There are several free zones in UAE situated in all the emirates. Dubai hosts a maximum number of free zones, followed by Abu Dhabi. These free zones are the specialized areas, and companies operating from here exercise exclusive benefits that mainland companies in the UAE don’t have. Looking at the opportunities and types of free zones in UAE, investors are often puzzled as to how to start a business in UAE Free zone.
Every free zone has its authority, which conducts the licensing, renewals, decides the costs, and manages the functioning and maintenance of its respective free zones. They have their regulatory framework according to which the free zone functions.
While setting up a company, out of several UAE Free Zones, it is necessary to select the best free zone in UAE for you.
Different free zones cater to different business requirements and focus on a particular business field. The regulations also differ, and the free zone, which lets your business run with ease, is the best match for you.
Let’s look at some of the best free zones, facilities offered, business activities supported, benefits, and step-by-step procedures to start a business.
- Legal Structures
- Free Zone Selection
- Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)
- Ajman Free Zone Authority (AFZA)
- Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority Dubai (JAFZA Dubai)
- Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC)
- Dubai South Free Zone
- Dubai Multi Commodities Center Dubai (DMCC Dubai)
- Dubai Internet City (DIC)
- Benefits of setting up a company in UAE Free Zones
- Abu Dhabi Free Zones
- Dubai Free Zones
- Sharjah Free Zones
- Ajman Free Zones
- Ras Al Khaimah Free Zones
- Free Zones in Fujairah
- Free Zones in Umm Al Quwain
How to Start a Business in UAE Free Zone
The primary objective of the free zone is to attract foreign direct investment and lower down the dependence of the country on particular sectors. They allow investors to conduct business setup in UAE in different fields. To make the business run efficiently, free zones in UAE comes with unique facilities and a strong framework.
Free zones in UAE are mainly categorized into three parts: airport free zones, seaport free zones, and mainland free zones. Each of them is designated with specific one or more business fields and only provides licenses related to those fields. As mentioned above, these licenses are issued by an independent free zone authority. The free zone authority also assists with business setup in UAE. However, to make sure that the company formation process remains smooth, it is suggested to have the support of a firm which is well-aware of local rules and regulations.
Setting up a business in UAE
Free zones in UAE offer various types of company formations in UAE. Different business setups have their benefits depending upon the field in which you wish to start your business. These setups vary as per the ownership, tax benefits, licensing, costs, and utilization.
1) Free Zone Establishment (FZE)
Free Zone establishment offers 100% foreign ownership and no need to have a local sponsor. For business setup in UAE, you need to provide a certificate of incorporation and trade license. The company is a limited liability company, which means the liability of investors only extends up to their shares in the free zone establishment entity. A free zone establishment company can also be converted into Free Zone Company. One must note that the FZE UAE can’t be publicly listed.
2) Free Zone Company (FZCo)
All the free zones in UAE offer Free Zone Company (FZCo) formation, where there can be multiple stakeholders. The companies are offered exclusive benefits making it one of the most favorable structures.
The company is required to have two directors and a company secretary to get started with the company. The free zone establishments are allowed to import and export goods across the borders. However, these companies are not allowed to sell their goods in the local UAE market directly.
3) Public Listed Company (PLC)
A public listed company in Dubai is a limited liability company which provides relaxation to the investors when it comes to liability. The liability remains limited to one’s holding in the share capital, and personal assets remain safe.
The public listed companies functioning in free zones in UAE need to list their shares in the stock exchange. It provides a free path for funding to the company. There could be a minimum capital threshold for starting the company, which varies from free zone to free zone. For instance, Dubai free zones may have a different limit in comparison to Sharjah free zones, or it may even differ amongst different free zones in any emirate. For example, specific guidelines to run a PLC company may not be the same in JAFZA and AFZA.
4) Branch of a Company
There can be multiple instances when a company needs to start its branch office. They may choose to start the branch office in the UAE mainland or UAE free zones. Opening a branch of a company in free zones in UAE has its specific benefits. You can open different types of branches based upon the requirement and parent company.
Foreign Company Branch
In this case, the parent company has 100% ownership of the branch. This office will act as headquarter for the region. When a company requires importing goods, it needs to do it through a local trading company.
