Business entities in Dubai

Dubai business setup options for different business entity typesSetting up a business in Dubai is complex and time-consuming for foreigners. Like other Emirates in the UAE, Dubai indeed implements restrictions on foreign-ownership except in the free zones. Foreigners are additionally required to find local sponsors, appoint local lawyers and secure costly licenses when registering a local company. For these reasons, we usually recommend our Clients to form Dubai free zone companies or to use alternative expansion strategies such as appointing a local distributor.

  • Doing business in Dubai with a locally registered entity

    • The Dubai free zone company

      • The best strategy to legally avoid the requirement to form a joint venture in Dubai is to register a company in a Dubai free zone. Such entity can be registered with i) only one shareholder; ii) one director, who can be a foreigner and does not need to be resident in Dubai and iii) a lease agreement for office, warehousing or industrial space within the free zone;
      • Healy Consultants Group will assist our Clients to find the optimal Dubai free zone corresponding to the nature of their business and to the type and size of their operations. Kindly refer to our fee page for further details on the different types of free zones available in Dubai;
      • Dubai business entities are legally exempt from corporate income tax, which does not exist in Dubai on both local and foreign sourced income. However, our Clients willing to trade with Dubai residents will be required to appoint a local sponsor before being allowed to do so. Healy Consultants Group can assist to complete such appointment if required;
      • All companies registered in the UAE must i) create and maintain a register of their ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) and ii) submit UBO data to the relevant registrar or licensing authority
      • Best uses: Dubai Free Zone Company is an attractive vehicle to legally minimize international taxation. Setup company in Dubai free zone companies will allow our Clients to conduct business with international customers and suppliers as well as with other UAE free zone companies without the need of an Emirati partner.
    • The Dubai offshore company

      • The Dubai offshore entity is the quickest and most cost-effective way to enter the country;
      • Is suitable for those Clients looking to conduct international business only;
      • This entity cannot rent office premises within UAE, sponsor employee visas, import/export products to/from UAE nor issue invoices to UAE Clients;
      • For more information re the Dubai offshore entities, refer to this webpage.
    • The Dubai limited liability company

      • Foreign investors can form a local limited liability company in Dubai to provide professional services including legal and accounting consultancy, IT and management consultancy, and marketing consultancy. In such industries, the company can be wholly foreign-owned (but still require appointing a local sponsor);
      • In other industries, the Dubai authorities require foreigners to form a joint venture with a UAE national, who must hold at least 51% of the shares of the entity. For this reason, Healy Consultants Group usually recommends our Clients to register a company in a free zone, where such requirement does not apply;
      • Before Healy Consultants Group can complete incorporation of the company, our Clients must also sign a lease agreement for physical office space within Dubai. We can assist our Clients to find a quality office (for example shared office space) whenever required;
      • All companies registered in the UAE must i) create and maintain a register of their ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) and ii) submit UBO data to the relevant registrar or licensing authority;
      • Best uses: registering a Dubai LLC is suitable for those Clients i) in need to issue invoices, import and deliver products to UAE mainland customers or ii) that have a reliable joint venture partner who is an Emirati national.
  • Doing business in Dubai with a foreign entity

    • The Dubai branch office

      • Establishing a Branch is one of the safest ways to enter the region as it allows our Client to retain 100% foreign company ownership in UAE. That said, the appointment of a UAE national agent (click here) is required;
      • A Dubai Branch operates under the same name and is authorized to conduct the same business activity as its parent company. A branch can i) lease office premises ii) issue sales invoice to UAE and international Clients and iii) sign local legal contracts.
      • A branch cannot engage in manufacturing, import nor export of products to/from the United Arab Emirates.
      • Best uses: registering a branch in Dubai is advisable for service entities looking to conduct business locally.
    • The Dubai representative office

      • Dubai representative office is only allowed to engage in activities such as i) promoting the business of the parent company and ii) market research. Procedures and requirements to register a representative office in Dubai is similar to those applying to a branch.
      • Best uses: a representative office recommended to our Clients who are willing to prospect the UAE market, without running yet commercial operations.
  • Dubai licensing considerations

    • All companies registered in Dubai are required to obtain at least one operating license, even if they are registered in a free zone. The three types of business licenses in Dubai:
      • Commercial licenses – to conduct commercial operations and invoice customers;
      • Industrial licenses – to conduct productive operations, such as manufacturing or re-packaging products;
      • Professional licenses – to offer professional services, such as consultancy, accountancy or law services.
    • All licenses must be renewed every year;
    • Such operational licenses are not to be confused with regulatory licenses which may be required to provide/produce certain types of products and services, such as banking services for which a banking license must be granted by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates.
  • Doing business in Dubai without a local company

    • To minimize business setup costs, our Client can alternatively sign an agreement with a local partner who will distribute their products, hire local staff act as their company representative in Dubai and provide other corporate services which may be required for the specific business purpose seek by our Client;
    • Healy Consultants Group will assist our Clients to sign a quality agreement by i) sourcing different quality potential business partners who have the experience and network of contacts needed by our Client ii) conduct due diligence on the top candidates iii) draft a legal agreement protecting our Client’s interest and iv) negotiate the best possible fees for the services rendered by the local partner;
    • For additional information on this alternative strategy, kindly refer to our agents, distributors and sponsor page.
  • Table of comparison between different Dubai entities

     LLCFree zoneBranchRep officeOffshore
    Also known as:Dubai LLCDubai Free ZonesDubai Branch officeDubai ROJebel Ali Offshore
    How long to set the company up?2 months2 months3 months2 months2 weeks
    How long to open company bank account?5 weeks5 weeks5 weeks5 weeks6 weeks
    Legal liability?LimitedLimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedLimited
    Minimum shareholders?11Parent companyParent company1
    Wholly foreign owned?Yes, a professional service LLCYesYesYesYes
    Minimum share capital for registration?US$1variesUS$1US$1US$1
    File annual tax return?YesYesYesYesNo
    Corporate bank account options?ADIBNoor BankEmirates IslamicADIBEmirates NBD
    Does our Client need to travel?NoNoNoNoNo
    Resident director required?NoNoNoNoYes
    Local shareholder required?YesNoNoNoNo
    Local sponsor required?YesNoNoNoNo
    Minimum directors allowed?11112
    Corporate shareholders allowed?YesYesYesYesYes
    Individual shareholders allowed?YesYesNoNoYes
    Dubai corporate tax rate?0%0%0%0%0%
    Annual financial statements required?YesYesYesYesNo
    Statutory audit required?YesYesNoNoNo
    Allowed to issue sales invoices in Dubai?YesYesYesNoNo
    Allowed to sign contracts with UAE entities?YesYesYesYesNo
    Allowed to import and export goods?YesYesUsually noNoNo
    Can rent an office in Dubai?YesYesYesYesNo
    Can buy UAE property?YesYesYesNoYes
    Can own equity in other UAE companies?YesYesYesNoYes
    Total Dubai business setup costs in Yr. 1US$22,980US$25,550US$35,450US$26,200US$18,300
    Subsequent annual costs (excl. accounting and tax fee)US$4,900US$6,520US$8,300US$4,900US$7,450
    Sample engagement fee invoiceView invoice PDFView invoice PDFView invoice PDFView invoice PDFView invoice PDF

Latest information as of 2021

Contact us

For additional information on our business setup services in Dubai, please contact our in-house country expert, Ms. Chrissi Zamora, directly:
client relationship officer - Chrissi