specific business license is needed iv) banking considerations and v) employment visa strategies;
- Healy Consultants i) reserves company name with the free zone authorities and ii) prepares the memorandum and articles of association;
- Next, our Client provides Healy Consultants with the Dubai office lease agreement. If not possible, our firm can offer our Client Dubai virtual office services for 6 months until a proper business place can be arranged;
- Healy Consultants will assist our Client open a Dubai corporate banking account. Our Client will deposit the share capital for their FZ company and provide us with the bank statement certifying the deposit;
- Healy Consultants then i) notarizes all company documents through the UAE embassy ii) produces the required business plan iii) registers the company with the specified authorities;
- The relevant license application is submitted to the specific free zone authorities together with i) the MOA ii) name approval certificate iii) the lease agreement iv) a certificate of initial paid up capital and v) business plan. The process of Dubai FZ incorporation is now complete;
- Healy Consultants will obtain work visas from the Ministry of Labor and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs;
- Following engagement completion, Healy Consultants couriers a full company kit to our Client, including original Dubai corporate documents, unopened bank correspondence, and a feedback survey.
Frequently asked questions
How to register a company in the Dubai free zones?For incorporation of a free zone company in Dubai, Healy Consultants will i) obtain the necessary permissions from the relevant authorities ii) reserve the company name iii) prepare the incorporation documents iv) notarize the documents at the public courts v) apply for the business license vi) register the company for tax purposes and vii) obtain work visas for our Clients and their employees.
What will be the benefits if I start a free zone company in Dubai?Dubai free zone companies offer several benefits including i) no requirement of a resident shareholder i.e. a FZ company can be 100% foreign owned ii) no obligation to hire staff iii) no custom duties on goods entering/leaving the zone and iv) high quality infrastructure.
How many directors will I be required to appoint in order to register in the Dubai free zones?Only one director is required for the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, while 2 directors are required for both the Dubai airport free zone and the Jebel Ali free zone.
How many shareholders are required to incorporate in the Dubai free zones?Only one shareholder is required for starting a company at the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, while 2 shareholders are required setting up a company at both the Dubai airport free zone and the Jebel Ali free zone.