How Much Does Business Setup In Dubai Cost?

That depends. What is your business activity? Free zone or mainland? How many visas or shareholders? From our experience with business setup in Dubai for over 70,000 entrepreneurs, we have created the Business Setup Cost Calculator to give you the answer.

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Should you undertake business setup in Dubai yourself?

Wondering if you can start a Dubai company yourself? You can. But there are some things you need to know.

1. There is a multitude of options.

With over 60 jurisdictions, how do you know which is the right one for your Dubai company? How do you make sure you’re choosing the right licence and business activity? Don’t let your business setup in Dubai be a trial-and-error process.

2. It is not easy. 

Liaising with the relevant authorities and government departments alone takes time and travel miles.  Lots of both.

3. There is a mountain of paperwork. 

Starting a Dubai company involves tonnes of paperwork. Think forms, applications, banking and legal requirements – and that is just the start.  

4. You might save money – but at what cost? 

What is your time worth?  Are you outstanding with detail?  Can you afford to hit pause on your business plans to fill out forms or attend more meetings?

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But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Before you do anything, talk to one of our experts at company formation in Dubai. We’ll show you how easy the Virtuzone process is and why we’re the partner of choice for more entrepreneurs choosing to start a Dubai company.

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Business setup in Dubai – the Virtuzone way.

Our time-tested process saves you time and money, while removing the headaches of beginning your journey.  We know the game.  We have the networks.  We are the leaders in this space.

Since 2009, our company formation experts have helped more than 70,000 business owners and founders with business setup in Dubai.  We’ve done the heavy lifting and helped them navigate a myriad of options, while they focus on their exciting new Dubai company. Our process saves you time and money, while removing the headaches of beginning your journey.   Make sure you get set up the right way! 

 

Find out why over 70,000 entrepreneurs have entrusted their business with us.

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An award for business setup in Dubai won by Virtuzone
An award for business setup in Dubai won by Virtuzone
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An award for business setup in Dubai won by Virtuzone
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What setup option is best for your business?

Business setup in Dubai (or anywhere in the UAE) can be complicated.
Decisions need to be made which can affect your journey and shape your success.
Jurisdiction? Free zone or mainland?

Free Zones

  • Retain 100% ownership of your Dubai company
  • 0% corporate and income tax rate
  • No custom duties
  • Option to repatriate 100% of your capital and profits

Mainland

  • Business activities not limited
  • Operate anywhere inside and outside the country
  • No limit on number of visas
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 The process of business setup in Dubai

With Virtuzone as your company formation partner, registering a company in the UAE is not only easy, but it’s the most cost-effective way to do it! In fact, the entire process can take as little as 24 hours! That’s right! All you have to do is supply us with the relevant information about your company and we do the rest.  Here’s our time-tested process:

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1. Prepare Documentation

If you’re an overseas entrepreneur starting up in a new country for the first time, the documentation process can be daunting. We help you to make the right decisions for your Dubai company and handle all of the complex paperwork.

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2. Business Licence

Choosing the right licence and applying for it are essential to getting your business setup in Dubai right. Having an in-depth understanding of the dos and don’ts around setting up your business licence will help you to avoid the common traps we see people fall into. For instance, some business categories require prior approvals from certain authorities. A company formation expert will guide you through the necessary requirements to start your business.

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3. Visa Process

Private companies can obtain new employment entry permits for their employees provided they apply for residence visa status within 30 days of the employee’s entry into the UAE.

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4. Bank Account

Setting up a corporate bank account in the UAE can be a little arduous for international entrepreneurs. It requires careful consideration and there are several boxes to tick to ensure you have everything in place before approaching your bank of choice.

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Business Setup in Dubai Insights

Keep up with the latest UAE company formation insights with articles from our team of experts.

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Make sure you hire the best in the business for your business setup in Dubai. With Virtuzone, you will fast-track your path to business success.

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FAQs

Our team of experts fields common questions from people all over the globe about company formation in the UAE. 

Why choose Dubai for starting a business?

So many reasons! Here’s a list of the most common ones:

  • The UAE government actively promotes businesses as part of its long-term economic stability plan?
  • Dubai offers a tax-friendly environment and competitive labor and financing costs.
  • It has no foreign exchange controls, trade barriers, or quotas.
  • Dubai is strategically placed for doing business, with easy access to 1.5 billion consumers in Africa, West Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
  • Our world-class transport links also make it an easy place to attract business to.
  • In terms of business setup, the process is straightforward and affordable.
  • Dubai has a large pool of highly educated talent and world-class infrastructure, making it ideal for startups.
  • Its high standard of living combined with unparalleled safety measures makes Dubai an alluring destination for global talent.
  • Conducting market research in Dubai is simplified due to clear procedures and robust legal frameworks.
How does the economy of Dubai support new businesses?

