Business Ownership UAE: A Guide to Foreign Companies Mainland Ownership

Eslam Mobarak
Published 3 weeks ago on 5 May, 2024-386 views
Business Ownership UAE and Foreign Firms Mainland Ownership in Dubai

In Business Ownership UAE, free zones are a crucial component of the United Arab Emirates’ successful economic diversification strategy and a big pull for US companies looking to operate in the nation. These free zones have helped make the UAE an attractive place for American companies to conduct business in the Middle East and South Asia region by providing 100% foreign ownership, tax-free periods of up to 50 years, full repatriation of profits, world-class infrastructure, and friendly business services.

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Business Ownership UAE

Companies operating in free zones have typically been barred from carrying out certain “onshore” activities on the UAE mainland. Free zone entities are generally limited to trading outside the UAE unless a mainland-based commercial agent is designated. If the transaction occurs within the mainland, customs duties will be imposed.

Companies that do not intend to establish in free zones can do so “onshore” in the United Arab Emirates. However, enterprises licensed by each Emirate’s economic departments have generally been required to have at least 51% UAE ownership.

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Starting Business Ownership UAE

Starting Business Ownership UAE
Starting Business Ownership UAE

The UAE regulates business establishment and activity at federal and emirate levels. On June 1, 2021, the UAE repealed the requirement for firms to have a local sponsor, allowing international investors and entrepreneurs to start and fully own onshore companies in most areas.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index Report 2019, the UAE is the most competitive economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). According to the report, the UAE’s adoption of information and communication technology adds to long-standing competitive advantages such as a stable macroeconomic climate, a strong product market, and one of the world’s most advanced transportation systems.

The modified ownership law is part of the UAE government’s efforts to improve the ease of business and attract foreign investors, entrepreneurs, and talent. It will boost the country’s standing as an international economic centre while encouraging investment in vital areas. Other obvious benefits of conducting business in the UAE include:

  • Profit transfers and capital repatriation are not restricted.
  • There are no corporate or income taxes.
  • The Dirham is a stable and secure currency pegged to the US dollar.
  • Import duties are extremely low or nonexistent.
  • Competitive labour prices.
  • Most fields allow onshore enterprises to have 100% foreign ownership.

These advantages, combined with a strategic geographic location, developing infrastructure, and a highly secure environment, make the UAE an ideal destination to conduct business. All enterprises require a license, and the licensing procedures differ from Emirate to Emirate. Individual Chambers of Commerce provide specific licensing information. For more information about these offices, please email [email protected].

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UAE Free Trade Zones (FTZ)

Creating a company entity in one of the UAE’s several Free Trade Zones (FTZs) might be an appealing alternative for overseas investors and entrepreneurs. All seven emirates have or are establishing such economic zones. The significant benefits of working in a free zone are:

  • 100% exemption from import and export taxes.
  • Capital and profits will be returned in their entirety.
  • No corporation taxes for 15 years, renewable for another 15 years.
  • There are no personal income taxes.
  • Less cumbersome documentation, primarily in English.
  • Assistance with labour recruiting and other support services such as sponsorship and housing.

Over 20,000 enterprises operate in the UAE Free Zones. The largest free zones include:

  • Twofour54/Abu Dhabi Media Zone.
  • Jebel Ali Free Zone.
  • Sharjah Airport International Free Zone.
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone.
  • Dubai Media City.
  • Dubai Internet City.

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Rules and Regulations of the Free Zone

Rules and Regulations of the Free Zone
Rules and Regulations of the Free Zone

Each free zone is governed by an autonomous Free Zone Authority (FZA), responsible for awarding FTZ operating permits and aiding businesses in establishing their operations there. Investors can either register a new company as a Free Zone Establishment (FZE), a limited liability company governed by the rules and laws of the Free Zone in which it is established or establish a branch or representative office of their existing company in the UAE or elsewhere.

The procedures for establishing a firm in a Free Trade Zone are pretty simple. They can be constructed quickly, mainly if no environmental challenges exist. Individual Free Zones may have special restrictions; nonetheless, the general processes are:

  • A questionnaire from the applicable Free Zone Authority will help analyse a company’s requirements.
  • A license application, planning paperwork, and a customer request for electricity.
  • Provisional permission and lease agreement.
  • Meetings with authority to settle project details.

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Establish A Legal Presence in the Free Zone

Once the business has established a legal presence in the Free Zone, it must lease premises or land and get an operational license from the FZA. Different licenses apply to diverse sorts of free zones. There are a few reasons why a potential company may want to avoid doing business in a Free Zone. These are for a company:

  • Practices a regulated profession.
  • Needs a lot of visas or warehouse/office space.
  • Plans to maintain a long-term presence in the UAE and expand into a more extensive market section.
  • Have a specific UAE company or individual with which to collaborate.

