Mainland entities and FreeZones can generally be incorporated as Limited Liability Company (known also as LLC), Branch Offices or Subsidiaries.

  • Limited Liability Company

    Limited Liability Companies are the most advantageous entities for general commercial operations between local and foreign investors/companies. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be formed by a minimum of two and a maximum of fifty shareholders. However, the minimum capital requirements may vary from Emirate to Emirate. It takes approximately eight to twelve weeks to incorporate an LLC, due to several steps and approvals requested from UAE Authorities and Ministries in completing the incorporation process.

  • Branch of a foreign company

    A Branch of a foreign company is a legal entity with no autonomous corporate personality, being considered a local office of the parent company. Although it may perform the same activities that are part of the scope of the mother company and maintain the same name, it does not have a share capital, while the obligations incurred towards third parties are incumbent on the foreign company. Finally, a branch established in the UAE cannot perform activities if not related to the parent company license. A registered address in the selected UAE Authority is required.

  • Subsidiary of a foreign company

    A Subsidiary of a foreign company is an actual separate legal entity. This means that the foreign shareholder(s) is no longer fully liable for the obligations of the company and is required to contribute with the share capital. A registered address in the selected UAE Authority is required.


Mainland entities are registered under the Department of Economic Development (DED) of the Emirate where the business has to be established (i.e. Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc.). Investors who decide to set up their companies in Mainland are able to operate in any part of the United Arab Emirates without specific limitations and restrictions. To establish a company in Mainland, it is mandatory to assess an engagement with a local partner/ sponsor who holds the 51% of the business. Local sponsors can be either active or silent. In the case of an active state, the sponsor can manage the organization and take decisions like any of the foreign shareholders. When silent instead, the sponsor is not involved in any decisions. His presence is required only in particular cases, such as transfer of property, share transfer or company liquidation.


Establishing a business entity in one of the numerous UAE Free Trade Zones (FTZs) can be an attractive option for foreign investors who desire to retain the full company ownership. All seven Emirates have rapidly expanded with several economic Free Zones, governed by separate regulatory authorities with special rules and regulations. The procedures for establishing, obtaining the license and operating are less rigorous and time consuming than those applying to the entities located in Mainland. The registration involves a two-staged process: at first, the process requires to obtain an initial approval from the authority, followed by applying for a trade license and registration. Usually, it takes up from four to six weeks to complete the registration procedures, though timeline and fees may vary according to the requirements.

The UAE have several free zones across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah and Um Al Qwain, the most common being:


    Located in the new Dubai’s Business Hub, Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) accommodates over 12,000 companies and was declared the Global Free Zone of the Year 2017 by Financial Times and FDI Magazine. The DMCC Free Zone is an excellent Business Hub for foreign investors who desire to establish their business in Dubai, thanks to a wide range of benefits offered, as: 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, robust and regulatory framework and 100% capital repatriation. The strategic location makes the authority a logistic key link in the global transport and distribution system (ten minutes from Jebel Ali Port and Dubai South Airport). More than 170 companies are being registered every month, while 95% of them are new to Dubai when considering incorporation. DMCC offers three types of licenses: Trading, Service and Industrial, depending on the business the investors would like to run. It is also possible to apply for a general trading or multiple licenses.


    Dubai South, known also as Dubai World Central (DWC), a 145 square kilometer master-planned city, hosts eight districts: Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA), Business Park, Commercial District, Logistics District, Aviation District, Residential District, Golf District, Humanitarian and Exhibition District. Al Maktoum International Airport was designed to be one of the world’s largest airports, with an estimated annual capacity of 12 million tons of cargo and 160 million passengers. The zone is located at the center of Dubai South and is fully connected with the rest of the districts. As an economic platform, Dubai South aims support every kind of business and industry. Its Business Centre is centered on facilitating the growth of every business from start-ups. It is an excellent Business Hub that offers a wide range of benefits, such as: 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, robust and regulatory framework, 100% capital repatriation and cost-effective office solutions perfectly aligned to suit global business needs. Finally, Al Maktoum International Airport makes Dubai South a key link in the global transport of cargo and passengers.


    Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ), established in 2000, is nowadays the investment destination solution for more than 8,600 Companies. RAK FTZ offers cost-effective and fast business establishments, attractive taxation regime, 100% foreign ownership, efficient business set-up and support services, UAE visa issuance, along with a wide range of facilities to suit each and every business need.


    Established in 1988 and located in the Emirate of Ajman, 45kms away from Dubai, Ajman Free Zone is a leading authority for industrial and trade development, attracting a significant number of investors and companies due to the wide range of privileges that the authority offers. Ajman Free Zone is a perfect, cost-effective, industrial hub for foreign investors who are looking for 100% ownership of the establishment, without the need to appoint a local partner, easy transfer of capital and profits, exemption from personal income tax, exemption from import and export duties and other taxes, competitive prices on facility usage, one-stop counter service for effecting transactions (Residency, visas…etc.), along with fast and easy procedures. Ajman Free Zone offers four types of Licenses: Business, E-Commerce, Service and industrial, depending on the Business that Investors would like to run.


    Established in 1995, Sharjah Airport Free Zone (SAIF) is situated in the Emirate of Sharjah and hosts more than 2,900 companies from 91 countries. The Free Zone covers a wide cross section of industry, including some of the biggest names in the field of IT services, media, consumer durables, light and medium manufacturing. With a 24 hours licensing service, Sharjah Airport International Free Zone allows businesses to be developed with 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, 100% capital repatriation, high quality warehouses, storage areas and offices. Sharjah International Airport Free Zone offers three types of Licenses: Trade/General Trading, Service and Industrial, depending on the Business that Investors would like to incorporate.


    Dedicated to investors or freelancers who desire to promote their talent, Dubai Design District (D3) is the new international hub for architecture, design, luxury and fashion brands or the new primary destination for creative minds in the Middle East. Located in the heart of Dubai nearby Business Bay area and downtown Dubai Design District, it offers a wide range of benefits, starting with special licensing for design and fashion with freelance permits for artists and designers, 100% business ownership, full capital repatriation, business activity options from retail and design to hospitality. Depending on the business that Investors seeks to establish, Dubai Design District offers several types of licenses as fashion, luxury, interior furniture and objects, design, e-commerce, beauty care, art, freelancer, marketing services, event management


    One of the most competitive areas in Dubai, established in 1985, is Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA), nowadays, a dynamic base for thousands of businesses from over 100 countries. Investors who look forward to establish their business and see it grow choose Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, where the administration strongly supports enterprise development and stakeholders can benefit of 100% foreign ownership, no restrictions on capital repatriation and 0% personal income tax.


    Established in January 2001, Dubai Media City is one of the leading media hubs in the Middle East region. The area encompasses a media community of over 20,000 people, working in over 2,000 regional and international media companies, offering a highly creative work environment. Investors who desire to operate in a stimulating framework, with collective synergy and individual freedom, will choose Dubai Media City, out of other free zones, as the location enables to its users high-speed broadband and telecommunication access, networking opportunities, areas with training institutes and universities, along with other benefits, such as 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime and 100% capital repatriation. Dubai Media City disposes of different types of licenses, as Media and Marketing Services, Business and Information, Media Support, Event and Leisure, Consultancy and Retail, Business Licensing Services and others, depending on the business the investors would like to run.


    Established in 2004 in the Emirate of Dubai, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is the first financial Free Zone in the United Arab Emirates. The center is internationally recognized for its independent regulations and laws based on English Common Law. DIFC is an excellent Financial Hub for foreign investors who desire to set up their company, benefits of 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, robust and regulatory framework, 100% capital repatriation and Dollar dominated environment.


    Established in 2004, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) is a revolutionary technology park, built to become one of the world’s leading centers of advanced electronic innovation. Seeking to promote modern technology-based industries in an urban master-planned community, the area is characterized by state-of-the-art infrastructure and in-house business services. The authority is an excellent hub for foreign investors who desire to establish their business in the field of photovoltaic, nanotechnology, electronics and optoelectronic technology while supporting industries with equipment and materials. It offers a wide range of benefits, such as: 100%foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, 100% capital repatriation, stringent Intellectual Property (IP) law and support, subsidized Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, convenient lease rates for high-tech companies and on-site IT support. The authority offers three types of licenses: Trading, Service and Industrial, depending on the investors’ needs. It is also possible to apply for a general trading or multiple licenses.


    Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA) is strategically located in the heart of Dubai, next to the airport. It characterized by state-of-the-art infrastructure, premium class facilities, efficient administrative services, investor-oriented management, 24/7 customs services, rapid cargo clearance and dedicated logistics security and Tax incentives.


    Designed for the needs of investors and professionals who work in life sciences, Dubai Science Park is the region’s first Free Zone community that serves the entire value chain of the science sector, supporting scientific entrepreneurs and multinational enterprises willing to invest in the region. Dubai Science Park offers the investors cost-effective locations in a variety of sizes, providing businesses with the best flexibility when choosing the space that suits their needs, along with 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime and 100% capital repatriation. There are several types of licenses available, which allow investors to perform different kind of activities, such as research and development, storage, marketing and sales promotion, manufacturing and production, import and re-export, consultancy, management, testing and manufacturing.


    Established through a Local Decree in November 1995 and current pillar of the United Arab Emirates industrial and commercial development, Hamriyah Free Zone is located in Sharjah, the perfect area for investors who are looking to set up their business in a quiet and modest environment. The authority offers to entrepreneurs a wide range of benefits that include: land lease for 25 years, renewed for similar period, pre-built warehouses, factories and office units for lease, executive suites in International Business Center, 100% foreign ownership and full repatriation of profits and capital.


    Dubai Healthcare City Authority is the largest healthcare free zone in the world. Totally dedicated to excellence and patient care, the authority is an urban landmark where healthcare professionals come to advance their experience. Experts who decide to bring their skills to Dubai Healthcare City can enjoy several benefits, including 100% foreign ownership, full repatriation of profits and capital, office spaces designed to suit the industry (laboratories, pharmacies, etc.), along with integrated healthcare community that offers specialized quality medical care.


    Developed around the prestigious racecourse, Meydan Free Zone Authority offers highly competitive start-up costs to establish a new business in the Emirate of Dubai. The area hosts international horse racing and equestrian events and offers activities to boost commercial developments, together with hospitality, sports, entertainment and amusement services. The area includes parks, residential villa communities, schools, hospitals, business towers and shopping destinations. Investors establish their businesses in Meydan for a 100% of foreign ownership, attractive taxation regime, robust and regulatory framework and 100% capital repatriation.