How To Start A Business In Dubai As A Foreigner

by Tanya June 27, 2018

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to start a business in the free zone of Dubai?

You’re in the right place.

Dubai is a fantastic business location with lots of opportunities.

This article is the perfect starting point for understanding Dubai’s business landscape and requirements.

To assist you in navigating the procedure, we have created this guide for how to start a business in Dubai:

Try to establish a business in Dubai’s free zone 

Free zones or free trade zones in Dubai that are exempt from all types of taxation such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Income Tax, Corporate Tax, and Customs.

Business owners in the free zone areas in Dubai have 100% ownership of the business.

The aim of these zones is to encourage foreign investment and promote economic activity in the city.

Dubai was actually the first emirate to introduce the free zone model in the UAE.

As a foreigner, you can set up shop or a business in a free zone. There are over 40 free zones in Dubai, so do your research if you plan on doing business in a Dubai free zone or multiple zones.

Once you’ve chosen a free zone you want to operate in, you’ll need to obtain a trade license from the Dubai Department of Economic Development. There are agencies like Meydanfz.ae that can help you with all the paperwork.

Choose the right business structure

This is probably the most important question you should ask yourself as it has the power to save you a lot of money and hassle.

The most common types of businesses are:

Limited Liability Company

A limited company is a company ‘limited by shares’ (if they make a profit) or ‘limited by guarantee’ (if they are not for profit).

This means a limited liability company is a type of company structure where members are not made personally liable for debts beyond the capital they invested.

This means the company:

○ is legally separate from the people who run it
○ has separate finances from your personal ones
○ has shares and shareholders
○ can keep any profits it makes after paying tax

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the most common form of business set up in Dubai. When forming a LLC, the CCL prescribes that at least 51% of the shares must be registered with a UAE national (natural or legal person).


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners and is typically more complex to set up. Corporations are subject to different rules and regulations than other types of businesses, so it’s important to consult with an attorney before deciding to form one.

Choose the business structure that offers the most personal and financial protection. Each type has its own set of rules and regulations, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which is right for you.

Obtain all necessary trade licenses and permits

Obtain all necessary licences and permits in a foreign country can be a complex process, so it’s important to seek professional help.

There are 4 main trade licenses in Dubai:

Commercial License

The commercial license in Dubai allows a company to conduct trade activities such as buying as well as selling goods. You can only perform the activities for the items mentioned on the license.

Industrial License

This license allows the company to manufacture products, import the raw material required for the product, and export the finished product. When you seek an industrial license, make sure you have a physical office in Dubai as it is mandatory.

Professional License

This license is, particularly for the service providers as well as professionals. The main advantage of this license is you don’t need to have a local sponsor; you can have 100% company ownership.

Tourism License

As Dubai exclusively values Tourism, it has a separate license for companies engaging in the tourism sector. Therefore, this sector has different rules, regulations, taxes, compliance, and permissions.

A local lawyer or reputable agency can help you with all sorts of legal issues, from trademark and copyright law to contract law.

Once you have all the necessary paperwork in order, you can start the process of setting up your business.

A lawyer can also help you to register your business.

Find the right local partner for your business

In general, any company that wishes to conduct commercial, industrial or trading activities in the UAE mainland needs a local partner/sponsor, who is UAE national.

The managers need to be familiar with the local business climate and help you grow your business.

The best way to network in Dubai with other expat entrepreneurs is to join online communities such as the Dubai Entrepreneur Network, where you can meet and connect with other business minded people.

You can also attend local events and meetups, which are often hosted by Chamber of Commerce chapters or business support organizations.

Once you’ve connected with potential partners, it’s important to do your due diligence. This means taking the time to learn about their backgrounds and experiences, as well as their business goals. You should also make sure that you’re on the same page when it comes to your company’s vision and values.


Starting a business in Dubai can be a complex process.

Do your research, connect with the right people, and have patience navigating the bureaucracy 😏

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