Setting up a company in Jebel Ali Free Zone

March 26, 2017

Anyone with even a passing interest in setting up a UAE company will be familiar with free zones.

Offering a host of incredibly attractive benefits – such as 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and 100% import and export tax exemption within the free zone – they are a cornerstone of the UAE business landscape, accounting for around one-third of the UAE’s non-oil trade.

But while all free zones may serve up these headline benefits, that’s not to say they are all the same.

Each free zone also offers up its own range of perks that differ slightly from others in the region. So in this week’s free zone spotlight, we are going to look at Jebel Ali Free Zone.

Located in the west of Dubai, Jebel Ali Free Zone is the oldest in the UAE, having been established in 1985. It is also one of the most popular. Many entrepreneurs choose to set up their business in Jebel Ali due to its rich infrastructure – surrounded as it is by the necessary amenities and transport links.

Located in the west of Dubai, Jebel Ali Free Zone is the oldest free zone in the UAE, having been established in 1985. It is also one of the most popular.

So, if you’re sold on the idea of setting up business in one of the UAE’s free zones and are considering your options, here are eight benefits to help you decide if Jebel Ali Free Zone company setup is the right one for you. 

1. Get multiple visas without committing to an office: One of the major reasons why entrepreneurs – particularly those working solo or running small businesses – choose to set up in Jebel Ali Free Zone is that it allows for three visas without the need to take on physical office space. Entrepreneurs who do not require a constant physical presence in the UAE can simply sign up to Jebel Ali’s flexi-desk option which offers flexible access to desk space and other office services such as conference room hire and reception cover – all on an ad-hoc basis. 

2. It’s super easy to set up: The Jebel Ali company setup process is both straightforward and fast. All you need to do is decide on the type of business you wish to set up – a free zone company, a free zone establishment, or a branch of an existing company. Then you provide the requisite documentation (this will differ depending on your business type), and you can have your business up and running in around 10 days. 

3. No paid upfront share capital: Another factor that leads entrepreneurs to choose Jebel Ali Free Zone is its share capital requirement – there isn’t one. No minimum share capital is required to set up shop, which combined with an easy business registration process makes this particular free zone popular with entrepreneurs looking to set up quickly with minimal upfront costs.

4. Diverse business types are welcome: Perhaps the biggest draw for businesses that choose to set up in Jebel Ali Free Zone is the wide variety of business activities it accommodates. This offers two major advantages. Firstly, working among a variety of industries offers fantastic opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of knowledge from one sector to another. Secondly, it’s great for companies that conduct a number of different business activities as Jebel Ali Free Zone allows for between 7 and 12 business activities under one trading licence. You can even conduct service activities from Jebel Ali, providing you register a branch of a company which has been operational in mainland UAE for at least two years. 

Perhaps the biggest draw for businesses that choose to set up in Jebel Ali Free Zone is the wide variety of business activities it accommodates.

5. Location: Jebel Ali Free Zone’s strategic location is a huge selling point. Not only does it have access to the most developed port in the region – which coupled with Jebel Ali’s warehouse facilities make it the ideal place to set up for import and export businesses – but both Al Maktoum International Airport and Dubai International Airport are only a 20-minute and 40-minute drive away respectively. This comprehensive transport infrastructure makes Jebel Ali a popular choice with large businesses that regularly trade with the rest of the world – offering as it does the fastest access to shipments from Asia, Africa, the Russian Commonwealth (CIS), and elsewhere.

6. Easy to set up your corporate bank account: Anything that shortens your to-do list when setting up a company in the UAE can only be a good thing. And Jebel Ali Free Zone takes care of one particularly important task for you: setting up your corporate bank account. Not only are you offered assistance with finding the bank that’s right for you and completing any required paperwork, but as all major banks acknowledge the comprehensive compliance practices of Jebel Ali Free Zone, the setup process is quick and easy.

7. Easy to sponsor dependants: When you set up your business in Jebel Ali Free Zone, not only is it easy to get your own visa in place should you require one but it’s very simple to acquire additional visas for family members and employees 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. As this is such an important process, 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.

When you set up your business in Jebel Ali Free Zone, not only is it easy to get your own visa in place should you require one but it’s very simple to acquire additional visas for family members and employees too.

8. Multiple shareholders: Finally, another factor behind its popularity is that the Jebel Ali Free Zone company setup process allows for multiple shareholders. Entrepreneurs wishing to set up such a business simply need to register a Free Zone Company (FZCO) which is essentially a Limited Liability Partnership within the free zone. This type of setup allows for anywhere between two and 25 shareholders to come together to form a company. Shareholders can be individuals, companies or a combination of the two. 

Setting up your free zone business

So you’re sold on the benefits of setting up your business in Jebel Ali Free Zone – what next?

There are a number of steps that need to be taken, 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.

The specifics of this process will depend on the type of licence you are applying for and the kind of business you wish to run. So before embarking on any of these steps, the first port of call should always be to a company setup expert, who will guide you through every aspect, ultimately ensuring that the entire process requires little more than a few hours of your time.

About the author: Gemma Kennedy; Sales Manager at Virtuzone
About the author: Gemma Kennedy; Sales Manager at Virtuzone

As Sales Manager at Virtuzone, Gemma oversees the Company Formation Specialist team, which is responsible for consulting prospective clients interested in setting up a UAE free zone company. Gemma and her team provide all necessary and accurate guidance on the best path to UAE company setup, always delivered on a case-by-case basis for UAE entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their startup businesses. Gemma has extensive sales experience, having worked as a product representative for brands such as Tefal and Vidal Sassoon across New South Wales, Australia. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Employment Relations, History and (Hons) Politics at the University of Wollongong Australia, a unique educational mix which empowers her with a socio-political outlook in dealing with a multicultural workforce and client base.