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What Is An Establishment Card In The UAE?

Apr 7, 2024 | Business Setup, Human Resources

An establishment card in the United Arab Emirates is a vital document for businesses, acting as a corporate identity card that encapsulates essential information about a company. This card is a gateway to many administrative functions and legal formalities issued by the Immigration Authority of the respective emirate where the business is registered. It serves as the legal fingerprint for companies, enabling them to sponsor employee visas, streamline payroll processes, and engage confidently with government services.

Whether you’re a burgeoning enterprise or an established player in the market, understanding the establishment card’s role, benefits, and the process to obtain one is a fundamental step in navigating the business landscape of the UAE.

What Is The Establishment Card In The UAE

In the UUA, the establishment card is like a key identifier for companies, much like how a bank card identifies you and me. It’s a document packed with crucial business information, such as the company’s name, a unique card number, and the card’s expiry date. The Immigration Authority of the Emirates, which matches the emirate where the company is registered, issues this card. It’s the official ID for a company, confirming it’s legally up and running within the UAE.

The card is pretty important for registering a company with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). It lets businesses carry out a bunch of administrative and legal processes.

What Are The Other Names For The Establishment Card

You might hear the establishment card referred to by a few different names. These include the CEC, which stands for Computer Establishment Card, and the CIC, which stands for Company Immigration Card. These alternative names pop up in business and official chats within the UAE, and they’re just different ways of saying establishment cards.

Key Features and Benefits

The establishment card offers many perks to UAE businesses. It not only shows off a business’s official status but also adds a touch of professionalism that’s attractive to potential investors and partners. The card also makes administrative tasks a breeze, letting businesses focus on the big picture, like growing and developing.

Having an establishment card also gives business owners a sense of confidence and security. It’s proof that the company is registered and officially recognised by the UAE authorities, which can put everyone involved with the company at ease.

Common Uses in Business

The establishment card is a must-have for businesses across various sectors in the UAE, whether you’re in manufacturing or trading. It’s super important for companies that need to sponsor visas for their employees. Without this card, getting those visas would be tough.

Plus, the card is key to keeping a business running smoothly. It’s needed for financial dealings and access to a whole bunch of services. For instance, you’ll need it to hook up utilities like electricity and water and set up communication services like phone lines and the Internet.

In the end, the establishment card is your gateway to numerous government services. It provides the official ID and authorisation for businesses to engage with government bodies, whether you’re registering the company or applying for trade licences. Its role is central to the administrative framework that supports business operations in the UAE.

GDRFA Website Screenshot For Establishment Card

How Can I Get An Establishment Card In UAE?

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an establishment card, a valid commercial licence is required for the applicant, who is typically the business owner. Additional documentation is necessary for entities within the government sector, including a federal or local decree, a formation document for the board of directors, and a request letter to open a file endorsed by the board’s chairperson or their delegate.

At typing offices, a letter confirming the signature authority of the authorised signatories, along with their ID cards, must be presented.

For private entities and those in free zones, the commercial licence is essential. For limited liability companies, this licence should enumerate the stakeholders. A signature authorisation letter, a power of attorney if relevant, and the Memorandum of Association for partnerships are also prerequisites.

Entities enrolled in the Small Business Support Programme need to provide their commercial licence, Memorandum of Association, and an endorsement letter from the programme if they are beneficiaries.

Application Process

The application for an establishment card involves logging into the smart services system using a digital identity or username. Applicants must locate the appropriate service, complete the application form, and remit any applicable fees. Submissions can be made via the website or app, at customer happiness centres, or through typing centres.

Adherence to the provided instructions and criteria is crucial to prevent application rejection.

Required Documentation

Documentation requirements vary by sector. Government entities must submit a copy of the decree, a board formation document, and a letter to the public administration. If applicable, private and free zone entities are to provide a commercial licence, signature authorisation letter, and power of attorney.

National companies are required to submit their commercial license and Memorandum of Association. Those affiliated with the Small Business Support Programme must also include a letter from the programme.

Approval and Issuance Timeline

Following a successful application review, the establishment card is generated electronically within two days, assuming all prerequisites are satisfied. Notifications regarding the application’s status will be sent through SMS or email. The outputs, including the electronic card, can be accessed via the electronic system.

