IT consultancy setup in Dubai – we are the MENA’s top tech hub for a reason

13 September 2017 Category :
IT consultants

‘The next big thing’ is a phrase often associated with Dubai.

Whether it’s the latest developments in hospitality, construction, healthcare or any other industry you care to name, Dubai is well and truly the home of ‘the next big thing’. But it is the emirate’s status – coined by Forbes – as the ‘next big tech startup hub’ that has really caught the attention of investors and entrepreneurs from around the globe.

Perhaps more than anywhere outside of Silicon Valley, the technology industry here in Dubai is truly in the ascendance. Support for tech startups from the government, as part of the UAE’s strategy to diversify its economy away from oil, alongside a number of startup incubators (such as In5, Silicon Oasis and i360accelerator) is predicted to help the Dubai tech market top AED 22bn by 2019, according to the Dubai Chamber.

There are other factors at play here of course: Dubai’s favourable tax and customs rates for one. And let’s not forget that with around two billion people living within a four-hour flight of the bustling emirate, Dubai is the perfect platform to trade with the fast-growing markets of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

And let’s not forget that with around two billion people living within a four-hour flight of the bustling emirate, Dubai is the perfect platform to trade with the fast-growing markets of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

So if you’re ready to get your IT consultancy set up in Dubai, below is everything you need to know to get started. 

IT consultancy setup Dubai – everything you need to know

Dubai is the place to launch your new tech startup – and that has meant the IT consultancy licence has become hot property in this part of the world.

Let’s look at some key points to consider.

1. Several licensing options: There are a number of ways to get your IT consultancy set up in Dubai, though due to benefits such as 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership and 100% repatriation of capital and profits, the free zone route is perhaps the most popular. There are many free zones to choose from – Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP), Dubai Internet City (DIC) and Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSOA) are a just few of those that welcome IT businesses.

Obtaining an IT consultancy licence in this way allows you to carry out several activities including coding, consulting, software building and sales. It is also possible to set up on the UAE mainland. As it allows for 100% foreign ownership, establishing your business with a professional licence is a good way of doing this – though keep in mind that this type of licence is only suitable for professions, services, craftsmen and artisans (rather than trading activities).

2. Fast and easy setupGetting your IT consultancy set up in Dubai is both quick and easy – particularly if you set up in a free zone. Many free zones simply require an application along with colour copies of shareholder and director passports to get started – you may also require a business plan. Provided all is in order, you should receive your IT consultancy licence in just two working days. And it’s affordable, with licences starting from just AED 12,500.

3. Set up as a freelancer: If you work solo and don’t wish to establish a new free zone enterprise or mainland company, you also have the option of setting up as a freelancer. You can apply for a freelance permit either directly to the Department of Economic Development (DED), or from one of Dubai’s free zones, such as DKP. While neither option is particularly difficult, the free zone route is probably the easiest. The application process is simple and your licence is usually issued in 7-10 days.

You can apply for a freelance permit either directly to the Department of Economic Development (DED), or from one of Dubai’s free zones, such as DKP.

4. Set up with multiple shareholders: While it’s easy to go it alone and get your IT consultancy set up in Dubai, that’s not to say you must. The IT consultancy licence is popular with larger organisations as well since it allows for setup with multiple shareholders. While there is no official upper limit on the number of shareholders, the generally accepted cap is 50 – these can be either individuals or corporate entities.

5. Plenty of visa options: Another reason why IT consultancy licences are particularly popular with smaller businesses is that it’s possible to obtain multiple visas without the need to commit to physical office space. Simply set up in a free zone such as DKP and you can apply for up to six visas for your employees. Should you require more, setting up in the mainland is the better option as it has no upper visa limit. However, this is dependent on the size of your office – the general rule of thumb being 100 sq. ft. of office space per visa.

6. Sponsor dependants: As well as being able to apply for visas for you and your employees, as a business owner in the UAE you can sponsor your dependants for their visas as well. Whether you require a visa for a spouse, child, maid or driver, the process is straightforward: entry permit, status adjustment, a medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration and visa stamping. Keep in mind, however, that it is slightly easier for men to act as a sponsor than it is for women. Either way, since this is such an important part of the process, it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE businesses to ensure that before starting an application, both you and those you are hoping to sponsor meet the entry criteria.

7. No paid upfront share capital: Yet another factor that makes getting your IT consultancy set up in Dubai so affordable is the upfront share capital requirement. Whether you start up in a free zone or on the mainland, you are not required to put forward paid up share capital.

8. Easy to arrange your corporate bank account: As soon as you have your IT services licence in the UAE, you’ll be able to arrange your corporate bank account – and the application process is both quick and simple. If you’ve established your business in a free zone, the relevant authorities are on hand to advise on the best bank to suit your needs – and can even arrange meetings in-branch for you. For those setting up on the mainland, a company formation specialist can provide the same service. Or alternatively, you’re welcome to approach any local or international bank on your own.

As soon as you have your IT services licence in the UAE, you’ll be able to arrange your corporate bank account – and the application process is both quick and simple.

Getting an IT consultancy licence in Dubai

Barely a week goes by without Dubai being lauded as the place to do business – the next big healthcare hub, the next big hospitality hub and of course the next big tech hub. But while it’s easy to become desensitised to such accolades, anyone who has spent any length of time out here knows that these words are far from hyperbole. There is so much going on in Dubai – it is essentially a world inside a city – so it absolutely has the potential to be the hub for almost any industry imaginable. With Expo 2020 on the horizon, businesses in the region are investing huge figures into technology infrastructure to engage with the 25 million additional visitors who will be drawn to the region. So much so that the local tech industry is expected to grow by an additional 2% before and during the event.

It is the fact that Dubai is such a business epicentre that makes it the perfect place to launch your IT company. The emirate is home to 2.8 million citizens from every corner of the world, each with differing needs – all of which can be met by the innovative, tech-minded entrepreneur. If this sounds like you, now is the time to make your move.

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About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at VirtuGroup
About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at VirtuGroup

With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching VirtuGroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.