Fortunately, Dubai’s economy was deliberately engineered to boost local business growth and innovation. Through the DED, the UAE government not only promotes entrepreneurship but also ensures economy insurance activities, offering incentives like low corporate taxes and easy business setups.

This focus earns the UAE a 16th placement in the global Ease of Doing Business Index. With a dynamic economy, Dubai magnetizes various industries and, thanks to its strategic location, offers access to extensive markets spanning East and West. The city’s free zones, including DWTC, JAFZA, and RAKEZ, amplify opportunities, while initiatives like Scale2Dubai provide funding for scaling ventures.

What are the steps to set up a business in Dubai?

From a high level, to start a business in Dubai, you’ll want to follow these steps:

  • Business Idea: Define your business idea and target market.
  • Business Plan: Draft a comprehensive plan detailing objectives, market analysis, and financial projections.
  • Legal Structure: Decide between Free Zone, Mainland, or Offshore company structures.
  • Trade Name: Pick a name compliant with the Department of Economic Development (DED) regulations.
  • Business License: Depending on your activities, apply for a commercial, professional, or industrial license.
  • Documentation: Submit required documents like passport, visa, and a No Objection Certificate (for expats) to the relevant authorities.
  • Office Space: Secure a physical address, essential for registration.
  • Corporate Bank Account: After getting your license, choose a bank that aligns with your business needs and open an account.
  • Visas: If hiring, process employee visas. The number is often determined by office size and license type.
  • Operational Setup: With administrative tasks done, set up operations and embark on your business journey.

Note: Requirements might vary based on your specific new business setup, so make sure you thoroughly research the next steps for your chosen structure.

How can I determine the best location for my business in Dubai?

Selecting the best business location will require that you consider a myriad of options. We strongly recommend that you engage the services of business setup consultants for these nuanced decisions, however, broadly speaking, you will want to understand:

  • Nature of Business: Your business type influences the right location choices; for example, tech businesses often prefer free zones like Dubai Internet City.
  • Target Market: Choose a location easily accessible to your primary customers.
  • Infrastructure Needs: If international shipping is crucial, being near ports like Jebel Ali Port is advantageous.
  • Budget: Rent and operational costs differ across areas, impacting your choice.

Legal Requirements: Specific business activities are zone-restricted, influencing the right business location.

What are the differences between setting up a mainland business versus a free zone business?

A mainland business setup in the UAE provides unrestricted access to the UAE market, allowing over 3,000 business activities, unlimited employee visas, and the ability to sponsor family and domestic staff. It’s ideal for businesses targeting the local Dubai mainland market. In contrast, a free zone business setup offers 100% foreign ownership, no personal taxes, unrestricted profit movement, and a simplified setup process. This setup is favored by companies focusing on international markets or seeking specific industry clusters within certain free zones.  Deciding between a Dubai mainland and Dubai free zone setup requires careful consideration of your business goals and needs.  

  1. Business Activities: Dubai mainland offers a wider range of business activities, while free zones often cater to specific sectors or industries
  2. Trading: If your business involves trading directly with the UAE market, a mainland license could be more beneficial. 
  3. Ownership: If 100% foreign ownership is important to you, then a free zone setup would be ideal. 
  4. Expansion Plans: If you plan to scale up your business within the UAE, a mainland setup might offer more flexibility. 

Cost: Setup and operational costs differ between mainland and free zones.

What kind of business licenses are available in Dubai?

In Dubai, there are three main types of business licenses that you can apply for depending on the nature of your business activities: 

  1. Commercial License: This is for businesses engaged in trading activities. It covers a broad range of activities from retail to transportation services. 
  2. Professional License: This is typically for individuals offering their expertise or services. It covers consultancies, accounting firms, and architectural firms among others. 
  3. Industrial License: This license is for businesses that focus on manufacturing or industrial activities, usually involving transforming natural resources or materials into end products. 

Each license type is governed by the DED in Dubai. It’s important to define your business activities accurately as each license allows up to ten activities. For businesses in specific Free Zones or looking to operate offshore, there may be different license types and requirements.

What are the legal and regulatory requirements for business setup in Dubai?

