Business SetupHow Can Foreigners Start A Business In Dubai

Dubai, being one of the largest business locales in the world attracts entrepreneurs from all around the world as they seek or create business opportunities for themselves. Foreigners looking to start a business in Dubai can be credited to the government initiatives and policies that are business-friendly. Low tax rates, free zones for locating your business, and newer policies introduced timely are some of the major factors that encourage businessmen to start a business in Dubai. The culture that encourages innovation, technology and the economy that grows more and more every day, the leadership as well as infrastructure makes Dubai a conducive place to start a business. If you’re looking for business opportunities in the market, here is a detailed outline of the basics of how to start a business in Dubai as a foreigner.  

1. The legal structure of your company  

When you’re starting a business in UAE as a foreigner, one of the first things you have to do is lock down a legal structure or corporate structure for your company. This includes mapping out the purpose of your business, the model of your business, the nature, the operational aspects and more.  

Some of the corporate structures you can choose from, as a foreigner, are: 

Limited Liability Company 

Each shareholder in an LLC must be accountable only for their percentage of share. There can be shareholders anywhere between two and fifty people and profits and losses likewise are divided between shareholders as per their holdings in the company. It is essential to note that 51% of the shares need to be owned by a UAE national and that an LLC with seven partners and above is obligated to appoint a board with at least three of the shareholders of the company. The local Emirati provides their services for an annual fee and is a silent sponsor for the company. This model is preferred in Dubai as it allows businesses to flow locally and internationally as well. Moreover, processes are much smoother for visas, immigration for employees etc with regard to this model.  

Sole Proprietorship  

This model allows for complete ownership of the business of a foreign national in Dubai. While all nationalities can create a sole establishment or company, only UAE and GCC nationals are allowed to have an industrial or commercial company.  

Foreign Branch 

Another way how you can start a business in Dubai as a foreigner is by branching out your current company in the UAE, this will be completely owned by the parent company. The goods, however, must be imported through a local firm. 


2. Registering your business  

If you’re starting a business in Dubai as a foreigner, you will need to first choose a name for your business. This is the first step in getting your business registered. Consult with a Free Zone Authority or the DED to determine the guidelines for naming your company. UAE laws about trading names are quite specific, and must not violate any terms by any means, or should not be previously registered. The name of the business must also comply with the nature of the business.  

If your company is located in a Free Zone, your application needs to be submitted directly to the zone your company is in. This also depends on the activity of your business.  

3. Finding a location for your company  

Free Zone Company  

While trying to locate your business in Dubai as a foreigner, choosing a free zone can come with its own set of requirements. For instance, businesses operating from a free zone need to have two to five stakeholders, and trading cannot be done directly with the UAE market. There are additional requirements to be fulfilled to do so.  


Starting a business in UAE as a foreigner and operating from the mainland in Dubai, allows you to trade within local and international markets. Moreover, it is easier to get a licence for a company located on the mainland. You can get your licence in one day. 


4. Trade licences  

There are four types of trade licences you can apply for while starting a business in UAE as a foreigner. 

  • Professional licence – For a service-oriented company  
  • Commercial licence – For a trade-oriented business  
  • Industrial licence – For a manufacturing or packaging oriented company  
  • Tourism licence – For a tourism-oriented business  

Other than the latter, all licences are issued by the DED or the Department of Economic Development. For a tourism licence, you additionally will need a licence from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) Businesses of specific natures in Dubai need to acquire approval from various relevant government agencies as such. You also need to rent a space in a specific area in order to carry out your company’s daily functioning.  

Looking for in-depth consulting on starting a business in Dubai? OnTime has helped set up business in Dubai for foreigners without the hassle of running around for processing paperwork, any hurdles in licencing or finding vendors or more. Get expert guidance on how to set up your business in the UAE as a foreigner at  

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