UAE Company Branch
Free Zones in UAE allow you to have an extension of the parent company located in the UAE mainland. It lets the company undertake more activities through free zone trading licenses.
Free Zone Company Branch
You can set up a free zone company branch when you already own a company in any of the free zones. It allows expanding the company’s reach to other free zones in Dubai. This company can be started by getting a license from the Department Of Economic Development Dubai.
Free Zone Selection
The Most Popular Free Zones
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)
Jebel Ali Port is known as of the largest ports in the world. It eases the import and export of the companies that establish their business in JAFZA.
Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC)
Dubai South Free Zone
Dubai Multi Commodities Center Dubai (DMCC Dubai)
It was established in the year 2002, and since then, it has grown to a very good extend, becoming home to top free zone companies in Dubai.
Dubai Internet City (DIC)
The ecosystem of Dubai Internet City is unique amongst the free zones in UAE. It is favorable for the development of the IT industry and the communication industry.
Benefits of setting up a company in UAE Free Zones
Advantages of a Business Setup in UAE
The free zones in UAE own several benefits over mainland company formation. The free zone company formation policies and legal framework are designed to keep the foreign investors in mind. The free zone authorities have made the general rules which favor the investors and the UAE government at the same time.
- The companies need not pay corporate tax.
- The investors get an investor visa, and employees of the company get resident visas in UAE.
- There is no need to have a local sponsor for owning a company in any of the free zones in UAE. They provide 100% foreign ownership for all the companies.
- The import and export policies are simplified, and trading can be done for most of the items with the General Trading License.
- Neither the company owner nor the employees need to pay general income tax to the UAE government.
- The free zones in UAE provide 100% capital as well as profit repatriation.
- The free zones in UAE are built, keeping in mind the requirements of sectors which it entertains. There are land spaces, warehouses, furnished and unfurnished offices, etc., available to cater to every business’s needs.
Complete list of Free Zones in UAE
Let’s help you choose the right one
There are a number of free zones which are in function. There are a few more that are under construction. We have divided all the free zones according to different emirates and listed them below.
Abu Dhabi Free Zones
- Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ)
- ADPC – Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KPIZ)
- Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones
- Masdar City Free Zone
- Industrial City of Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM)
Dubai Free Zones
- Dubai Academic City
- Dubai Airport Free Zone
- Dubai Car and Automotive City Free Zone (DUCAMZ)
- Dubai Healthcare City
- Dubai Industrial City (DIC)
- Dubai International Academic City
- Dubai International Financial Centre
- Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park (DuBiotech)
- Dubai Multi Commodities Centre
- Dubai Techno Park
- Economic Zones World
- Dubai Design District
- Dubai Logistics City
- Dubai Media City
- Dubai Internet City (DIC)
- Dubai Outsource Zone
- Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority
- Dubai Studio City
- Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
- Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone
- Dubai Knowledge Village
- International Media Production Zone
- Jebel Ali Free Zone
- Dubai South or DWC
- Dubai Science Park
Sharjah Free Zones
- Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone
- Hamriyah Free Zone Sharjah
- The U.S.A. Regional Trade Center (USARTC) Free Zone
- Sharjah Media City Free Zone (Shams)
- Sharjah Airport International Free Zone
Ajman Free Zones
- Ajman Free Zone
- Ajman Media City Free Zone
Ras Al Khaimah Free Zones
- Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)
- Ras Al Khaimah Media Free Zone
- Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority
- RAK Maritime City Free Zone Authority (RMCFZA)
- Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone
Free Zones in Fujairah
- Fujairah Free Zone
- International Free Zone Authority (IFZA)
- Fujairah Creative City
Free Zones in Umm Al Quwain
- Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQFTZ)
Company Incorporation in UAE
The business set up in UAE free zones differs from free zone to free zone. In certain cases, you may even start your company within two to three days just after you receive the license from the free zone authority. In some cases, there is a requirement of getting approval from external authority based on your business activities, which may take some time.
Every free zone has a specific category of licenses. It depends upon the business sector that free zone is targeting. For instance, some of the common licenses are trading license, service licenses, and industrial license. However, not necessarily all of them offer these licenses.
Start a Company in UAE Free Zones