How to register a company in UAE in 2023
Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group has efficiently and effectively assisted our Clients with UAE company registration. We project manage and advise on i) registering a company; ii) obtaining municipal and operating licences; iii) corporate banking options; iv) visa applications; v) supplying UAE service agents and/or local partners; vi) employee recruitment strategies; and vii) office space rental solutions.
Popular business entities in UAE
|Summary||Trading LLC||Pro. services LLC||Fast solution LLC||Offshore company||Free zone LLC||Branch office|
|Specifically||Dubai trading LLC||Dubai services LLC||Dubai nominee LLC||RAK offshore LLC||DMCC Free zone||Abu Dhabi Branch|
|Best use of company?||Trading||Professional services||Close a customer||International trading||Global trading||Specific project|
|Our Client needs to travel to this country?||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|How soon can you sales invoice UAE customers?||2 months||2 months||3 weeks||Cannot trade locally||2 months||2 months|
|How soon can you sales invoice global customers?||2 months||2 months||3 weeks||2 weeks||2 months||2 months|
|How soon can you sign legal contracts in UAE?||2 months||2 months||3 weeks||Cannot||2 months||2 months|
|How soon can you hire staff in UAE?||2 months||2 months||3 weeks||Cannot hire locally||2 months||2 months|
|Can be wholly foreign owned?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Resident director/partner/manager/agent required?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Minimum paid up share capital?||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1||US$1||0|
|Can bid for Government contracts?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Corporate bank account location?||Emirates NBD||ADIB||First Abu Dhabi Bank||Emirates NBD||First Abu Dhabi Bank||ADCB|
|Can secure trade finance?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Limited liability entity?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Average total engagement costs?||US$28,660||US$22,980||US$38,500||US$15,401||US$30,124||US$37,400|
|Average total engagement period?||3 months||3 months||1 month||2 months||3 months||2 months|
Advantages and disadvantages of doing business in UAE
- UAE is a low-tax jurisdiction
Except oil and gas companies and foreign banks, businesses are not subject to corporate taxes. All UAE residents are also exempt from personal income taxes. Capital gains tax is 0% and the VAT rate is as low as 5%.
- 100% foreign ownership for free zone companies
Unlike limited liability trading companies that require 51% shareholding by UAE nationals, a company incorporated in any of the UAE free zones can be wholly owned by foreigners.
- UAE is the leading trading hub in the Middle East
Due to its strategically favourable location, establishing a company in the UAE enables businesses to easily access the GCC countries as well as the African, European and Asian markets.
- A local sponsor is mandatory
Partnership with trusted UAE nationals are beneficial as they can sponsor the application of business licenses and visas. In the case of LLC trading company formation, UAE nationals must hold at least 51% of company shares.
- Making business decisions can be overwhelming
With so many free zones operating in the UAE, choosing the right free zone for your company base is crucial, but is setting up a free zone company your best option? Will it be wiser to register an offshore company, or perhaps a resident LLC, to reach your business goals?
- Complicated compliance requirements
Each Emirate has its own regulations. A company registered in the UAE has to comply with the national laws and the Emirate’s laws. If it is a free zone company, it must comply with the free zone laws as well.
- In 2020, the UAE introduced new regulations requiring all UAE companies to maintain and submit registers of their i) Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) or Real Beneficiaries ii) shareholders and iii) directors. Fortunately, information contained within company registers is kept confidential by the authorities.
- UAE is a low-tax jurisdiction
Typical UAE engagement steps and timeline
Typical UAE engagement steps
The procedure for company formation in the UAE varies for each Emirate. Below are the common steps to register a company in the UAE:
- Find a trusted local sponsor;
- Translate all corporate documents in Arabic and get them attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Obtain a preliminary approval from Department of Economic Development (DED) or Free Zone authority of the Emirate;
- Secure business premise and open corporate bank account;
- Apply for trade license, industrial license or professional license;
Typical UAE engagement timelineStartEngagement Planning
2 weeksCompany incorporation
2 monthsCorporate bank account approval
1.5 monthsCorporate internet banking approval
1 monthEngagement completion
1 week5 months
Additional support services
Opening a corporate bank account in UAE
UAE accounting & tax considerations
corporate tax from 1 June 20230%
income tax for residents
capital gains tax0%
Long term residence visa
UAE issues 5-year and 10-year residence visas to eligible investors, entrepreneurs, and special talents. The benefits of this visa are extended to the spouse and the children as well.
