When looking to start a business in the UAE, entrepreneurs are often first drawn to Dubai. However, it is just one of several prosperous emirates ready and waiting to welcome investors from the world over.
The capital of those emirates, Abu Dhabi, is one such location. With its 0% tax rate, strategic central location, world-class infrastructure, and encouraging business environment, it’s the ideal base for businesses of all sizes, across a range of industries.
And that’s not all. When setting up with the help of a trusted company formation expert, starting a business in Abu Dhabi is fast, affordable, and simple.
Benefits of starting a business in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is among the fastest-growing metropolitan economies in the world, accounting for around 65% of the UAE’s total economic output. As part of the UAE, it boasts a central location at the heart of Asia and Europe, as well as direct trading links with Africa and America.
The Abu Dhabi government is business-focused and provides a broad range of support measures that make it easy to start and grow your enterprise. The emirate’s state-of-the-art transport infrastructure makes travel and trade simple, while its time zone overlaps with every corner of the business world.
Outside of the world of business, Abu Dhabi ranked 1st in the 2020 Numbeo City Crime Index, and was rated the second-best city to live in in the Ipsos Top Cities Index.
Abu Dhabi is also home to several Free Zones & Industrial Zones such as Abu Dhabi Airport Business City and Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), ICAD etc, all of which afford businesses customs tax exemption, currency freedoms and the capital and profit repatriation. Free zones businesses may also be 100% owned by foreign investors across most sectors.
Abu Dhabi company types
There are two common ways to start a business in Abu Dhabi – in the mainland or in a free zone.
Mainland businesses can set up anywhere throughout Abu Dhabi. They are also permitted to trade with the local market without the assistance of a local agent.
Companies being set up in Abu Dhabi Free Zones have the privilege of applying and obtaining a special DED License (Dual License), which will enable companies to trade in mainland, as well as apply for government tenders etc., without the requirement of a local sponsor.
Within these categories are several business types, including sole proprietorships, civil companies, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), and branches of existing companies.
These companies can be operated under several different licences, including:
- Professional license
- Commercial license
- Industrial license
Both the company type and license that is right for you will depend on multiple factors such as your chosen business activity and the number of company shareholders.
How to start a business in Abu Dhabi
There are several steps to take before applying for your business license in Abu Dhabi. While no step is particularly complex on its own, each requires a knowledge of the business incorporation process and it is therefore best undertaken with the assistance of a company formation expert.
Step 1: Choose your business activity
Every business in the Abu Dhabi must list a business activity, or activities, on its business license. It’s important that you list every activity that applies to your business when making your application as failure to do so can lead to fines or even license revocation.
There are over 2,000 to choose from so no matter your industry or the type of business you undertake, you are sure to find an activity that fits the bill.
Step 2: Choosing your company name
A step of the business incorporation process that takes on more importance here in the UAE is the choosing of your company name. That’s because as well as the need for a name that’s catchy and captures the essence of your business, you’ll also need to stick to the UAE’s clearly defined naming conventions.
In short, UAE company names must not contain any blasphemous or offensive language, any references to well-known institutions or any abbreviations of your name – though your full name is acceptable.
Your name should also have a legal entity attached to it such as FZE or LLC. It must also relate to your business activity, not resemble the name of any other company and be available to register.
Step 3: Applying for your license
Now we come to the most important step – applying for your business license.
You are usually required to submit several documents along with your application form, including:
- A copy of your passport – and that of any other shareholders
- Your business plan
- A copy of your signature
- A No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your current employer (if applicable)
A company formation expert can help you with this step and manage the entire application process on your behalf.
Step 4: Applying for your visa
Finally, you’ll need a residency visa to work in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE.
This process involves four stages including a medical fitness test and biometric capturing. In all, it usually takes less than a week.
As the holder of a UAE business license, you can also sponsor others such as children, a spouse, or domestic staff for their visas too, providing you meet the eligibility criteria.
Calculating the Abu Dhabi Business license cost
The cost of setting up in Abu Dhabi will depend on location, business type, business size and much more. However, in most cases, setting up in a free zone is the most cost-effective approach.
To give an example, KIZAD offers business solutions for all types of business activities such as manufacturing, logistics, trade, and distribution, with packages start from just AED 9,450.
Start your business in Abu Dhabi
It is always advisable to undertake the steps with the assistance of a registered company formations agent to eliminate any potential hassles that might arise. With more than 15 years of experience in company incorporation, Worldwide Formations can help you get your business up and running within a week or two. We’ll manage your license and visa application and correspond with all relevant authorities for you. All you need to do is wait for the green light to start trading.