This page provides information about the key steps to set up a business in a free zone from determining the type of legal entity and choosing a trade name.
Setting up a business in a free zone is relatively easier. Free zone authorities require minimum paperwork and duration. Here are the key steps to set up a business in a free zone.
Determine the type of legal entity
Determine the type of legal entity your business would take up. In a free zone, you can set up one of the two types of companies:
The differences lie in the number of shareholders and whether the shareholder is a natural person or a legal person. All free zones might not register both types of companies. You need to check with individual free zone authorities about the type of company they can register. Refer to the list of free zones and their authorities.
Learn about new business setup packages in Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).
Existing local and foreign companies may set up a branch of their company in free zones.
There is no minimum capital requirement at twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
In KIZAD, you can form an LLC for which the minimum paid-up capital should be AED 150,000.
In Dubai Airport Free Zone, you can form an FZ Co. with a minimum share capital of AED 1000. Each share should be in the denomination of AED 1000.
In DMCC, the minimum share capital for forming a free zone company is AED 50,000 per company and AED 10,000 per shareholder. For a company to be issued a General Trading Licence, it should have a minimum of AED 1 million share capital.
In Hamriya Free Zone, you can form an FZE with a share capital of AED 150,000.
Choose a trade name
While you are deciding upon the type of legal entity your business should take, you should choose a trade name.
In most cases, you should check either with the respective free zone authority or the respective with the Department of Economic Development about the permitted trade names and whether the intended name has already been registered.
As per the website of twofour54, you cannot use 'Abu Dhabi' and/or 'United Arab Emirates' in the name of the FZ-LLC or the branch.
Refer to DMCC's list of restricted trade names (PDF, 207 KB).
In general, for DED to approve the proposed trade name, the key requirements are that the trade name:
Apply for a business licence
The type of business licence you will apply for depends on the primary activity of your business.
Types of business activities you can conduct
In twofour54, you can carry out the following businesses:
Other business activities
Publishing and broadcasting
In this case, you would need to apply for a dissemination licence.
In DMCC, you can choose from over 600 business activities ranging from over 20 sectors such as energy, commodities, gold and diamonds, technology, constructions, FMCG, healthcare, aviation, shipping, education, media, professional services, financial services and personal and community services. Refer to the list of businesses you can conduct in DMCC.
In DIFC, you can conduct financial and non-financial businesses. Financial businesses include banks, insurance, wealth management and capital markets. Non-financial businesses include retail shops, restaurants, five-star hotels, art galleries and academic institutions. Read more on the page about areas of business in DIFC.
Accordingly, some types of business licences are:
Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) allows establishing 'single family offices'. These have the standard FZ LLC structure. They can provide services to a family member, family business, family entity (corporate structure) or family trust. It can be owned by one or more individuals or a corporate entity where all shareholders are of the same family.
Choose an office space
You can either buy or lease office spaces in free zones. Office requirements depend on the number of employees and type of business activity of your company.
In DMCC, you can choose from a flexi desk of 20-30 sq. m., a flexi office of 200-265 sq. m., or offices running through multiple floors totalling up to 2,000 sq. m. each.
In Dubai Airport Free Zone, you can choose between 'Office Packages', 'Smart Desk Office Packages' and 'Executive Office Packages'.
Hamriyah Free Zone Authority provides over 100 executive offices suits ranging in size from 15 m2 to 42 m2 with conferencing and internet facilities.
Get pre-approvals, register your business and get your licence
Companies established in free zones are governed by the rules of the respective free zones. To get the necessary approvals, you need to apply with the documents. The list of documents varies on the type of business activity, the type of company and the requirements of the free zone authority. Below is a general guideline of steps and documents needed for approvals.
A. Initial approval
First, you need the initial approval. You are required to provide:
Freelancers need to submit fewer documents. In most cases, they need to submit:
After getting initial approval, you need to pay registration fees and licence fees. The fees depend on the type of licence required. Then, you need to submit:
C. Licensing and visa process
Note that certain activities may be subject to approval from external authorities. Refer to special cases.
What are the requirements regarding capital investment?
These vary on the business type and the free zone authority.
What are the types of businesses I can do in a free zone?
You can do any business in the fields of financial, educational, retail, hospitality and media to name a few. Check with the respective free zone authority for businesses permitted on their premises.