How to set up a company in Dubai as a non-resident

Dubai’s thriving economy and strategic location make it an attractive destination for foreign entrepreneurs. This guide explores how non-residents can establish a company in Dubai, highlighting the benefits and key steps involved.

Key Advantage: Setting Up Without Residency

Unlike some countries, Dubai allows non-residents to set up businesses, primarily through Free Zones. These designated areas offer several advantages, including:

  • 100% Foreign Ownership: You retain complete control of your company without a local sponsor.
  • Tax Benefits: Free Zones often have exemptions on corporate and personal income tax, import and export duties.
  • Streamlined Business Setup: Free Zones facilitate the process with quicker approvals compared to the Mainland.

Free Zones vs. Mainland

While Free Zones offer significant benefits for non-residents, there are two main options to consider:

  • Free Zones: Ideal for most non-residents seeking full ownership and tax advantages. However, each Free Zone caters to specific industries and may have limitations on operating within the wider UAE.
  • Mainland: If your business requires operating throughout the UAE, you’ll need a local sponsor who owns 51% of the shares. A residence visa is typically required for this option.

Steps to Establishing a Company in a Free Zone

The process can be streamlined, but following these steps ensures a smooth experience:


  1. Choose a Business Activity: Identify your core business activities. Dubai offers a vast selection, impacting the type of license you need.
  2. Select a Free Zone: Research Free Zones based on your industry, location preference, and offered benefits.

Company Formation:

  1. Partner with a Business Formation Specialist: Consider partnering with a company like Trade License Zone to navigate the process efficiently.
  2. Finalize Business Structure: Choose a legal structure like a Limited Liability Company (LLC) based on your needs.
  3. Draft the Memorandum of Association (MOA): This document outlines shareholder relationships (especially for LLCs).

Registration and Licensing:

  1. Apply for a Trade License: The specific license depends on your business activity.
  2. Obtain Initial Approval: Secure a no-objection certificate from the Free Zone authority.
  3. Finalize Registration: Submit required documents, pay fees, and register your company with the Free Zone.
  4. Collect Your Trade License: This official document allows you to operate your business.

Required Documentation

While specifics may vary, here are some common documents required:

  • Business Plan (optional but recommended)
  • Passport copies of shareholders, directors, and appointed manager
  • No Objection Certificate (if shareholders/directors are UAE residents)
  • Company name reservation certificate
  • Initial approval certificate
  • Memorandum of Association (for LLCs)
  • Tenancy agreement (if applicable)
  • License fee receipt

Benefits of Setting Up in Dubai

Beyond Free Zone advantages, Dubai offers several benefits for non-residents:

  • Strategic Location: Dubai acts as a gateway to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
  • World-Class Infrastructure: Dubai boasts advanced infrastructure, including high-speed internet, efficient transportation networks, and world-class logistics hubs.
  • Skilled Workforce: Dubai attracts a diverse and highly skilled workforce.

Partnering with Trade License Zone

Trade License Zone can simplify the company formation process for non-residents by:

  • Streamlining Paperwork: They ensure all documents are submitted correctly, minimizing delays.
  • Expert Guidance: They offer tailored advice based on your specific business needs.
  • Compliance Support: They assist with navigating regulations and cultural nuances of doing business in Dubai.

By understanding the Free Zone system, the key steps involved, and the benefits of operating in Dubai, non-residents can leverage this pro-business environment to establish and grow their companies.

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