Company owners can apply for this visa when hiring foreign employees.
Frequently asked questions
Will there be restrictions on ownership if foreigners set up a UAE company?
Certain UAE business entities will require our Clients to appoint Emirati shareholder(s). Therefore, if you wish to proceed with UAE business setup, it is important to choose the optimal business entity to suit your corporate needs.
What company types in the UAE require me to have UAE national shareholders?
These UAE corporate structures will include i) joint ventures; ii) limited liability trading companies; iii) public shareholding companies and iv) private shareholding companies.
How many UAE resident shareholders will I need to set up a limited liability company in the UAE for my business?
UAE business setup will require 51% shareholding by the UAE citizen(s).
Can my company be 100% foreign-owned?
Yes, if incorporating in a UAE free trade zone.
I want to know how to register a company in the UAE free trade zone; what are the steps?
For incorporation of a free zone entity in the UAE, 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 VAT (if required); and vii) obtain work visas for our Clients and their employees.
What will be the benefits if I start a free zone entity in UAE?
UAE 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 customs 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 a UAE free trade zone?
Only 1 director is required for UAE free zone company formation.
How many shareholders are required to incorporate in a UAE free trade zone?
Only 1 shareholder is required for starting a free zone entity in UAE.
Am I required to visit UAE to incorporate a company there?
No, Healy Consultants can legally incorporate your UAE company without you needing to travel.
I want to form a company in Dubai. How can I find an agent in Dubai?
Healy Consultants will assist our Clients in finding the right agents based on their business activities and requirements in Dubai.
What is the minimum number of directors required?
Under statutory regulations, all jurisdictions in the UAE require a minimum of one director.
Is a resident director required?
What is the minimum number of shareholders required?
All companies require a minimum of one shareholder.
Are shareholder/director details available for public viewing?
Which type of company can trade in the UAE?
Only an LLC is allowed to trade in the UAE.
Do I need to rent a premise for my company?
All companies except Dubai offshore company needs to rent premises in the UAE.
How can I register a tax-free UAE offshore business?
In order to incorporate a UAE offshore business setup, our Clients will be required to i) reserve the business name; ii) prepare the incorporation documents; iii) register a UAE offshore business address; vi) notarize the documents; and vii) secure a business license.
How many shareholders are required for an offshore company in UAE?
Only 1 shareholder is required for starting an offshore company in UAE.
Will I be required to get a full audit if I set up a small business in UAE?
Yes, most of the entities will require an audited financial statements.
What are the tax implications of a UAE company setup?
Most of the UAE registered companies are exempted for taxes in UAE. Depending on the volume and nature of the business, some companies are liable for VAT and/or customs duties.
Why is tax planning important for my UAE company?
UAE tax legislation allows a company to be completely exempt of all taxes, if structured properly. Therefore, it is important that our Clients engage in proper tax planning. Healy Consultants offers professional corporate tax planning service to all our Clients wishing to incorporate in the UAE.
Is a UAE company required to submit an annual tax return and/or financial statement?
All companies in the UAE are obliged to submit annual audited accounts to the government.
How much tax does a UAE company pay?
There is no corporation tax in the UAE.
I am interested in UAE business banking solutions. Which banks would you recommend?
Although several local UAE business bank account options will be available, Healy Consultants recommends that all our Clients opt for international banks including i) Emirates NBD; ii) First Abu Dhabi Bank; iv) Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank; v) HSBC Middle East UAE; vi) BNP Paribas Dubai. These banks are renowned for providing good customer service, which will be essential when starting a new business in UAE.
I want to know how to open an offshore bank account in UAE; what do I need to do?
For opening an offshore bank account in the UAE, our Clients will not be required to register a local company. However, the KYC procedures will be more stringent than when opening a bank account for a resident company. Attestation documents will also be required. Please refer to our section above to read our bank account opening guide for UAE companies.
I want to use Islamic Banking services in UAE. Can Healy Consultants help my firm?
Yes, Healy Consultants can assist our Clients with their Islamic banking needs.
How long will a UAE residence visa be issued for business purposes?
UAE business residence permit are typically issued for 2 to 3 years.
Within 1 business day, our international migration expert Mr. Simon will ring you to discuss your migration plans.