This section provides information about planning a business on the mainland in the UAE.

Benefits of setting up a business on the mainland

There are many benefits of setting up a business on the mainland. Some of them are:

Flexibility to do business in any part of the UAE
No limit on number of visas
More business activities available for licensing
No business or personal taxes.

Key government entities
Generally, you need to contact Department of Economic Development of the respective emirate to seek the ‘initial approval’ and register the trade name. You can do that either by visiting their office or through their eServices. It is only after seeking the initial approval that you can proceed for additional approvals of other authorities which is required in case of certain business/trading activities.

Refer to the Department of Economic Development in the emirates of

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Dubai
  • Sharjah
  • Ras Al Khaimah
  • Ajman

In Fujairah, the activities are overseen by Fujairah Municipality.

In exceptional cases, such as setting up a private joint stock company (PrJSC), approval of Ministry of Economy is needed at first.

Where to begin?

If you are planning to start a business on the mainland, you need to know the following in order to know where to start.

Cost of setting up a business

Setting up a business involves raising capital investment, paying for licences and employee visas. The cost of setting up a business depends on:

The nature of the activity and licence required; whether it is commercial, industrial or service-oriented
The legal form of the company; whether it is an establishment, a company, or a branch of a company.

Capital requirements for a company on the mainland

Capital requirements for a company on the mainland vary according to the legal form of business. For a PJSC, the minimum capital is AED 30 million. For a PrJSC, it should not be less than AED 5 million paid in full.

For other type of businesses, the UAE Commercial Companies Law did not specify a minimum capital. But, it stated that the minimum capital:

  • should be mentioned in the Memorandum of Association.
  • must be a ‘sufficient capital’ to achieve the purpose of the business incorporation.

For foreign companies wishing to establish a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the UAE, they should seek guidance on the current practice of the relevant emirate regarding minimum share capital.

Nationality of partners

The nationality of partners is important to determine what type of business they can set up on the mainland. Only UAE nationals may set up the following types of companies:

  • Joint liability companies (partners must be UAE nationals)
  • Simple commandite companies
  • An industrial or commercial type sole proprietorship
  • Licence for home-based businesses
  • SME licence (in Dubai).

People of other nationalities (other than those of the other GCC countries) can conduct the other types of businesses. However, they need to involve a UAE national as a sponsor. The UAE national could be:

  • A partner with at least 51 per cent ownership of the business or
  • A local service agent (LSA), with the investor having a 100 per cent ownership of the business.

Company types that require a UAE national partner:

  • LLC companies
  • Public Joint Stock Companies (PJSC) – it must have at least 5 founding members who are UAE nationals, owning between 30 per cent and 70 per cent of the capital shares
  • PrJSC Companies
  • Civil company with an engineering activity

Company types that require LSA:

  • A professional type sole establishment
  • Civil company with no engineering activity
  • Foreign Company Branch

Note that a GCC national can be a partner in any form of business except:

  • A representative office
  • Simple commandite companies.
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