The fees encompass a AED 50 (USD 13.60) application charge, a AED 100 (USD 27) issuance fee, and an AED 10 (USD 2.70) electronic services fee, payable by credit card. Additional costs include:

  • The 5% VAT.
  • Knowledge Dirham fee (AED10/USD 2.70).
  • Innovation Dirham fee (AED10/USD 2.70).
  • An expedited service charge (AED100/USD 27).

Availability aligns with the operating hours of the Main GDRFA-Dubai Building and Amer Service Centre, with a service completion time of two days.

Screenshot Of GDRFA Website For Establishment Card

Using Your Establishment Card

The Establishment Card facilitates various business operations, including financial transactions and accessing government services. It is particularly vital for businesses that sponsor employee visas, as it simplifies the process of engaging with the GDRFA.

Making Payments with Establishment Cards

The card functions similarly to a corporate bank card, simplifying the payment process for government and official services. It is indispensable for filing your company’s details with the GDRFA. Now available in digital format, the card typically has a three-year validity but requires annual renewal to avoid penalties.

In Dubai, renewal fees can range from AED 2000 to AED 4000 (USD 545 to USD 1090), with additional charges for visas and other services. An Amer Centre delivers a soft copy via email within four working days of the application.

Tracking Expenditures

The card is instrumental in monitoring company expenses related to government transactions. It aids in budgeting and financial planning, offering a convenient way to track and manage these outlays.

Managing Multiple Cards

Managing multiple cards is often necessary for businesses with operations in different Emirates or with various branches. Each card corresponds to the commercial licence of the respective branch or location. Keeping each card up-to-date and accurate is crucial to prevent service disruptions. Amendments to the card, such as changes in trade name or partnership details, incur a fee of AED 100 (USD 27), plus additional charges and VAT.

Security Measures and Fraud Prevention

To safeguard against fraud and misuse, stringent security measures are in place. The card is only issued after a valid commercial licence is provided and all application requirements are met. Compliance with the transaction process is essential to avoid cancellation. The card is issued 48 hours after a compliant service request is accepted, ensuring prompt and secure delivery.

Verifying the company’s legal standing and authorised signatories may require additional documents such as a decree copy, board of directors’ formation decision, and signature approval letters.

Screenshot Of GDRFA Website For Establishment Card

Benefits for Employers

Streamlining Payroll Processes

For employers, the establishment card streamlines payroll operations. It facilitates the registration process with the GDRFA, which is integral to managing employees’ visa requirements. This integration reduces administrative burdens, ensuring timely and precise salary distribution, which is essential for employee satisfaction and adherence to UAE employment regulations.

Enhancing Financial Management

Beyond procedural formalities, the card is instrumental in bolstering a company’s financial management. It enables the opening of corporate bank accounts and the application for necessary licences and permits. This formal acknowledgement of a company’s legal status underpins stakeholder confidence and aids in efficient access to government services, which is beneficial for financial planning and a business’s overall stability.

Access to Business Perks and Rewards

Possession of an establishment card unlocks a variety of business advantages and incentives within the UAE’s supportive commercial landscape. It facilitates expedited documentation and procedures, potentially reducing costs and improving operational efficiency. The card is instrumental for companies operating in free zones or those requiring streamlined visa processing for their workforce.

Tax Considerations and Compliance

Adherence to tax regulations is paramount for employers in the UAE. The establishment card is a pivotal document for fulfilling legal and regulatory obligations, particularly for those sponsoring employee visas. Timely renewal of the card is imperative to prevent incurring fines and maintain compliance with the UAE’s tax and legal framework, ensuring uninterrupted business operations.

Troubleshooting and Support

Common Issues and Solutions

Adhering to the specified conditions is crucial for the uninterrupted processing of service requests. Non-compliance may lead to the deactivation or cancellation of these requests.

Customer Service and Help Desks

A variety of support channels are available 24/7. Queries can be directed to the ICA’s social media handles on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter at ICA_Help. For email assistance, users can reach out to Contactus@icp.gov.ae.