Setting up a business in Dubai involves a few key legal and regulatory steps: 

  1. Identifying your business activities: This is essential as it helps in deciding the type of license you’ll need. Each license allows a maximum of ten activities. 
  2. Choosing the legal structure: The legal structure of your company, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC, will define how your business operates. 
  3. Applying for a trade license: Depending on your business activity, you’ll need to apply for a commercial, professional, or industrial license. Operating without a valid license can lead to heavy penalties. 
  4. Documentation: You’ll need several standard documents like a completed application form, and passport copies of shareholders. Some businesses may also need approvals from certain authorities. 
  5. Registering Ultimate Beneficial Owners: The UAE requires all free zone and mainland operating companies to register their Ultimate Beneficial Owners for transparency and to avoid illegal transactions. 
  6. Opening a corporate bank account: To conduct business in the UAE, you’ll need to open a corporate bank account. 
  7. Immigration and visa processing: After getting your business license, you can start the visa application process for yourself, your employees, and any domestic staff. 
  8. Adhering to naming conventions: The UAE has specific naming conventions for companies. Your chosen company name must not violate these conventions. 
  9. Compliance with local laws: Businesses must ensure they comply with all local laws and regulations to avoid legal trouble, fines, or even jail time. This includes labor laws, environmental regulations, and others about your specific industry. 

Office or physical presence: Depending on the nature of your business and the jurisdiction you choose, you may need to lease an office or warehouse. Considering the many steps and potential complexities involved in setting up a business in Dubai, it can be very beneficial to work with a company formation specialist.

How do the local service agent agreement and local sponsor system work?

Great question! The local service agent (LSA) agreement and local sponsor system are two key aspects of setting up a business in the UAE. The LSA agreement applies to certain types of licenses, like professional licenses or branches of foreign companies. The LSA, who must be a UAE national, is paid a fixed fee to act as a representative for administrative dealings with the government. They don’t own a part of the company or receive any commission or profits. The local sponsor system, on the other hand, applies to LLCs. A local sponsor must own 51% of the company.

What are the legal structures available for business setup in Dubai, like LLC, joint stock company, etc.?

In Dubai, there are several legal business structures you can choose from: 

  1. Limited Liability Company (LLC): This is a popular choice for many small businesses and entrepreneurs. It offers operational flexibility and allows trading across the UAE and the GCC. Members of an LLC enjoy limited liability. 
  2. Sole Proprietorships: This is a business owned and operated by a single individual. It’s simple and has less administrative tasks, but the owner has unlimited liability. 
  3. Civil Companies: These are professional companies usually established by lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, where 100% foreign ownership is allowed. 
  4. Private Shareholder Companies: These are companies with limited liability, meaning the liability of shareholders is limited to their shares in the capital. 
  5. Public Shareholding Companies: This is a company whose capital is divided into transferable shares of equal value and a partner therein shall be liable only to the extent of his share in the capital.
  6. Branch & Representative Offices: Foreign companies are allowed to establish a branch or representative office in Dubai. 
  7. Free Zone Companies: These are companies set up in one of Dubai’s free zones, like DWTC, JAFZA, DUQE, RAKEZ, and Creative City. These companies enjoy benefits such as 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and fewer restrictions. 

Offshore Companies: These are incorporated in the UAE but operate outside the UAE. They are used for a variety of purposes including tax planning and asset protection.

Can foreigners have complete foreign ownership in any business setup?

Yes, foreigners can have 100% ownership in certain business setups in Dubai. For instance, in several free zones, foreign investors can have full ownership of their business. Furthermore, recent changes in the UAE’s Commercial Companies Law have made it possible for foreign investors to have 100% ownership of their businesses in many sectors, even outside free zones. However, be aware that certain strategic sectors like banking and telecommunications have some restrictions.

How are the legal forms and legal documents managed and attested?

Legal document management and attestation in Dubai is a straightforward process, but it does require some understanding of the local regulations. When setting up your business, you’ll typically need to prepare and submit a range of legal documents, such as the application form and copies of the shareholders’ passports. Once your documents are submitted and approved, you will receive your business license. It’s important to note that these documents must be kept up-to-date to avoid penalties or even the loss of your business license. As for attestation, this refers to the process of having your documents verified by the relevant authorities.

How does license renewal work?

Renewing your business license in Dubai involves a few key steps. Firstly, you need to ensure that your tenancy contract is valid for at least three more months from the date you apply for renewal. Then, you’ll need to complete a renewal form and gather the necessary documents, which often include attested authorization and approval letters, photographs of all business partners, as well as the payment number for renewal fees. Once all these are in order, you submit them to the DED. After your application is approved, you can pay the renewal fees and your license will be renewed.

What are the restrictions on foreign company branches?

Branch companies in Dubai, which are extensions of an existing foreign business, are allowed to trade independently and earn a profit. However, they are still under the complete ownership of the parent company and are not considered a separate legal entity. One of the limitations is that representative offices, a type of branch company, can only promote and source work for the parent company. They are not allowed to make a profit in the UAE and must outsource all work back to the parent company. Branches of free zone companies must also have a UAE national agent on board. Additionally, certain activities such as commercial agencies, banking and telecommunications, and certain types of professional consultancies are not eligible for 100% foreign ownership.

