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How to start a business in Dubai as a foreigner

Friday September 16, 2022

Starting your own business is a dream for many people – the idea of working for yourself and reaping all the rewards of your hard work is very tempting.

If you have a good idea for a business and are looking for somewhere to start it, then Dubai should be given serious consideration, even if you are not from the emirate.

Dubai is one of the best places in the world to do business, and it is relatively straightforward for a foreign national to start a business here, as this article demonstrates. It includes these topics:

    • Why start a business in Dubai?
    • Can a foreigner start a business in Dubai?
    • Types of business licences in Dubai
    • Steps to start a business in Dubai as a foreigner
    • Cost of starting a business in Dubai
    • How Creative Zone can help

Why start a business in Dubai?

There are many reasons to come to Dubai to start a business, both economic and personal.

In economic terms, the Dubai and wider UAE economy is very stable, and the Dubai economy has diversified markedly in recent years as it has continued its strong growth.

In addition, Dubai is known for its low corporate and personal tax regimes, which means that business owners and employees can keep more of what they earn.

The government is also very business-friendly and has a range of incentives for entrepreneurs to get started up in Dubai.

On a personal level, the standard of living in Dubai is very high, with world-leading healthcare facilities, a wealth of amenities and leisure facilities, very low crime rates and a cosmopolitan population – people from more than 200 countries are resident here.

Can a foreigner start a business in Dubai?

In short, yes. As mentioned, Dubai has an incredibly diverse population comprising people from all over the world and the government actively encourage people from outside of the UAE to invest or start their own businesses.

This means there are few restrictions on what non-UAE nationals can do when it comes to starting a business.

However, the process of starting a business in Dubai can have complexities that can trip entrepreneurs up, especially if they are from outside of the UAE and perhaps haven’t encountered their systems before.

This is where business startup specialists can help – they can guide you through the process and ensure that the business is ready to trade as soon as possible.

Types of business licences in Dubai

There are several types of business licence in Dubai, with the most common being professional, commercial, industrial and tourist. The businesses that fit into each category are as you would expect and are defined by what activities your company carries out. For instance, anything involving buying or selling products will require a commercial licence.

When you have decided on the licence you need for your business, then you must submit an application. If you are based on the mainland, in most cases foreigners are allowed to keep 100% ownership of their business. However, if you are based in a free zone, 100% ownership is allowed in all cases.

Steps to start a business in Dubai as a foreigner

There are certain steps that need to be completed as part of the process of business setup in Dubai. They are as follows:

Register the name of the business

This is one of the most important early steps in starting the business. A name can say a lot about the business, and a memorable one can be a useful marketing tool. But there are some rules in Dubai that you need to be aware of. For instance, the name must be unique to your business – it cannot be the same as an existing one in Dubai. In addition, the name cannot contain any words considered profane or blasphemous.

Finally, if you want to include your name in the business, it must be your full name – first name and surname – and not an initial or abbreviation.

Obtain a business licence

Once a name has been decided, then the activities of the business need to be determined. This is very important as it will determine which licence(s) you need to obtain. You should think through all the activities the business might be involved in – if you end up carrying out an activity that the business doesn’t have a licence for you can fall foul of the authorities down the line.

Obtain your visas

Another important step that needs to be completed before the business can start to trade is to ensure you have your visa in place. The UAE offers a range of visas, the application process is relatively straightforward and approval can be gained quickly.

As the owner of a business, and holding a business licence, you are entitled to sponsor the visa applications of others, such as close family members or members of staff. However, note that the number of visas you are eligible to apply for depends on the size of the business, its structure and, if you are applying for visas for a dependent, how big your earnings are.

Open a bank account

Another vital step towards starting a business is to open a bank account. There are many banks in Dubai that provide business banking facilities, but traditionally it can be difficult for foreigners to open accounts because of the UAE’s strict money laundering laws. However, banks are becoming more amenable and there are plenty of advisers that can help, such as Creative Zone.

Cost of starting a business in Dubai

There are numerous costs that must be considered when starting a business in Dubai. One of the most significant is the cost of a Dubai business licence, which starts at AED 12,500. Then there are additional costs such as for permits and visas, which can vary depending on the business and how many people are coming to Dubai.

Then there are business costs to consider, such as rent or a mortgage on premises, as well as purchasing equipment, stock and employing staff – although how much this is will depend largely on the business you are setting up. Some businesses can be set up with few up-front costs, whereas others, especially in retail, require much more.

For more information, contact Creative Zone for a custom quote: www.creativezone.ae/contact-us/

How Creative Zone can help

As this article has shown, there are many opportunities for foreigners to set up a business in Dubai, thanks to the business-friendly conditions. However, for those that haven’t experienced the business set up process in Dubai before, it can be complex – and if mistakes are made in the application, it can extend the time it takes to officially form the company and get trading and making money.

But business setup experts such as Creative Zone are here to help entrepreneurs from outside the UAE – and inside – to set up their business and gain all the licences and visas they require to be able to trade. The concierge team at Creative Zone are skilled in the business formation process and can help entrepreneurs at every step of the way, enabling you to focus on the business and making money.

For more information, a consultation and a bespoke quote, contact Creative Zone today: www.creativezone.ae/contact-us/


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