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Business Start-up Considerations

Are you looking to start a new business within the UAE? Are you considering to expand your business to a new market? Below is an overview of some things to consider beforehand.

Business Structure Options

Under federal legislation, the principal relevant options available for conducting business in the UAE are:

  • Participation in a local company or other commercial entity
  • Establishment of a branch office
  • Appointment of a commercial agent or distributor
  • Establishment of a branch or subsidiary in one of the free zones of the UAE


When establishing a local company or other commercial entity, foreign ownership is generally limited to 49%, with the remaining 51% to be held by UAE nationals. Under the Commercial Companies Law (CCL) there are 7 forms of recognised commercial entity.

Branch Offices

As an establishing branch office, you will need approval from the Ministry of Economy and to deposit a bank guarantee. The branch office must be sponsored by a UAE national or a locally registered company entirely owned by UAE nationals. A formal national agency agreement is needed where the national agent sponsors and assists the foreign company in return for a fee.

Certain businesses, may require permission of a particular authority, e.g. the Central Bank regarding finance, and the Municipality in Dubai regarding engineering and construction and so forth.

Commercial Agents

Should you intend to export goods or services to the UAE, you may want to appoint an agent, distributor or franchisee, which must be either a UAE national or a company entirely owned by UAE nationals.

UAE Free Zones

The free zones offer a wide variety of benefits to businesses and a degree of flexibility including:

100% foreign ownership through branches, single or multiple shareholder companies – known as Free Zone Enterprises (FZEs), Free Zone Companies (FZCOs) or Free Zone Limited Liability Companies (FZ-LLC)

  • No national agent required for branch offices of foreign companies
  • No customs duties on imports and re-exports (except re-exports into onshore UAE)
  • Special assistance in getting work permits for staff
  • Guaranteed exemptions from corporate taxes

Legal Considerations

Entities in the UAE need to comply with the federal laws governing business activity including the:

  • Commercial Companies Law (CCL)
  • Commercial Register Law
  • Commercial Agencies Law
  • Civil and Commercial Codes

Should the business intend to trade or invest in the UAE, the correct authorisations and licences must be obtained. Also note that each Emirate may also have additional requirements. Synergy Group offer a free non-commitment consultation on: business set up options, government approvals, trade license issuance and work permits, company labour and immigration services. Our advisers are waiting to speak to you today email or call +971 4 563 7302 we look forward to hearing from you.

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