Since the UAE’s first free zone opened its doors in the 1980s, it’s fair to say they have been a roaring success. Free zones are widely credited as playing a huge part in both the diversification of the UAE’s economy and the country’s rise to becoming one of the world’s leading business hubs. The UAE’s free zones account for over one third of the country’s non-oil trade and were valued at around USD 140bn in 2015 – according to Gulf News. And the secret of their success is, well, not very secret. It’s clear to see why entrepreneurs find them such an attractive proposition – 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and 100% import and export tax exemption – to name just a few of the benefits.
However, while all free zones may offer these advantages, it is not true to say that all are the same – each also offers up its own range of benefits that differ slightly from others in the region.
So in this, the latest instalment in our weekly series highlighting the specific benefits of individual free zones, we are going to look at Dubai South Free Zone. If you’re sold on the idea of setting up in a free zone but are still considering your options, here are eight key benefits of Dubai South to help decide whether it’s the right fit for your business.
1. Location: First, let’s start with what many consider to be this particular free zone’s biggest benefit: location. Not only does Dubai’s location make it the ideal place to do business with both east and west, but the Dubai South Free Zone itself could not be more perfectly placed within that. As well as being the site of Expo 2020, which is set to be one of the biggest business events the region has ever seen, Dubai South is also in prime location for access by land, sea or air – on the Sheikh Zayed Road, connecting Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and directly linked to both the Jebel Ali Sea Port and Al Maktoum International Airport.
As well as being the site of Expo 2020, which is set to be one of the biggest business events the region has ever seen, Dubai South is also in prime location for access by land, sea or air.
2. Affordability: This is of course important to businesses of all sizes. However, as one of the most cost effective free zones in the emirate, Dubai South Free Zone is increasingly popular with individuals and smaller companies looking to get the big business advantages of a free zone on a small business budget.
3. Visas with a flexi-desk option: Another major pulling point of Dubai South Free Zone for solo entrepreneurs and small business owners is that it allows for three visas without the need for physical office space – depending on your business activity. Entrepreneurs need only take on a flexi-desk package – offering flexible access to desk space and other office services such as conference room hire and reception cover – which is not monitored and therefore not compulsory.
4. Wide variety of business types welcomed: There is much debate about which is better: sector specific free zones or those that are open to a wide range of business types. In truth, both offer huge advantages. Sector specific free zones allow entrepreneurs to work side-by-side with other experts in the field and offer great opportunity for knowledge sharing and development. On the other hand, working among a variety of industries is perfect for collaboration and broadening horizons.
Dubai South Free Zone welcomes a wide range of business activities – including HR, e-trading, IT, training, consultancy, advertising, design, general trading and more. It also offers both consultancy (including service) and commercial licences – the latter of which allows businesses to import goods and sell them to other free zones, or within the UAE market with the support of a third-party distributor.
Dubai South offers both consultancy (including service) and commercial licences – the latter of which allows businesses to import goods and sell them to other free zones, or within the UAE market with the support of a third-party distributor.
This broad range of both business type and activity combines to create a unique, collaborative working environment where entrepreneurs from different fields can learn from, assist and work with each other.
5. Easy setup: It should be said that Dubai South’s incorporation process is not quite as straightforward as other free zones – though it is certainly not complex either. And it offers many other advantages. For one, no share capital is required to set up shop, which combined with low fees make it a highly cost-effective choice. The process is also notably fast – taking a maximum of ten days from start to finish.
6. Minimal paperwork: As well as being hugely popular with solo entrepreneurs and small business owners, Dubai South Free Zone is also well favoured by paperwork-adverse entrepreneurs. Not only is there in most cases no requirement to submit a formal business plan but auditing is only required after the second year of company renewal.
7. Ease of setting up your corporate bank account: It can feel like there are a million and one things to do when setting up a business anywhere in the world – and the UAE is no exception. So anything to lessen that burden is a relief. As well as the standard assistance you would expect with business registration in most of the UAE’s free zones, when setting up in Dubai South, you’ll also get help and assistance choosing and opening your corporate bank account.
8. Easy to sponsor dependents: Dubai South Free Zone doesn’t only make it easy to get your own visa in place, it’s very simple for entrepreneurs to sponsor family and employees for their own residence visas too. Whether you require a visa for a spouse, child, maid or driver, the process is made up of four straightforward stages: entry permit, status adjustment, a medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration and visa stamping. So with this in mind, it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE free zone businesses – to ensure that before you start an application, both you (and those you’re hoping to sponsor) meet all of the entry criteria.
Dubai South Free Zone doesn’t only make it easy to get your own visa in place, it’s very simple for entrepreneurs to sponsor family and employees for their own residence visas too.
Setting up your free zone business
So, you’re sold on the benefits of setting up your business in Dubai South Free Zone – what next?
There are a number of steps that need to be undertaken, some complex, some less so. Usually the first thing to do is choose your business activity. From here you’ll need to decide on your company name, complete and file your registration paperwork with the relevant authorities, open a bank account, and apply for any visas that may be required.
However, the specifics of this process will depend largely on the type of licence you are applying for and the kind of business you wish to run. That’s why before starting any of these steps, the first port of call should always be to a company setup expert who will guide you through every part of the setup journey, ultimately ensuring the entire process requires little more than a few hours of your time.