An investor can apply online to start his/her own business on the UAE mainland within 15 minutes at the most. Starting a business in ordinary ways requires a series of steps, procedures and approvals from the Economic Department and other government entities. This page states such steps and the investor’s journey to start a business in the UAE mainland.
The UAE Government introduced the Bashr service to start a business. Bashr is an integrated eService, which enables investors to establish their businesses in the UAE within 15 minutes through a unified online platform. This platform is connected with federal and local government entities, which provide commercial licence services. Read more about Bashr.
Abu Dhabi Business Centre provides investors with an instant licence service to start their businesses online and get the commercial licence without need to visit the service centre.
Department of Economy and Tourism along with other Dubai government entities launched the Dubai Virtual Commercial City programme (VCC) which will enable entrepreneurs and freelancers across the world to start a virtual company in the UAE, even if they do not live in the UAE.
Starting a business in ordinary ways involves a series of steps, including:
Business activity is the basis for selecting the legal form and type of licence, whether commercial, industrial or professional, etc. There are six types of licences. They are: industrial, commercial, professional, tourism, agricultural and occupational.
The legal form depends mainly on the business requirements. Moreover, the legal form is basis for identifying applicable laws and regulations. In the UAE, an investor can select one of these legal forms:
Note: the legal form of the business must match the business activity.
To learn more about the requirements of each business activity and legal form, check the following pages:
A trade name distinguishes one business from another. It also reflects the nature and the form of the business. An investor can apply for the trade name through the economic department in each emirate, through its website or mobile application.
Provisions for selecting the trade name:
The trade name must:
During the application process, you will be issued a payment voucher or a transaction number, which you will need to use as a reference when you pay.
An initial approval means that the UAE Government has no objection for the business to be established in the country. It also allows the investor to proceed with the next steps in setting up a business. It does not, however, grant the authority to run or practice the business activity.
Foreign investors must obtain the approval of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs before getting the initial approval.
Some activities require additional approvals from government entities related to that particular business before applying for the initial approval. These include activities related to legal affairs, security affairs and financial securities and commodities.
Depending on the legal form of a business, a completed and signed Memorandum of association (MoA) or a local service agent agreement (LSA) of the business is required. The memorandum of association is required for the following business legal forms:
All businesses in the UAE must have a physical address to operate. The business premises and location must comply with the requirements defined by the respective emirate’s Department of Economic Development, as well as the land planning regulations of the local municipalities.
Office and warehouse rental agreement must be provided. Some emirates require the agreements to be attested. In Dubai, the agreement must be registered with Ejari.
In some cases, additional approvals from government entities governing certain business activities are required. The following are examples of such activities sorted by ministry:
Ministry of Interior
Ministry of Interior issues approvals for activities related to general transport - driving schools, fire equipment, alarm and safety systems, used-car dealers, used auto-parts, car rental.
Ministry of Justice
Legal activities and legal consultancy
Local municipal department
Architectural and engineering affairs
Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA)
Travel and tourism, general services, charter trading, ship and maritime agencies, car clubs, charter air transport and foreign company branches
Ministry of Economy
Insurance activities and insurance consultancy
Local health departments
Supreme Petroleum Council
Onshore and offshore gas and oil-field services and onshore and offshore oil drilling operations
After completing the above steps, investor can collect the business licence from service centres of the economic departments or through their websites.
Documents required for getting a licence for all legal forms
The following documents are required for getting a licence for all legal forms:
Websites of local economic authorities: