For Business Setup in the UAE - Mainland, Offshore, Free Zone
A Free Zone, Free Trade Zone or Free Economic Zone, is a designated geographical area where certain taxes or restrictions on business, employment or trade do not apply in the same manner that they apply to the country in which the zone is located. An area within which goods might land, handled, manufactured or reconfigured, and re-exported without the intervention of the customs authorities. Only when the goods move to consumers within the UAE in which the zone is located do they become subject to the prevailing customs duties. Free Zones are often organised around major seaports, international airports, and national frontiers — areas with many geographic advantages for trade.
NHBC has a personalized approach and we will first evaluate what legal and corporate structure best suits your current and future business needs, after which we will provide comprehensive guidance on your setup in the UAE. Timelines therefore depend on each individual case. We take care of the full incorporation process by preparing all the required documentation and approvals and assist with translations, attestations and legalizations if and when required. We have excellent contacts at the major local UAE banks which will ensure that your corporate bank account will be opened. We also have a pool of trustworthy local service agents in case you are opting for a Mainland setup.
Free Zones offer 100% foreign ownership and you therefore do not need a UAE Partner to form a Free Zone company. However, if you would like to trade with UAE Mainland, you either need to work together with a local distributor or you could opt for an LLC Mainland setup instead of a Free Zone setup. In this case it is indeed compulsory to work together with a local Partner who will either be your Local Service Agent or 51% shareholder.
A mainland company is an onshore company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) of the related emirate which is allowed to do business in the local market as well as outside UAE without any restrictions.
A Free Zone company is incorporated within a designated jurisdiction of the emirate where the company is allowed to do business inside the same free zone or outside the UAE. For commercial licenses and trading of physical goods, the company cannot do local business directly because the government has posed a limitation for trading in the local market through a distributor and by paying 5% duty on the local market invoices.
There is no corporate/income tax on individuals or companies operating in the UAE.
No, they have to be on two different licenses.
You can sell goods in the local UAE market through a local distributor. A Free Zone company may not directly retail goods to the local market.
This depends on where the company is incorporated (Free Zone or Mainland). Each Free Zone has different timelines. The Registration and Licensing process usually takes between 2-4 weeks. Please note that the bank account can only be opened once the Registration and Licensing process has been finalized.
English is widely spoken throughout the country. Although it is common for written correspondence to be in English, Arabic is often preferred within some public sector organisations.
Yes, within each license type, up to several business activities can be included in the standard annual license fee. Please note that this varies per Free Zone. Additional fees will apply when adding activities from a different category.
It is not mandatory to come in person if you appoint someone to represent you before the authorities if you are not available. This can be done by means of a Power of Attorney (POA), a written legal authorization by an individual(s) to another individual(s) to represent or legally act on his or her behalf. In the case of company affairs, the powers may vary from incorporating the company to any post incorporation amendments, where the POA holder represents the individual(s) before the authorities to sign the Resolution, Memorandum, and Articles of Association among other documents. A POA remains in force until revoked, or for a limited time.
This depends on the Free Zone. Most Dubai Free Zones required the registered Free Zone company to appoint an independent auditor that is registered and licensed in the UAE and to submit audited financial statements annually at the time of license renewal.
Yes, Free Zone licensed companies holding trading licenses are allowed to import and export goods in conformity with the activity of the licensed company. The importer must obtain a valid importer code from Dubai Customs. Dubai Customs issue two types of Import/Export Codes which are ‘Free Zone Code’ and ‘Onshore Code’.
The Free Zone code allows only the import and re-export to other countries and hence goods are not allowed to enter the mainland unless they are cleared through a limited liability trading company or a logistics provider or authorized distributor.
Yes, the General Manager can reside outside the UAE as long as he/she will have a valid UAE residence visa and is willing to be the day-to-day point of contact for all matters concerning the business
Once you have residency in the UAE, account opening becomes easier and you can even open an account with zero balance. For the residents of the United Arab Emirates practically all banks open individual accounts. For residents, there are also easier requirements in terms of minimum account balance on your current or savings account.
Several banks provide this service, however in some cases an investment scheme is required to get approval. The account would have the status of savings accounts and not current accounts, and you will not be able to obtain a cheque book or credit card. In case you need any personal credit/loan – usually, such accounts do not qualify for these services.
A Branch is a representative office of a legal entity which already exists locally or internationally. A Branch does not have a separate legal personality, and it derives its power and authority from the parent entity. A Branch must retain the same name as the parent entity and conduct similar activities as the parent entity.
Yes, you are able to open a PO Box with a Free Zone and Mainland license. Offshore entities are not entitled to a PO Box.