How to get your business license in Dubai

Dubai attracts millions of visitors from around the world every year. Some come to take in the incredible sights, sounds and scenery of our emirate. Others have more long-term aims and flock to Dubai to take advantages of its incredibly welcoming business environment.

For those looking to do business here, it’s not hard to see why. Dubai, and the wider UAE, is home to one of the most attractive tax regimes in the world – 0% on both corporate and personal income. Then there’s country’s location at the heart of the Middle East, putting it in the perfect spot to trade with every corner of the globe.

Dubai’s easy incorporation process is yet another reason why international entrepreneurs choose to set up here. With the right guidance, you could make your license application, obtain your visa and be up and running in a matter of weeks.

Applying for a business license in Dubai

There are several steps to take before applying for your business license in Dubai. 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 Dubai must list a business activity, or activities, on its business license. This must be chosen from a pre-determined list published by the Department of Economic Development. 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: Understanding license types

Once you have outlined your business activities, you can determine your license type. It’s important that you decide on your activities first as they will impact the type of license you require.

If you are carrying out industrial services such as manufacturing, for example, you will require an industrial license. Similarly, if you are providing services such as marketing or consulting, you’ll require a professional services license. Other available licenses include commercial, e-commerce, and trading.

Step 3: Choosing your company name

A step of the business incorporation process that takes on more importance here in Dubai 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 4: Setting up in a free zone or the mainland

The next key step to starting your business is to decide on the type of setup you require. There are two common options in the UAE – free zone and mainland.

Both bring their own advantages and have several distinct differences. If you choose to set up in the mainland, for example, you can trade directly with the local market without the need for a distributor or local agent.

If you set up in a free zone you cannot do this, however you do benefit from customs tax exemptions and other financial incentives such as the ability to repatriate all capital and profits to your country of origin.

Step 5: Applying for your license

Now we come to the most important step – applying for your business license. Exactly how you do this will depend on whether you have chosen to set up in the mainland or in a free zone.

If you’re setting up in the mainland, you can make your license application directly to the Department of Economic Development. If you’ve chosen a free zone setup, you should apply directly to the managing authority of your chosen free zone.

In both cases, 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 from your current employer (if applicable)

Step 6: Applying for your visa

Another highly important step in starting your own business here in Dubai is applying for your residency visa.

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 Dubai 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.

How much does a business license cost in Dubai?

The total Dubai business license cost will depend on many factors. It may be more cost-effective to set up in a free zone rather than the mainland, for example. Equally, you will pay less for your license package if you only require one visa, or if you do not take on premises.

If you’re looking to estimate the Dubai license cost alone – not inclusive of premises or visas – you should expect to pay somewhere in the region of AED 15,000.

Starting your Dubai business

By following the steps above, it is possible to obtain your trade license and establish your business in Dubai.

However, 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.

Worldwide Formations helps entrepreneurs in the UAE with all their company setup needs. For more information, call us now on 800 FREE ZONE (800 3733 9663). 

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