DUBAI – The Gateway to Global Business


Dubai‘s sophisticated telecommunications and transport facilities are one of the many reasons it serves as the storage and distribution hub of the Middle East. Today, Dubai serves as a global gateway, re-exporting goods from around the world to large, neighboring markets such as Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as the countries of the Indian subcontinent and East Africa.

The list of advantages that has led many multi-national companies from around the world to move to Dubai:

  • No taxation on profits or income
  • No foreign exchange controls or restrictions on capital movement
  • A stable, freely convertible currency
  • Strategic location, bridging time zones between Europe and the Far East
  • Efficient and well-developed support services, telecommunications and air links
  • High quality, reasonably-priced office accommodation
  • Excellent conference and exhibition facilities
  • A cosmopolitan lifestyle and tolerant, safe and secure environment

Company Formation

Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, as amended by Federal Law No. 13 of 1988 – the “Commercial Companies Law” – and its by-laws govern the operations of foreign business. The Federal Law stipulates a total local equity of not less than 51% in any commercial company and defines seven categories of business organization, which can be established in the UAE. It sets out the requirements in terms of shareholders, directors, minimum capital levels and incorporation procedures. The seven categories of business organization defined by the Law are: General partnership company, Partnership, Joint Venture Company, Public Shareholding Company, Private shareholding company, Limited Liability Company, Share Partnership Company.

Doing Business

Over the years, Dubai has become a destination for non-UAE nationals to be able to do business. To further expand business opportunities for international companies seeking to operate in the region, Dubai offers the following list of business entities:

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the most common form business in UAE. A Limited Liability Company can be formed by a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 50 shareholders whose liability is limited to their shares in the businesses capital. Fifty-one per cent participation by UAE nationals is the general requirement for the Limited Liability Companies. Therefore the normal shareholding pattern for an LLC will be: 51% Local sponsor (Partner) and 49% Foreign Shareholder (s).

  • Professional Firms ( Civil Companies )

Foreign investors, who are qualified, can set up partnership firm to carry out their professional practice activities in UAE. A civil company can only practice professional business and is 100% owned by the professional partners, whatever their nationalities. A civil company for engineering must have one partner who is a UAE National, who owns no less than 51% of the business and must be an engineer of the same type as the business‘s activity. Most civil companies require a Local Service Agent (LSA) if there is no UAE-National partner in the business.

  • Branch Or Representative Office Of Foreign Companies

UAE Commercial Company Law (13) of 1988 allows foreign companies and corporations to open Branch/Representative office to exercise their main activities in UAE. However, these offices are limited in the activities they may conduct within the UAE. The difference between a representative office and a branch office is that a representative office is limited to gathering information, soliciting orders and projects to be performed by the company‘s main office; and limited also in the number of employees they may sponsor. A representative office serves only as an administrative and marketing unit for the foreign company. On the other hand, a branch office is a full-pledged business, permitted to perform contracts or conduct other activities as Specified in its license.

  • Free Zone Company

UAE Free Zones are designed according to specific or different business industry categories and offer licenses to companies and entities within those classifications. The investor has the complete ownership of the business and there is No local sponsorship or staff recruitment essentials are imposed in free zones. Imported raw materials and equipment are exempt from customs duty and exports are free of any levies in free zones. But each free zone is managed by separate Independent Free Zone Authority, and this authority is responsible for issuing business permits and licenses, employee visa and regulating the business requirements. Each Free zone has their own rules and regulations and the provisions pertaining to Commercial Companies Law do not apply to Free Zones.

  • Offshore Company

Going offshore is the most modern popular way of managing business as they offer excellent and tax-efficient strategies for entrepreneurs. Important prima facie benefits are freedom of operations, confidentiality and ease of running business. As tax-free business territory, UAE is one of the well- known jurisdictions in the world for incorporating offshore company.
Overall, Dubai presents international business with a wide range of opportunities for different activities and operations. Dubai is continuing its development into one of the world‘s major economic and business hubs, which makes it a great place for doing business. With the ever increasing numbers of foreigners coming to Dubai, new markets and opportunities are constantly emerging.

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