How to Start a Business in Dubai?

How to Start a Business in Dubai

How to Start a Business in Dubai?

Venturing into the exhilarating realm of starting a new business in Dubai, whether within its captivating embrace or in any corner of the world, is an extraordinary choice. It orchestrates meticulous planning, visionary conceptualisation, scholarly research, astute budgeting, meticulous setup, and resolute decision-making, among other vital components.

Moreover, it summons the compass of expert guidance and assistance to navigate the intricate path of selecting the perfect trade licence, particularly for aspiring entrepreneurs. Fear not, for within these words lies the gateway to unravel the essential steps towards launching a thriving business in the radiant landscape of Dubai, UAE. 

The UAE stands as a sought-after haven for investors and entrepreneurs alike. Not only does it extend a warm welcome to those seeking fruitful opportunities, but its favourable tax policies and business-friendly environment have fortified its position as a thriving business hub in the heart of the Middle East.

Moreover, the government has diligently established rules and regulations that nurture and support the aspirations of business owners, further enhancing the entrepreneurial landscape.  

The key insights to start a business in Dubai 

Important points before you start a new business in Dubai. Let us delve into each element and equip you for a successful journey ahead. 

Economic Zone: Free Zones vs Mainland 

Choosing your path: Weighing the Free Zone and Mainland options before your business setup. Explore the unique advantages and specifications of each, allowing you to make an informed decision aligned with your specific requirements. 

Free Zone  

Exploring Dubai’s Free Zones for 100% company ownership. These specialised economic zones, ingeniously created by the Dubai government, entice foreign investment and grant business owners the freedom they seek.

Embrace full ownership, and relish a 9% corporate tax rate (applicable to UAE businesses with profits exceeding AED 375,000). Revel in the absence of personal income tax. Yet, be aware that conducting direct trade with the local UAE market is prohibited within free zones.

Dubai boasts a diverse array of over 30 free zones, each tailored to specific industries and granting licences accordingly. Here are a few examples: 

  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) 
  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) 
  • Dubai Internet City (DIC)  
  • IFZA 
  • RAKEZ 


In the Mainland, collaboration and networking opportunities abound. Being part of the larger business ecosystem allows entrepreneurs to forge valuable partnerships with local suppliers, distributors, and service providers.

The Mainland acts as a melting pot of diverse industries, creating a fertile ground for cross-sector collaborations and synergies. This collaborative spirit opens doors to new growth avenues, expands market reach, and nurtures the exchange of ideas and expertise. 

Types of License  

The three main types of licenses are offered by the Department of Economic Development (DED). As you mark your business journey, in addition to selecting a zone, you must also determine the specific license type required to propel your aspirations forward. 

Commercial license 

Securing a commercial license for your Dubai-based trading venture. For businesses engaged in the dynamic realms of import-export, sales, logistics, travel and tourism, general stores, and real estate, obtaining a commercial license is the key that unlocks endless opportunities. Prepare to mark on your trading odyssey with the appropriate license in hand. 

Industrial license 

Acquiring a manufacturing license for your Dubai-based enterprise. If your business involves the transformative magic of turning raw materials into exquisite final products, whether, through manual craftsmanship or mechanical prowess, a manufacturing licence is your gateway to success. Embrace the realm of textile manufacturing, metal fabrication, paper production, and beyond as you start on a journey of innovation and craftsmanship. 

Professional license 

If you are a skilled service provider, an artisan with creative flair, or a dedicated craftsman, the professional license awaits to showcase your talents. From medical services and beauty salons to repair services and beyond, this licence paves the way for your professional journey in Dubai’s bustling market. Embrace the opportunity to transform your expertise into a thriving enterprise. 


One of the most enticing advantages of establishing your entity in a free zone and Mainland is the absence of a requirement for a local sponsor. In this realm of boundless possibilities, you can realise your dream of 100% foreign ownership without the necessity of a UAE national as a partner or sponsor. Enjoy the autonomy to shape your business destiny without constraints.  

Why Start a Business in Dubai? 

Dubai and the UAE extend a warm embrace to entrepreneurs worldwide. Last year witnessed a remarkable surge, with over 20,000 new businesses taking flight in Dubai alone. It comes as no surprise that ambitious overseas entrepreneurs initiated a significant portion of these ventures. With foreign nationals comprising approximately 80% to 90% of the UAE’s workforce, the nation stands as a global melting pot of talent and opportunity. 

