A short guide to open a business in United Arab Emirates

Steps to start a business on the UAE

We present you a short guide for a company or investors that wants to establish his company in UAE. You can easily apply online to start your own business on the UAE within 15 minutes at the most, means that UAE have an efficient and fast procedures. But be careful, starting a business in ordinary ways requires a series of steps, procedures and approvals from the Economic Department and other government entities.

Start you journey to establish your business in the UAE!

Starting a business online

First of all you need to know that the UAE Government introduced the Bashr service an integrated eService, which permits the investors to establish their businesses in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi Business Centre provides you with an instant licence service to start you businesses online and get the commercial licence without need to visit the service centre. you can Apply for an instant licence in Abu Dhabi.

Keep this in mind, one of the best things in UAE is the Virtual Commercial City programme (VCC) which permit entrepreneurs and freelancers across the world to start a virtual company in the UAE even if they do not live in the UAE. Read more about the Dubai Virtual Commercial City programme (VCC).

1. Identify business activity

Your business activity is the base for selecting the legal form and type of licence, whether commercial, industrial or professional. Find here the six types of licences.

2. Select the legal form

You have many options regrading the legal form of your business in UAE you can select one of these legal forms:

  • General partnership
  • Limited partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Public joint stock company (PJSC)
  • Private joint stock company (PrJSC)
  • Civil company
  • Local company branch
  • GCC company branch
  • Foreign company branch
  • Free zone company branch
  • Sole establishment
  • Holding companies.

4. Select your trade name

A trade name distinguishes one business from another. It also reflects the nature and the form of the business. You can apply for the trade name through the economic department in each emirate, through its website or mobile application.

your trade name must:

  • be followed by the business structure acronym (legal form of the company) such as: LLC, EST, PJSC, PrJSC.
  • not violate the public morals or the public order of the country.
  • be compatible with the required type of activity and the legal status of the company or business entity.
  • not contain names of any religion, or governing authority, nor names or logos of any external bodies.
  • not have been previously registered.

During the application process, you will be issued a payment voucher or a transaction number, which you will need to use as a reference when you pay.

5. You are near if you get an initial approval

If you get an initial approval means that the UAE Government has no objection for the business to be established in the country, congratulations but your journey did not finish yet even if It also allows you to proceed with the next steps in setting up a business, it does not grant the authority to run or practice the business activity.

Remember! You must obtain the approval of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs before getting the initial approval.

6. The importance of the MOA and the LSA

You need a completed and signed Memorandum of association (MoA) or a local service agent agreement (LSA). The memorandum of association is required for the following business legal forms:

  • Limited partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Public joint stock company (PJSC)
  • Private joint stock company (PrJSC).

7. Select a business location

All businesses in the UAE must have a physical address to operate. The business premises and location must comply with the requirements defined by the respective emirate’s Department of Economic Development, as well as the land planning regulations of the local municipalities.

Office and warehouse rental agreement must be provided in your application. Some emirates require the agreements to be attested. In Dubai, the agreement must be registered with Ejari.

9. Get additional government approvals

In some cases, additional approvals from government entities governing certain business activities are required. You will find several examples of such activities sorted by ministry:

Ministry of Interior

Ministry of Interior issues approvals for activities related to general transport – driving schools, fire equipment, alarm and safety systems, used-car dealers, used auto-parts, car rental.

Ministry of Justice

Legal activities and legal consultancy

Local municipal department

Architectural and engineering affairs

Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA)

Telecommunication activities

Executive Council

Travel and tourism, general services, charter trading, ship and maritime agencies, car clubs, charter air transport and foreign company branches

Ministry of Economy

Insurance activities and insurance consultancy

Local health departments

Health-related activities

Supreme Petroleum Council

Onshore and offshore gas and oil-field services and onshore and offshore oil drilling operations

10. Collect the business licence

After you completed the above steps, you should collect the business licence from service centres of the economic departments or through their websites.

This are all the documents required for getting a licence for all legal forms:

  • Initial approval receipt and all the previously-submitted documents
  • Copy of the lease contract duly attested by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) in Dubai
  • Duly attested memorandum of association (for all types of companies)
  • Approvals from other government entities concerned, as may be required
  • Duly attested service agent contract (for civil establishments and companies that are 100% owned by non-GCC nationals), the UAE involving a local service agent.

Finally, we recommend you to check the following official websites of local economic authorities:

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