Company formation in Dubai (2018 Guide)

4 February 2018 Category :
Company formation with Virtuzone

If you’re looking for a foothold for your business in a strategically well-positioned marketplace, you’ll no doubt have considered company formation in Dubai.

The emirate is popular with entrepreneurs from every corner of the world and it’s not hard to see why. Once reliant on oil production for 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP), Dubai now makes less than 1% of its GDP from oil. It’s a much more diverse economy today – the fastest growing of all the UAE economies – with a host of industries in the ascendant, from health and hospitality to trade and technology.

The business environment in Dubai is welcoming too. It has a host of incubators, hubs and initiatives designed to help companies grow, not to mention one of the most favourable tax regimes in the world. Add to that a strategic location in the heart of the Middle East, perfectly placed to do business with the vast and emerging markets of Europe, Asia and North Africa, and the commercial pull of the emirate becomes clear.

What really sets Dubai apart from other metropolitan cities, however, is the ease with which entrepreneurs can set up a business here. The entire process, from application to trading, often only takes a matter of weeks and, in some cases, it is even possible to set up a Dubai-registered company without setting foot in the UAE.

What really sets Dubai apart from other metropolitan cities, however, is the ease with which entrepreneurs can set up a business here.

The process is so simple that it can be completed in just six steps.

Company formation in Dubai

It’s recommended to seek expert advice from a company formation specialist to guide you through the process, but this outline will help explain just how easy it is to establish a business in Dubai.

1. Choose your business activity: An obvious starting point, but it’s best to be clear about the nature of the business you wish to set up in Dubai before you go any further. There are thousands of permitted activities as listed by the Department of Economic Development (DED), including everything from agriculture and manufacturing to retail and consultancy. The reason it’s important to establish your business activity upfront is because it may have a bearing on where you set up. Some business types, for example, are better suited to the mainland as opposed to free zones. Similarly, if you wish to launch an import/export company, it may be beneficial to set up near the airport or port.

2. Deciding between free zone or mainland: Once you’ve decided on the nature of your business, it’s time to choose where to set up shop. The two main choices in Dubai are mainland setups and free zone setups. Each has its own advantages: mainland setups are more suited to businesses that wish to trade directly with the local UAE economy, while free zones (of which there are more than 30 in Dubai) cannot trade directly with the local market but offer a host of other benefits such as 100% foreign ownership and import and export tax exemption. Another factor worth knowing is that to trade from the mainland you may need to find a UAE national to sponsor you and that would command an annual fee.

3. Selecting a company name: This step is often overlooked but it is hugely important, particularly here in the UAE. Not only should your company name stick in the memory and convey your brand values, but in Dubai it must also conform to several naming conventions. Offensive language is strictly forbidden, as are religious references, or indeed references to any known organisations, eg ‘FBI’ or ‘Mafia’). Only full personal names can be included in your company name – so if you want to name your business after yourself, both first name and last name are required. When it comes to writing your company name in different languages, it must be written as it is sounded out, rather than translated. You’ll also need to check if your chosen name is available to register. A company formation specialist can verify this for you.

4. Submitting your licence application: By the time you come to this step, things begin to move very fast, so you need to be fully prepared. If you’ve chosen to set up in the mainland, you can apply directly to the DED and, providing you meet the eligibility criteria, you could be registered within just 90 minutes. It’s that straightforward. Free zone licence applications are almost as speedy, often issued in as little as two working days, and you’ll usually only need a passport copy and a few details to get started. As this is such an important stage of company formation in Dubai, it is best to work with a company formation specialist, who will take care of your application for you so the whole process only takes a few hours of your time.

5. Visas: A company formation specialist can take care of your visa applications too. It is possible to apply for visas for you, your employees and certain family members and domestic staff – the exact number will depend on your business activity and whether you have chosen to set up in the mainland or in a free zone.

6. Opening a corporate bank account: The final step. Once you’ve successfully applied for your licence and established your business, you’ll be able to set up your corporate bank account. The application process for this is quick and simple too. You can approach any local or international bank yourself, but if your business is in a free zone, the administration staff will advise you on the best bank to suit your needs and can even arrange meetings in-branch for you. You can also use a company formation specialist to provide the same service.

Once you’ve successfully applied for your licence and established your business, you’ll be able to set up your corporate bank account.

Ready to get started?
Setting up your business in Dubai is easy, especially if you work with a company formation specialist. While the six steps above may strike you as a lot of work, an expert will take care of all the heavy lifting for you. There’s no need to meet with or apply to countless government departments and authorities to get the job done, all you need to do is submit some basic documents and work with a specialist who can help get everything finalised.

Your new business will be trading before you know it.

Setting up your own business has never been easier. Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to, click here.


About the author: Gemma Kennedy, Head of Sales, Virtuzone.

About the author: Gemma Kennedy, Head of Sales, Virtuzone.

As Head of Sales 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.