Discover the myriad reasons that draw countless entrepreneurs from around the globe to the UAE and Dubai in pursuit of their business dreams. Delve into the captivating array of main benefits that await: 

  • Low tax: Revel in the UAE’s remarkable tax landscape, where both personal and corporate incomes enjoy the luxury of a 0% tax rate. While it’s important to note the introduction of VAT in January 2018, set at a modest flat rate of 5%, the overall tax burden remains remarkably low, amplifying the allure of doing business in the Emirates. 
  • Economic vitality: Behold the Emirates, the proud dwelling of the Arab world’s second-largest economy. With a robust GDP of approximately AED 692 billion, trailing only behind Saudi Arabia, its grandeur knows no bounds. This thriving economic landscape embodies not only size but diversity, presenting boundless opportunities across a spectrum of industries. Whether venturing into healthcare, hospitality, technology, or trade, the stage is set for entrepreneurs to forge their path and thrive in this vibrant economic realm. 
  • The exceptional quality of life: Revel in the UAE’s noteworthy position, ranked 23rd in the esteemed Best Countries Index. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with nations like Spain and Ireland and surpassing the likes of Portugal and Greece, the UAE offers an enviable standard of living. Prepare to immerse yourself in a realm of boundless opportunities, where a remarkable quality of life awaits your entrepreneurial spirit. 
  • Igniting startup success: Within the Emirates, a flourishing ecosystem of startup incubators and funding initiatives await, dedicated to propelling business growth at an accelerated pace. Prepare to tap into a wealth of support and resources as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey in the vibrant landscape of the UAE.

If the prospects of starting a new business in Dubai pique your interest, you stand alongside a multitude of aspiring entrepreneurs. The process of company formation in Dubai can be navigated with ease when you adhere to the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide.  

How to Start a Business in UAE? 

While starting a new business in Dubai is already deemed comparatively easier, the experienced professionals at Shuraa Business Setup take it a step further. With their expertise, creating a business account becomes a seamless process, alleviating any complexities.

Moreover, they diligently handle the intricate paperwork and other crucial matters on your behalf, allowing you to focus on what truly matters – bringing your entrepreneurial vision to life. 

Select a business activity

Prior to opening a company in Dubai, conduct meticulous research to assess the feasibility and profitability of your venture. Armed with these insights, you can confidently determine the opportune moment to commence your business in the captivating landscape of Dubai, UAE. 

Select the jurisdiction

Within the UAE market, you will encounter a splendid array of economic zones, each with its distinctive charm—Mainland, Free Zone, and Offshore. These distinguished jurisdictions encompass a unique tapestry of laws and regulations specifically crafted for business setup.

Tailored to cater to diverse business needs, selecting the ideal jurisdiction for your venture hinges upon careful consideration of your business requirements and the nature of your chosen business activity. Prepare to undertake a transformative journey, where the perfect jurisdiction awaits to nurture and elevate your entrepreneurial aspirations. 

Finalise the company structure/legal form

The choice of legal form for your company stands as a pivotal decision. It lays the foundation for managing profits, losses, and resource allocation, while shaping the overall structure of your enterprise. During the initial stages of planning, make a definitive choice regarding your company’s legal form, as it serves as a guiding framework for your organization.

Be mindful that your business licence application hinges upon this crucial decision. Explore the diverse array of legal forms and company structures available to register your business in the UAE, each holding unique potential for your entrepreneurial aspirations.  

  • Limited liability company (LLC) 
  • Sole Establishment 
  • Civil company 
  • Foreign company branch 
  • Free zone company branch 

Get approval for your company name and activity

Prior to advancing with your company’s setup process in the UAE, it is imperative to obtain the seal of approval from the Department of Economic Development (DED) for your chosen trade name. During this pivotal stage, not only does your company name undergo scrutiny, but your selected business activity also awaits approval.

Once these crucial approvals are secured, you will mark on submitting the necessary documentation to apply for your esteemed UAE trade license, marking the commencement of your enthralling journey towards opening a remarkable company in the vibrant realm of Dubai. 

Apply for your trade license

There are three types of licenses in the UAE, also called business licenses, that you can choose from: 

Should your entrepreneurial aspirations lead you to the bustling UAE mainland, rest assured that you can apply for any of these esteemed trade licenses. However, it’s important to note that the licensing structure within the UAE free zones operates under a distinct framework, intricately tied to the specific business activity your esteemed company chooses to undertake. Embrace the diverse licensing landscape, where possibilities abound, paving the way for your business to flourish in the radiant embrace of the UAE. 

Register your company

Registering your company and obtaining the necessary licenses are intertwined processes, yet they traverse a series of distinct stages, encompassing meticulous documentation and requisite approvals from pertinent government entities as stipulated by the Department of Economic Development.

