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An Insightful Overview of the Type of Business in UAE for Startups

type of business in uae

Dubai and the wider UAE, owing to their strategic location and forward-thinking economic policies, have consistently ranked as leading hubs for foreign direct investment in the MENA region. This attractiveness stems not just from the nation’s infrastructural prowess but also from its dynamic array of business structures tailored to both budding entrepreneurs and established conglomerates. When considering the type of business in UAE that aligns best with one’s venture, there are several options to explore. In this guide, Choose UAE will delve deeper into the type of business in UAE, ensuring you understand the various entities available and make an informed decision for your entrepreneurial journey.

Overview of the Type of Business in UAE

Sole Proprietorship

This is a one-person enterprise where the individual has full control over the business operations. The advantage is the simplicity and direct control. However, the sole proprietor is personally liable for all business debts and liabilities. Common among professionals in consultancy roles, it’s crucial to understand that the financial risks in this model are borne entirely by the owner.

Civil Company

Civil Companies are formed among professionals in the same field, such as doctors or engineers. This structure promotes collaboration, allowing for a pooling of expertise. It offers more flexibility, as it doesn’t mandate a local Emirati partner.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Historically, LLCs in the UAE required a local sponsor who would own 51% of the business. However, recent changes allow for 100% foreign ownership in certain sectors and areas, making it even more attractive for foreign investors. This structure is versatile, catering to a broad range of business activities, from retail to construction.

Private Shareholding Company

Comprising at least three shareholders, this entity is similar to an LLC but operates on a larger scale, often involving significant capital. The shares of such a company are not open to the public, ensuring more control among the founding members.

Public Shareholding Company

These are large-scale entities, often with numerous shareholders. They can trade their shares on the stock exchange, providing a platform for substantial capital generation and public involvement.

Branch Offices

Allowing foreign companies to establish a direct presence in the UAE, branch offices can operate under the parent company’s name without the need for a local sponsor. However, they do require a local service agent, primarily for administrative purposes.

Representative Offices

Acting as extensions of their parent company, these offices focus on marketing and administrative roles. They cannot undertake commercial activities or generate profits directly in the UAE.

Joint Venture

A partnership between a foreign and local entity, joint ventures provide a balance of local insights and global expertise. The local partner’s involvement is mainly titular, with no mandatory involvement in operations or profit-sharing.

Free Zone Companies

Operating within specific regions known as free zones, these entities reap benefits like 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and streamlined processes. Each free zone is tailored for specific business activities, from technology to healthcare.

Offshore Companies

Perfect for businesses seeking asset protection, tax optimization, and confidentiality, offshore companies are non-resident entities. They can’t operate within the UAE but can engage in international business activities.

Understanding the intricacies of each business type is crucial for successful operations in the UAE. With recent policy changes like the allowance of 100% foreign ownership in certain sectors, the UAE continues to enhance its business-friendly image on the global stage.



Steps in Acquiring a Business License in the UAE

Setting up a business in the UAE is a straightforward process, but it’s essential to follow the necessary steps to ensure compliance with local regulations. Here’s a step-by-step guide on acquiring a business license in the UAE:

1. Choose the Business Activity:
First, determine the nature of your business. The UAE offers a vast range of business activities, each requiring its specific license: commercial, professional, or industrial.

2. Select the Jurisdiction:
Decide whether you want to set up in a free zone or the mainland. Each jurisdiction has its advantages, depending on your business needs and objectives.

3. Choose a Legal Form:
Depending on your nationality, business activity, and chosen jurisdiction, select a legal structure for your business. This could be a sole proprietorship, LLC, branch office, or any of the other forms discussed in the article.

4. Register the Trade Name:
Your business name should reflect the nature of your business and be unique. It’s essential to adhere to the trade name guidelines set by the UAE’s Department of Economic Development (DED).

5. Apply for Initial Approval:
An initial approval certificate allows foreign investors to proceed with the necessary documentation and permissions. It indicates that the DED has no objection to you starting a business and that you can take the next steps to obtain a license.

6. Get External Approvals:
Some business activities require approvals from other governmental departments. For instance, a medical clinic might need permissions from the Health Department.

7. Rent an Office Space:
Based on your license type and the number of visas required, rent a physical office space, or opt for flexi-desks offered by many free zones.

8. Draft the Memorandum of Association (MOA):
Draft an MOA with the assistance of a legal firm. If you’re setting up in the mainland, the MOA needs to be notarized by a Notary Public in a UAE court.

9. Submit the Application:
Provide all the necessary documents and pay the required fees. The list of documents varies based on the chosen legal form and business activity.

10. Receive the License:
Once the DED approves your application, you’ll receive your business license. With this license in hand, you can now proceed with other related processes, such as opening a corporate bank account and applying for visas.

Setting up a business in the UAE requires diligence and an understanding of the local regulations. But with the right guidance and thoroughness, the process can be seamless and efficient.

Business License Cost in the UAE

The cost of obtaining a business license in the UAE can vary significantly based on several factors. Here’s a breakdown to give you a clearer understanding:

1. Type of License
The nature of your business determines the type of license you need – be it commercial, professional, industrial, or tourism. Each license category has its pricing structure.

2. Jurisdiction:
Costs differ between mainland and free zones. Each free zone has its fee structure, which might be influenced by the amenities and services they provide.

3. Legal Form of Business:
Different business structures, like a Limited Liability Company (LLC), sole proprietorship, or joint venture, come with varying costs.

4. Business Activity:
Some business activities, especially those that need special approvals or are of strategic importance, might come with higher licensing fees.

5. Office Space:
The size and location of your rented office space can influence your license cost. Some jurisdictions require businesses to rent a minimum office space to grant a license.

6. Number of Visas:
The more visas you require for your employees, the higher your license cost might be. This is especially true in free zones where package costs might be tied to the number of visas.

7. External Approvals:
Businesses that need approvals from governmental departments outside of the DED might have to pay additional fees.

8. Renewal Fees:
While the initial licensing cost is a significant component, businesses should also account for annual license renewals, which might come with their associated costs.

9. Additional Services:
Availing services like legal consultancy, PRO services, or business setup consultants can add to the overall cost.

Given the variation in costs based on the above factors, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and consult with experts in the field. For a precise and tailored estimate, leveraging tools like Choose UAE’s cost calculator can provide insights into the actual expenses, ensuring there are no hidden surprises.

How Can Choose UAE Help

At Choose UAE, we simplify the intricacies of obtaining a business license in the UAE. Our team of experts guides you through each step, ensuring a hassle-free process tailored to your business needs. Ready to embark on your entrepreneurial journey in the UAE? Contact us today, and let’s get started.

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