Do I need a physical office to start a business in Dubai?

It depends on the type of business you’re setting up. If you’re establishing a Mainland company, you’ll need a physical office space as per the regulations of the DED. However, if you’re setting up a free zone company, many free zones allow for flexi-desk options, which is a more cost-efficient alternative to a full-time office space. Alternatively, there’s the option of a virtual office. A virtual office in Dubai allows entrepreneurs to conduct business without needing physical premises.

How is the digital infrastructure and support from digital government regulatory authority?

Dubai has a highly advanced digital infrastructure, which is one of the reasons it’s a preferred destination for businesses. The city is undergoing a massive digital transformation that benefits startups and SMEs. The DED provides comprehensive information on setting up a business online and has digital initiatives that encourage business investment and support startups.

How can business consultants or business setup consultants assist me?

Business setup consultants, like Virtuzone, guide you through every step of the complex process of business setup. This includes helping you choose the right business activity and name, navigating free zone or mainland setup, and handling all required paperwork for your business license and corporate bank account opening. We have strong relationships with government departments, agencies, banks, and insurance companies, which can be a great asset as you launch your business. Our consultants are familiar with local requirements, laws, and potential pitfalls, saving you time and effort. If you’re hiring employees, we can advise on the process of setting up their visas as well. Our goal is to make your business setup as efficient and smooth as possible, allowing you to focus on running your business once it’s established.

How can I open a corporate bank account for my company in Dubai?

Opening a corporate bank account in Dubai is a straightforward process, but it does require some documentation and a visit to the UAE. Here’s a brief rundown: 

  1. Choose a bank that aligns with your business needs. 
  2. Schedule an appointment with the bank. 
  3. Bring necessary documents, which typically include your passport, proof of address, and proof of income. Some banks may require additional documents. 
  4. The bank will conduct a credit check and verify your identity. Remember, the process may take between two to four weeks. It’s essential to choose the right type of account for your needs. 
Are there any share capital requirements for specific business setups?

The share capital requirements for setting up a business in Dubai can vary depending on the specific business type and the free zone you choose. Some free zones, for instance, require no share capital demonstration, while others may require you to list your share capital on the application but not provide evidence. However, it’s important to mention that these requirements can change, and the best way to get the most accurate information is by checking directly with your preferred free zone or by consulting with a business setup specialist.

What is the process for obtaining employment visas and residence visas for staff?

The process for obtaining employment visas and residence visas for staff involves several steps: 

  1. Apply for an entry permit or employment visa for your employee. This is a temporary visa valid for 60 days while the residence visa is being processed. 
  2. Once the entry permit is issued, you’ll need to conduct a medical check-up for the employee. 
  3. Apply for an Emirates ID and then apply for the residence visa. Please note that if your business operates within a free zone, you’ll have to liaise with the relevant free zone authority to initiate the work permit and residence visa process. 
What is the golden visa, and how does it differ from regular visas?

The Golden Visa in the UAE is a long-term residency program designed primarily for investors, entrepreneurs, and other high-skilled professionals. Unlike regular visas, which are typically valid for up to 3 years, the Golden Visa can provide residency for 5 or 10 years, and in some cases, it can be automatically renewed. One of the unique features of the Golden Visa is that it does not require a national sponsor, which simplifies the application process. Also, it allows the visa holder to own 100% of their business in the UAE. However, the Golden Visa program has strict eligibility criteria and is typically aimed at individuals who are looking to make substantial investments in the UAE.

What are the visa processing times and associated fees?

The visa processing times in Dubai typically range from 2-4 weeks. However, this timeframe can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of visa applied for and the completeness of the application and supporting documents. As for the associated fees, they can vary significantly based on the type of visa and other related services.

How do UAE free zones differ from one another?

Each free zone in the UAE is designed to cater to specific industries. For instance, JAFZA or Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority is ideal for businesses engaged in logistics or manufacturing due to its proximity to Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum International Airport. On the other hand, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) free zone is perfect for businesses that want to be at the heart of Dubai’s business district. The Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) caters to a wide range of sectors, offering cost-effective solutions, and DUQE, located on the Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship, provides a unique business environment. Lastly, Creative City is designed for media, communications, and creative businesses. Each free zone has its own rules, benefits, and processes, so it’s important to choose one that suits your business needs best.

That is why we’re here.

We make it simpler and easier for you. Before you do anything, talk to one of our Company Formation Specialists.

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