Embrace the journey with diligence, ensuring compliance with specific document requirements tailored to your unique company type and business activity. Let the orchestration of regulatory harmonies guide you toward a successful business establishment in the vibrant landscape of the UAE. 

Find a local agent (if required)

In the past, starting a new business in Dubai necessitated the compulsory involvement of a local partner, exclusively an Emirati national. The quest for a reliable local agent could be arduous, particularly for ambitious entrepreneurs seeking to tackle on their Dubai business startup journey. However, fear not, for the advent of business setup consultants brings forth a transformative solution.

By leveraging their expertise, these consultants can connect you with companies offering corporate sponsorship, granting you documented authority and the invaluable privilege of 100% ownership over your thriving business empire. Embrace the liberation, as the path to success in Dubai’s entrepreneurial realm unfolds before you. 

Get your external approvals

DED may request additional approvals from other government or non-government agencies, depending on your business activity. For instance, some businesses may be asked to get approvals from the municipality, specific banks, embassies, etc. 

Obtaining Ejari and Tenancy Contract for Office Setup in Dubai

When setting up your business in Dubai, it is essential to secure an Ejari, which is a tenancy contract governed by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). The Ejari serves as the agreement between you and the real estate agent for the office unit or shared workspace you intend to rent. This online system ensures fairness and transparency in the tenancy process, protecting the rights of both parties involved. 

Having a valid Ejari is crucial for various reasons. Firstly, it is required for visa applications and renewals for both your family members and employees. Additionally, it establishes legal compliance and helps create a stable operating environment within the boundaries of Dubai’s real estate regulations. 

Make sure to submit the tenancy contract and the necessary documents to activate your Ejari account. By obtaining Ejari, you can proceed with confidence in your office setup, ensuring a smooth and compliant transition into the Dubai business landscape. 

Get the initial approval

Before getting your business license to start a new business in Dubai, you must get initial approval from DED. This approval indicates that the UAE government does not object to you starting a business in UAE. If you do not receive this approval, you cannot proceed to the next steps in the application process. 

Collect your trade license

To get your UAE trade license, you will have to submit the following: 

  • Trade license application 
  • Relevant government forms 
  • Trade name reservation certificate 
  • Initial approval certificate 
  • External approvals (if any) 
  • Tenancy contract 
  • Ejari registration certificate 
  • Passport copies of partners 
  • NOC for partners (if any) 
  • Other requirements by the DED (if any) 
  • Lastly, all these should be submitted to the Department of Economic Development along with the necessary government fees. 

Dubai Free Zone Company Setup 

Discover the allure of free zones for international entrepreneurs seeking to establish their business empire. With a wealth of advantages, including 0% personal tax, favorable corporate tax rates, complete company ownership, unrestricted capital and profit repatriation, and freedom from currency limitations, free zones have become a favored choice. 

Steps to Start a Business in Dubai’s Free Zones 

Discover Your Business Potential  

Whether your aspirations lie in establishing a small-scale enterprise in Dubai or venturing into the exciting world of crypto business in the UAE, a plethora of over 2,100 business activities awaits your selection.

Delve into the captivating domains of industrial, commercial, professional, and tourism spaces, each offering distinct opportunities. Navigate the diverse landscape and unearth the ideal business activity that resonates with your vision. Allow the DED website to serve as your compass, providing an extensive list to inspire and guide your entrepreneurial odyssey. 

Choose a free zone  

With a multitude of options at your fingertips, Dubai presents over 50 distinctive free zones to select from. The nature and essence of your business can significantly influence your choice of the ideal free zone. Often, proximity to businesses within the same sector proves advantageous, fostering collaboration and synergistic growth.  

Choose a business name  

Selecting a name for your business is a vital step, entailing adherence to the UAE’s stringent naming conventions. It is imperative to ensure that your chosen name aligns with the established guidelines, avoiding any language that may be offensive, disrespectful to religion, or associated with political groups or illicit organizations.

Furthermore, if you opt to name your business after an individual, substantiating their role as a genuine partner or owner is mandatory, disallowing the use of initials or abbreviations. 

Establishing a Corporate Bank Account: 

After obtaining the required approvals and documents, you can proceed to open a corporate bank account. In the UAE, you have a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a bank. Some popular choices include NBD Emirates, HSBC, Citibank, Barclays, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, and many others. 

Contact Shuraa Business Setup to start a business in Dubai 

If you need advice on how to open a company in Dubai, UAE, contact Shuraa Business Setup. We have been helping entrepreneurs form their companies in the UAE for nearly 20 years now. Also, book your free consultation with our company formation experts today!