After many years helping entrepreneurs set up in the UAE, I can say with some confidence that the nation’s free zones are one of the major reasons so many people flock here to do business. A quick scan of the key free trade zone (FTZ) benefits makes it perfectly clear why they are so popular, particularly among foreign entrepreneurs. Zero corporation and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and 100% import and export tax exemption are just some of the many advantages to setting up in a FTZ.
What is perhaps less clear to the first-time entrepreneur in the UAE is quite how much each free zone differs from the next. True, most offer the headline grabbing benefits listed above, but each also has many unique advantages that can’t be found elsewhere.
To paint a clearer picture of how free zones differ from one another, today we’re going to look at just one: Dubai Media City (DMC). Located at the heart of Dubai’s vibrant business district, it’s the perfect location for organisations and individuals aiming to do business in media and communications – in the region and beyond.
Setting up in Dubai Media City
So let’s take a look at some details to help you decide whether setting up in Dubai Media City is right for you.
1. Flexi-desk option: With any company formation in Dubai, visas are always going to be a consideration and while Dubai Media City certainly delivers on this front it has to be said its flexi-desk visa options are not the most generous in the region. Allowing one visa per flexi-desk package makes the free zone ideal for freelancers and solo entrepreneurs – allowing them the freedom to make use of DMC’s many business facilities on an ad-hoc basis. However, it’s not the best option for those looking to employ others. As for price, at AED 25,000 it’s a little higher than others in the region.
Allowing one visa per flexi-desk package makes the free zone ideal for freelancers and solo entrepreneurs – allowing them the freedom to make use of DMC’s many business facilities on an ad-hoc basis.
2. No need to commit to office space: For those who want to work even more flexibly than a flexi-desk, DMC allows businesses to set up without the need to take office space at all. As well as being able to use the free zone as your company’s registered address, you’ll also get access to Dubai Media City’s Business Centre which offers visa and document processing, mail collection and distribution, and access to meeting rooms among a wide range of services.
There are exceptions however. Businesses that trade in specific industries such as publishing or other regulated activities must take on physical office space to set up in the free zone. If you fall into that category or simply prefer a more permanent office presence, there are plenty of options available – DMC’s commercial office units come in sizes to suit everyone from solo entrepreneurs to multinational corporations.
3. Flexible registration process: Company formation in Dubai is not to be taken lightly. The Dubai Media City process is both flexible and thorough enough to ensure everything is in correct order once your business is up and running. DMC requires a number of documents to process a licence application, including passport copies, a certificate of incorporation and a detailed business plan. It is not unusual for shareholders to be asked to attend a brief meeting with free zone officials too. In all, the registration process usually takes around three months. Having said that, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ application process, so the exact requirements and timeframe will differ depending on the type of licence you’re applying for, the industry you trade in and the size of your business.
4. The ideal home for those in the media: As the names suggests, Dubai Media City is particularly attractive to those in media-related industries. And with good reason. DMC is home to a media community of over 20,000 professionals and packed with networking and collaborative opportunities. The free zone also offers a prestigious office address and location for those wishing to make a splash in the global media industry.
The free zone also offers a prestigious office address and location for those wishing to make a splash in the global media industry.
Industries permitted to set up in DMC include media and marketing, encompassing advertising and communications, event management, consultancy, media freelancers and non-profit associations. Finally, unlike many other free zones in the region, DMC-based media companies are, in some circumstances, allowed to take on government contracts.
5. Easy to get your corporate bank account set up: Company formation in Dubai, like anywhere else in the world brings with it a long list of ‘to-dos’. One of the most important is ensuring you have somewhere for your clients to send funds. DMC makes this particular task easy: not only can free zone staff advise on the best bank to suit your needs but they’ll also arrange for meetings with your chosen financial institutions if required. What’s more, Dubai Media City is rated by UAE banks as highly trustworthy which can only aid a smooth account opening process.
6. Easy to sponsor dependents: Obtaining a visa through Dubai Media City is usually rather straightforward – both for you and your dependents. Providing you meet certain obligations, it is possible to apply for additional visas for your staff and family. The process is quick and easy: entry permit, status adjustment, medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration and visa stamping. But it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE free zone businesses. They will help you make sure that before you start an application, both you (and those you’re hoping to sponsor) meet the entry criteria.
7. Set up with multiple shareholders: One factor that makes Dubai Media City particularly popular with large corporations is that it allows company formation with more than one shareholder. Newly established Free Zone Limited Liability Companies (FZ-LLCs) are allowed multiple shareholders which can be either individuals or corporate entities.
8. Prime location: Dubai Media City is one of the most centrally located free zones in Dubai. Just 20 minutes from Dubai International Airport and with extensive road links putting neighbouring emirates within easy reach, DMC is perfect for doing business both at home and abroad.
Dubai Media City is one the most centrally located free zones in Dubai.
Free zone company formation in Dubai
So you’re sold on the benefits of setting up your business in Dubai Media City – 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 can 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 application, ultimately ensuring the entire process requires little more than a few hours of your time.