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Common Business Terminologies in the UAE

common business terminologies in the uae

Understanding business terminology is crucial for entrepreneurs and business professionals operating in the UAE. Whether you’re starting a new venture or expanding an existing one, knowing the common business terms used in the region can help you navigate the business environment more effectively. Here’s a guide to some of the most common business terminologies in the UAE.

Free Zone

A Free Zone is a designated area in the UAE where businesses can operate with specific benefits such as 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and simplified business setup processes. 


Mainland refers to the geographical area outside the free zones in the UAE. Businesses in the mainland can operate anywhere in the UAE and work with both local and international markets. Many mainland licenses now allow for 100% foreign ownership, but some activities still require a local sponsor.

Trade License

A trade license is mandatory for any business operating in the UAE. It specifies the activities a business is permitted to engage in. The main types of trade licenses include commercial, industrial, and professional licenses.

Commercial License

A commercial license is required for businesses involved in trading activities. This includes buying and selling goods, importing and exporting, and other related commercial activities.

Industrial License

An industrial license is required for businesses engaged in manufacturing or industrial activities. This includes businesses involved in producing, assembling, packaging, and processing goods.

Professional License

A professional license is issued to individuals and companies offering professional services. This includes consultants, accountants, lawyers, and other service providers.

Memorandum of Association (MOA)

The Memorandum of Association (MOA) is a legal document that outlines the company’s structure, purpose, and regulations. It includes details about the shareholders, their rights and responsibilities, and the company’s capital.

Articles of Association (AOA)

The Articles of Association (AOA) is a legal document that defines the internal regulations and management structure of the company. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of directors and other officers, the process for holding meetings, and other governance matters.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is a consumption tax levied on the sale of goods and services in the UAE. The standard VAT rate is 5%. Businesses are required to register for VAT if their annual turnover exceeds a certain threshold and must charge VAT on their taxable supplies.

Economic Substance Regulations (ESR)

The Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) require certain businesses in the UAE to demonstrate substantial economic presence and activities within the country. These regulations aim to prevent harmful tax practices and ensure that businesses engaging in relevant activities have adequate economic substance in the UAE.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a popular business structure in the UAE. It provides limited liability protection to its shareholders, meaning their personal assets are protected from the company’s debts. An LLC requires a minimum of two and a maximum of 50 shareholders.

Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED)

The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) is the government body responsible for regulating and promoting economic activities in Dubai. The DED issues trade licenses, enforces business regulations, and provides support services to businesses.



AML Regulations

AML Regulations refer to the UAE’s laws on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism. These regulations are designed to prevent illegal activities and ensure financial transparency.

Establishment Card

An Establishment Card is an identity card for businesses in Dubai, necessary for obtaining visas, utility services, and bank accounts. It is an essential document for operating legally in the UAE.

EST Regulations

UAE regulations require certain businesses to meet specific economic presence criteria to ensure substantial economic activities within the country. These regulations help in maintaining the economic integrity of the UAE.

FZCO (Free Zone Company)

An FZCO is a limited liability company in a Dubai Free Zone. It allows businesses to operate with the benefits of a free zone, including 100% foreign ownership and tax exemptions.

FZE (Free Zone Establishment)

An FZE is a single-shareholder company within UAE free zones, offering full ownership and control to one individual or corporate entity. It is ideal for solo entrepreneurs or single corporate entities.

FZC (Free Zone Company)

An FZC is a business entity in UAE free zones with multiple shareholders, allowing for a partnership model while maintaining benefits like 100% foreign ownership.

Immigration Law

Immigration Law refers to the legal framework governing residency and employment visas in the UAE. It ensures that foreign nationals comply with visa requirements and regulations.

UBO (Ultimate Beneficial Owner)

UBO refers to the actual owners of a business, as defined in AML regulations. It ensures transparency by identifying individuals who ultimately own or control the company.

Economic Substance Test Compliance

Economic Substance Test Compliance requires businesses in certain sectors to demonstrate substantial economic presence in the UAE. This compliance is crucial for adhering to international tax standards.

Echannel Registration

Echannel Registration applies to non-Dubai free zones. The E-Channel Immigration System is a unified immigration system that allows businesses and individuals to apply for visas, residence, and entry permits through a single online portal.

Local Sponsor

A Local Sponsor is a UAE national holding 51% of a local company’s shares, serving as a liaison with government authorities. This is a requirement for certain mainland businesses in the UAE.

Local Service Agent

A Local Service Agent is a UAE national representing a foreign entrepreneur in business setup, without financial or legal stakes in the company. This is often required for professional licenses.

Labour Card

A Labour Card is issued during the employee visa process, indicating the employee’s license or company as the employer. It is a crucial document for legal employment in the UAE.

How Can Choose UAE Help

At Choose UAE, we specialize in helping businesses navigate the complexities of setting up and operating in the UAE. Our experts provide comprehensive support, from obtaining trade licenses to understanding local regulations and ensuring compliance. Contact us today to learn how we can help you succeed in the UAE’s dynamic business environment.

Understanding these common business terminologies will help you navigate the UAE’s business landscape more effectively, ensuring you make informed decisions and stay compliant with local regulations. Whether you’re starting a new venture or expanding an existing one, familiarizing yourself with these terms will set you up for success.

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