Company Incorporation in the United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates (or UAE for short) has long been a prime business location for many industries, partly due to it’s convenient geographical location between Asia and Europe, and partly due to the global nature of its economy, the large expat community, excellent infrastructure and it’s beneficial climate for entrepreneurs. It is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with one of the highest standards of living on the planet to boot.

Foreign companies and entrepreneurs are also drawn to the country due to the attractive tax rates and the option of complete capital repatriation without currency restrictions, a rarity in other highly developed business markets and environments. 

What you need to know before you opt for a business setup in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates offers 3 separate company types:


Free zone 

as well as Mainland, out of which the first two are the most popular among foreign citizens. 

United Arab Emirate offshore companies

Worth knowing about the offshore company option is that the offshore companies are not allowed to trade within the United Arab Emirates themselves, and no physical presence or local office is required. The company can be fully owned by foreigners. The offshore companies are able to open local bank accounts, however, but these companies give you no eligibility for residency visas in the UAE, unlike the other two company options (read more about those below).

United Arab Emirate free zone companies

Physical presence or local offices are also not a requirement for the UAE free zone companies, but unlike UAE offshore companies, the free zone companies can do business in the United Arab Emirates, in the specific free zone they are incorporated in, as well as in other countries, if they want. (Dubai is the best known free zone and thus the most popular option for free zone companies)

These companies are also eligible for corporate bank accounts, as well as 2-3 year residency visas. 

United Arab Emirate mainland companies

These companies require you to partner with a local partner, who holds at least 51 % of the share capital, or alternatively with a service agent with a professional license. Mainland companies are also required to have a physical office in the UAE but can do business all over mainland UAE in return, as well as obtain bank accounts and residency visas, if desired.

This company type is generally only an option you should consider if you plan of doing business in the local market within the United Arab Emirates, for example by doing retail sales or similar.

What do all company types have in common?

The corporate tax for all UAE companies is 0%, as is income tax. The set up costs for all company types are generally low, compared to most other attractive and developed jurisdictions. UAE company naming conventions are more strict that in many other jurisdictions, as all offensive words are banned, as are all names referring to religious symbols, entities and so on. You can only name a company after a person if that person is an owner of the company, and their full name must be used as the company name, no initials, nicknames or abbreviations.

The country is not a member of neither the OECD (so no exchange of information with other countries) nor the EU (so it is not subjected to various EU regulations).

The information of shareholders and directors is never public in the United Arab Emirates.

How do I know what company type suits me?

If you can rule out the mainland company option, as most foreign companies can, you need to choose between the offshore and free zone options. The same option out of these two doesn’t suit everyone, so it is important to look at all of the factors, from the type of business you are planning to conduct to what your markets are going to be, if you would prefer to be based in the UAE and so on before deciding. 

If you feel that professional advice on your specific circumstances and what they mean in terms of the most suitable UAE company type would be helpful, Porat Group would be happy to offer you a consultation on the matter. Contact us to set up a time for an in depth conversation of your needs and conditions. 

Additionally, Porat Group can assist with obtaining suitable banking, processing and wire solutions for your new UAE company both locally within the UAE and worldwide.