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Doing business in the United Arab Emirates

How quickly can I set up a business?

15-30 days

What is the minimum investment needed?

Investment depends on the scale of project.

How can I raise finance?

Investor must contribute the entire capital

What are the legal requirements for setting up my business?

Option One:

Setting up in UAE proper- Limited Liability Company (LLC) with equity participation by 51% UAE national and 49% foreign investor; however, the Commercial Companies Law has recently been amended offering 100% foreign ownership in many segments.

Option Two:

Setting up in Free Trade Zones : Free Trade Zones offer 100% foreign ownership

What structure should I consider?

Setting up in mainland is the preferred option for local trading and retail activities.

Setting up in Free Trade Zone is preferred for international trading activities.

Establishment (a branch of your overseas business):

• Not a separate legal entity but an extension of the overseas parent company
• No limited liability or ring-fencing of the (country) operations
• Must file Branch office accounts, prepared under UAE Company Law, at Ministry of Economy.
• Must file periodical VAT Returns if applicable

Partnership Company:

• Only for two or more individuals.
• Jointly and unlimitedly, to the extent of their personal assets.
• Must adhere to the Federal Law No. (2) of 2015 on Commercial Companies and its amendments as per the Federal decree/law No. 26 of 2020.
• Must file periodical VAT return, if applicable

Limited Liability Company:

• Members (partners) have limited liability
• Profits are allocated to members
• Must adhere to the Federal Law No. (2) of 2015 on Commercial Companies and its amendments as per the Federal decree/law No. 26 of 2020.
• Must file periodical VAT return, if applicable

Single Member Limited Liability Company:

• Applicable for all nationalities.
• Profits are allocated to member.
• Must file periodical VAT return, if applicable.

What advice can you give me in regards to payroll and taxation requirements?

• There are dedicated Industrial Zones/Parks for manufacturing activities.
• Most of the Free Zones are meant for Industrial, Trading and Service activities
• The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has introduced a system for the companies to pay the employees through the Wage Protection System under their supervision.
• There is no corporate taxation in UAE except 5% Value Added Tax
• There are no personal taxes in the UAE, no social security tax, only pension plan contribution is made for UAE nationals.

o Many companies see Share Option plans as being an important way of attracting, motivating and retaining key staff. UAE does not have approved share option plans and the only way to implement that is via share sale and transfer agreements as and when such shares become due provided other rules of company laws remain true such as the percentage of UAE nationals’ holding or the minimum value of a share.
o UAE has a very comprehensive range of compensation and benefit options available for companies to offer their employees. Pensions, private medical insurance, life and disability cover are now commonplace benefits provided by many UAE businesses to their workforce. Flexible benefit packages are also gaining in popularity, giving employees options on how they wish to “spend” their benefits allowance; which can range from “purchasing” additional holiday entitlement to obtaining full family medical cover.

Is there anything else that I should know?

The UAE has a vibrant free economy, a significant proportion of its revenues arising from exports of oil and gas. The establishment of free zones has been an important feature of a diversification policy and reform of property laws gave a major boost to real estate and tourism sectors.

Dubai and Abu Dubai have been ranked the top two cities in the Middle East region for quality of life, according to the latest edition of a global survey. Long-time investors include a wide range of multinational companies headquartered across the globe. Corporate taxes are reserved only for branches of foreign banks and oil-producing companies.

Infrastructure in the UAE is second to none. Telecommunications, including mobile and fixed telephony as well as internet access is on par, if not better, than the world’s largest international business hubs. Investors benefit from an abundant supply of human resource skills, courtesy of professionals migrating to the emirate from nearly every country in the globe. E-government websites, free zone authorities as well as chambers of commerce and industry provides new entrants with helpful information and guidance.

Our firms in the United Arab Emirates
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