Business setup in the UAE

Have you ever imagined what it’s like to live in a culturally diverse city with limitless opportunities, its own beautiful beaches and warm sunshine year-round? Welcome to the UAE. Nowadays more and more expats are opening companies in this fast-growing market and calling this Gulf nation home.

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How is life for foreigners living and working there?

UAE was built on having expatriate workers.


The population is currently around 88% foreigners and 12% Emiratis. Emiratis are quite used to living and working with foreigners and they know how to get along with them.

They are extremely flexible, welcoming, hospitable and easy-going. They appreciate the contributions that foreigners bring with them.

The UAE is a place where you can feel free to be yourself, a place where you can do all the things you love back home, and more – as long as you respect the local cultures, law and regulations.

What’s an Emirate?

An Emirate is like a city-state. You have probably heard of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the most famous of the Emirates. But did you know that there are actually 7 Emirates, each with their own unique offerings? The other Emirates are Ajman, Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah, Fujairah, and Umm al Quwaim. Many of them are developing their business infrastructure at break-neck speed and offering countless new opportunities.

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How easy is it to do business there?

The UAE ranked 16th overall in terms of ease of doing business on the “World Bank Doing Business Report 2020.” The UAE is a place where you can find anything you need in terms of doing business, especially in a new and growing market with endless possibilities.

We work with several reputable companies who are at the top of the field of new company formation. They do all the paperwork and formalities for you, including getting the business license, your office space, registration of your company, visa package, residence in the UAE, bank account, local compliance, accounting, and more.

It will be our pleasure to introduce you personally to our trusted partners and provide relationship support throughout the process. In addition, we can provide optional cross-cultural consultation to you and your team, to prepare you for working effectively in the UAE.

Business activities in the UAE have been growing rapidly for many years, and this trend is expected to continue.

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Boat in the beach view in UAE
Cheryl in UAE
Arabian riding a horse in UAE beach

How easy is it to do business there?

We work with trusted partners in the UAE who will carry out the business setup for you. Our package consists of the following:


1. Free initial consultation and needs assessment.

2. Targeted cross-cultural business advisory for the UAE.

3. Full business registration and setup in the UAE.

4. Relationship support throughout the process.

5. Cross-cultural training for you and your staff, because knowing the culture is key.


The company registration process in the UAE can be a complicated one. But there are different types of companies that an individual or business may choose from depending on their needs and goals for how things should run with regards to ownership structure at any given time.

We offer advice, support, and consultation to emerging companies, mergers and acquisitions, business configurations, joint ventures, business orientation for companies of all sizes, from start-ups to fortune 500’s.


How much does it cost to set up a business?

There is a wide range and it depends on many factors, including which Emirate you start up in, whether you choose Mainland or Free zone, the type of activity, whether you require visa support or not, and how many people are in your company. Start-up costs can range from the simplest package of 15,000 AED (4,000 USD), up to 60,000 AED (16,000 USD). Keep in mind some of the fees must be paid annually.

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I am a sole proprietor or a business consultant. Can I work alone, providing consultation services?

Yes – in the UAE there is a freelancer visa option. Contact us for more information.

What about a local partner – should I have one?

Working with a local partner has its obvious advantages, especially if you don’t opt to live year-round in the Gulf. A local partner will help in navigating the bureaucracy and in making connections. Local partners speak Arabic and can assist you in many aspects of your business, including networking and building relationships, clearing up any doubts in negotiation, etc. Some business owners have found it quite handy to have a local partner.

Now of course, there are obvious disadvantages as well, and potential risks to having a local partner, mainly if the person is not as passionate about your business as you are. 

What should I know about starting a business in Dubai?

If you’re thinking about starting a business in Dubai, there are many things to consider. The cost of living is high and regulations can be strict so it’s important that your company operates ethically as well as fulfilling local needs!

What else should I know?

Be aware that there are certain rules, and vastly different prices, depending on whether you found your business in “Mainland Dubai” or a “Free Zone.” Foreign ownership of 100% is allowed in some cases, depending on the activity.  

A free zone company in the United Arab Emirates is a government-sponsored business that’s designed to promote foreign investment and international commerce. There are more than 30 free zones in Dubai alone.

Once your company is established, then it’s a good idea to hire a GRO, or Government Relations Officer, to navigate the bureaucracy and help you get any other documents you need, or just help you gain valuable connections. You can find a GRO, and other business services, through the help of a business services support company.

Succeeding in business with the Middle East

 We hope this article has been helpful and informative. If you’re looking for help with setting up a business in the UAE, we’re here to provide it! Contact us today.

Cheryl in Dubai

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