If you’re thinking of setting up a business in the UAE, you’re likely to be familiar with the country’s many free zones. They catch the eye of entrepreneurs from all corners of the world as they offer a number of extremely attractive benefits – starting with 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, and 100% import and export tax exemption. And that’s just to name a few.
Yet while all free zones may look attractive, they are not all the same. Each free zone offers specific advantages that differ from others in the region. To get an idea of just how the UAE’s free zones contrast with one another, today we will look at just one: Dubai Internet City (DIC).
Located adjacent to the stunning Palm Jumeriah, Dubai Internet City is the largest ICT hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The free zone describes itself as a ‘creative collective engineered for innovation’ and is home to over 1,400 businesses of all sizes – from solo entrepreneurs and startups through to large multinationals.
Setting up in Dubai Internet City
So, if you’re interested in setting up in a UAE free zone and are considering your options, here is everything you need to know to decide whether Dubai Internet City is right for you.
1. Office and visa options: For entrepreneurs wishing to work flexibly out of DIC, the flexi-desk package is the ideal solution. This allows business owners to make use of office facilities such as desk space, meeting rooms, reception cover and call screening on an ad-hoc basis without the need to commit to physical office space. While the facilities are undoubtedly first class, at AED 25,000 it’s true that DIC’s flexi-package is slightly higher than others in the region. For those looking for more than one visa, or who wish to set up a physical presence in the free zone, DIC also offers the opportunity to apply for one visa per eight square metres of office space.
For those looking for more than one visa, or who wish to set up a physical presence in the free zone, DIC also offers the opportunity to apply for one visa per eight square metres of office space.
2. Robust setup process: Perhaps unsurprisingly given the stature of many businesses that set up here, Dubai Internet City’s registration process is both comprehensive and robust. Entrepreneurs are required to provide a detailed business plan along with a certificate of incorporation and passport copies for all shareholders. From start to finish, the registration usually takes no longer than one month and you’ll only be required to visit the free zone once – to sign your application documents in front of the relevant authorities.
3. Home to a variety of ICT businesses: Perhaps the biggest factor behind DIC’s popularity is that the free zone is open to a broad array of tech businesses. Dubai Internet City welcomes companies across the full spectrum of ICT and online industries, including software, hardware and digital marketing companies. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM are just some of the prestigious organisations that call the free zone home.
4. Easy to arrange your corporate bank account: A hugely important task that is often not taken into consideration when setting up a company in the UAE is ensuring you get your corporate bank account open in time. Fortunately, DIC’s helpful staff are on hand to make sure this stage of the process runs smoothly. As well as advising you on the best banks to suit your needs, DIC can also arrange meetings with your chosen financial institutions should you so wish. What’s more, the Dubai Internet City’s robust setup procedures make it well trusted by both local and international banks.
5. Sponsor dependants with ease: As well as offering a straightforward process for applying for your own visa, Dubai Internet City makes it easy to obtain visas for your dependants as well. Providing you meet the salary requirements, you’ll be able to sponsor staff and/or family members when making their visa applications. Whether you require a visa for a spouse, child, maid or driver, the process is 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 starting an application, both you and those you are hoping to sponsor meet the entry criteria.
As well as offering a straightforward process for applying for your own visa, Dubai Internet City makes it easy to obtain visas for your dependants as well.
6. Set up with multiple shareholders: Dubai Internet City is particularly popular among large multinational organisations as it allows for company formation with more than one shareholder. Companies setting up in the free zone are allowed multiple shareholders – both individuals and corporates.
7. Work alongside industry giants: While Dubai Internet City may be slightly more expensive in terms of setup and running costs compared to others in the region, it is the place to be for businesses that want to make their name in the tech industry. DIC is the premier address for IT companies in Dubai, offering the opportunity to work alongside tech giants and Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Cisco.
8. Location, location, location: DIC’s location is also a huge part of its appeal. Centrally located in Dubai, the free zone is just off one of the city’s main highways – Sheikh Zayed Road – making travel in and around the Emirates a breeze. Dubai Internet City is also within easy reach of several major ports and both Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, ideal for business travel and trade. Finally, for those that don’t intend to move too far from the free zones, DIC is well stocked with amenities: home to over 80 restaurants, alongside banking, courier and many other business facilities.
Dubai Internet City is also within easy reach of several major ports and both Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, ideal for business travel and trade.
Setting up a UAE free zone company
So you’re sold on the benefits of setting up your business in Dubai Internet 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.