The ICA’s official portal, www.icp.gov.ae, has a chatbot named Ask Hamad for immediate assistance. Alternatively, the 24/7 call centre can be contacted at 600522222 for direct support.

Card Renewal and Cancellation

The digital process for renewing or cancelling the card is efficient, with issuance occurring within 48 hours after a compliant service request. The fee for issuing a card is AED 200 (USD 55), plus the standard 5% VAT.

There are also nominal Knowledge Dirham and Innovation Dirham fees of AED 10 each. An additional AED 100 (USD 27) is charged for expedited service. The annual fee for issuance or renewal is AED 100 (USD 100).

Cancellation procedures require specific documents and clearances, such as a note from the foreign mission and a clearance certificate from the relevant UAE authorities. The cancellation is processed after the establishment’s details are verified.

These services are accessible at any time through the ICA’s and GDRFA’s digital platforms.

Updating Company Details

The owner must provide a valid commercial license to update company information. Required documentation includes a copy of the decree, a decision to form the board of directors, a letter requesting to open a file, and the approval of the authorised signatories’ signatures.

The card is updated to reflect the establishment’s new details. This service is available to government, private, and free zone sectors, as well as national companies under the Small Business Support Programme, through the ICA’s Smart Services System.

Notifications about the status of requests are communicated via SMS or email. Upon completion, the updated electronic card is accessible through the system.

For specific sectors such as airlines, fishing boats, and hotels, additional documentation is required for renewal, including trade licences or letters from authorities. Entities such as charities, Quran memorisation centres, and livestock farms have unique renewal prerequisites.

Failure to renew or cancel the card results in monthly fines and a violation fee for the expired card. The system allows for modifications such as trade name changes, assignments, cancellations, or the addition of partners.

The card is issued electronically after the service request has been approved. Users must follow the transaction instructions to avoid cancellation. The service is linked to the card’s issuance. It involves a fee for application and issuance, payable via credit card through the Smart Services System.

Unlocking Business Potential in the UAE

The establishment card in the UAE is more than just a piece of plastic; it’s a beacon of legitimacy and an enabler for businesses to navigate the vibrant economic landscape of the Emirates. It’s your business’s passport to the myriad of services and transactions that keep your operations humming.

By staying on top of your establishment card’s validity and leveraging the benefits it offers, you position your enterprise at the forefront of efficiency and regulatory compliance. Whether you’re a start-up, a multinational, or somewhere in between, the establishment card is an indispensable asset in your corporate arsenal, streamlining processes from visas to financial transactions.

Remember, keeping this card active and updated is not just a formality; it’s a strategic move that paves the way for smooth sailing in the world of UAE business. Embrace it, renew it, and let it propel your business forward.


How Can I Get An Establishment Card In The UAE?

To obtain an establishment card in the UAE, a company must first register with the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) or the relevant free zone authority. After registration, the company should apply for the establishment card through the respective authority’s online portal or customer service centres. The application process involves submitting the company’s trade licence, partners’ list, and lease agreement, among other documents. Approval usually takes a few days, after which the card is issued.

How Much Is The Establishment Card Fee In Dubai?

The fee for an establishment card in Dubai varies depending on the jurisdiction under which the company operates. For companies in the mainland, the cost is approximately AED 650 (USD 177), while in free zones, the fee can range from AED 1,000 to AED 2,000 (USD 270 to 545), excluding potential processing charges. It’s advisable to check with the specific free zone authority or the Department of Economic Development in Dubai for the exact fees.

Is The Establishment Card And Immigration Card The Same?

Yes, the establishment card is also known as an immigration card in the UAE. This card is essential for companies as it enables them to sponsor employees’ visas. It serves as a record with the UAE’s immigration authorities, verifying the company’s legitimacy and its eligibility to employ foreign nationals. With this card, businesses can process their employees’ work permits or residency visas.

What Is The Validity Of The Establishment Card?

The validity of an establishment card in the UAE typically lasts for one year. It must be renewed annually through the authority that issued it, such as MOHRE or the relevant free zone authority. The renewal process involves submitting the current trade licence and proof of lease and paying the applicable renewal fees. Companies are encouraged to initiate the renewal process well in advance of the expiration date to avoid penalties and ensure continuous eligibility to sponsor employee visas.

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