Sectors with the most requests and opportunities include:

  • Construction services.
  • Materials and supplies.
  • Defence: Aerospace.
  • Energy: Alternative Energy.
  • Professional services.
  • Select tourism products and services.
  • High-end hotel brands.
  • Creative and thriving arts and cultural entertainment products.
  • High-end medical service providers with excellent brand recognition and cutting-edge products.

The UAE is a significant export market due to its open and thriving economy, diversification initiatives, one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, and a globally varied population. Exporting to the UAE is a relatively simple process. Some of the benefits of exporting to the UAE include:

  • Easy registration.
  • There are few limits.
  • Low taxes.
  • It is a very open and business-friendly environment.

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A Comprehensive Guide to 100% Foreign Ownership in the UAE

Consultone is at the vanguard of what could be termed a new age in the UAE business community. The Commercial Companies Law (CCL) revisions, which take effect on June 1, 2021, allow expats to entirely own firms in the UAE. This dramatic transformation in the region’s business scene heralds new prospects for entrepreneurs while supporting the UAE economy.

It explores these shifts and analyses their ramifications for entrepreneurs and the UAE’s broader economic context. The law now allows 100% foreign investor ownership, a significant change that positions the UAE as a worldwide corporate hub. Here are Essential Highlights of the New Legal Framework:

  • The modifications have altered the structure for forming business firms, known as minimum liability companies (LLCs), which can now be held entirely by a single person or several shareholders.
  • Historically, expatriate business owners could only own up to 49% of their firms in the UAE, with the majority, 51%, required to be controlled by a UAE native, sometimes known as an Emirati sponsor or partner.
  • Prior exceptions were specific professional service industries and free zones where foreigners may own 100% of their firms.
  • The new legislative framework eliminates the previous limitation on international investors, allowing both natural and legal persons to set up businesses on the UAE mainland without a local partner.
  • Expatriates can now obtain 100% foreign ownership by working with a local service agency (LSA), which handles all legal and licensing procedures without owning firm stock.

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A Magnet for Worldwide Business Owners UAE

A Magnet for Worldwide Business Owners UAE
A Magnet for Worldwide Business Owners UAE

The UAE’s magnetic attraction stems from strategic advantages catering to existing enterprises and startups. Whether you’re a multinational firm trying to expand or a startup looking for a vibrant Launchpad, the UAE provides a perfect environment for growth and access to global markets.

Strategic location

The UAE’s geographic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa provides unparalleled access to a broad client base across continents. This strategic location has historically made it a thriving trading hub with bustling ports, allowing for efficient import and export activity.

Business-friendly environment

Setting up a business in the UAE is refreshingly open to various industries and countries. Furthermore, the UAE’s offering of long-term and specialised visas for business professionals increases its appeal as a destination for international talent and investment.

Tax Benefits

Businesses in the UAE usually pay minimal or no corporation taxes, and there is no personal income tax or levy on necessities. The UAE’s strong double taxation avoidance agreements with many countries ensure that businesses do not incur double taxation.

Safety and Stability

With a low crime rate, the UAE provides a safe environment for both businesses and residents. Its stable political environment contributes to its reputation as a trustworthy and low-risk investment destination.

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Investors Benefits of 100% Business Ownership UAE

The 2021 amendment to the CCL has further transformed the UAE’s commercial potential, making incorporations easier and improving the country’s reputation as an investment-friendly jurisdiction. Among the several advantages are:

  • New foreign investors worldwide will be drawn to the UAE, and they are more likely to establish firms there.
  • The emirate’s economic sectors will grow. Environmentally friendly activities such as hybrid power plants, solar panels, and other eco-technologies will benefit from international investment and talent.
  • The UAE’s worldwide competitiveness will explode due to new firm incorporations, increased investment, and talent availability.

The new Dubai company ownership legislation strengthens the UAE’s global reputation as a merging market and international destination for foreign investment. The country also looks forward to fostering positive trade relations with other countries. There has never been a better time for expat investors to establish their businesses in the UAE.

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Corporation Formation Guide for Business Ownership UAE

In today’s interconnected globe, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a preferred destination for business professionals. The UAE is an excellent location for starting a business due to its numerous opportunities and fantastic business incentives. As a Canadian entrepreneur, I am one example of a foreigner establishing a business in the UAE. I will share my experience and give an outline of the process.

Navigating the UAE business landscape can be difficult, especially when considering the various types of enterprises that can be established. There are three primary methods that an entrepreneur might use to develop their business:

1. Mainland Companies

These are enterprises that operate within the UAE. The mainland is the best option for conducting B2B or B2C business in the UAE.

2. Free Zone Companies

These zones in the UAE allow businesses to operate without paying corporate taxes.

3. Offshore firms

These firms are registered in the UAE but do not perform business there.

The primary distinctions between these would be ownership, regional constraints, and tax effects. Free zone corporations allow 100% foreign ownership, although mainland enterprises may require a local partner, depending on their industry. Offshore firms are not permitted to operate in the UAE; hence, UAE ownership requirements do not apply.

While free zone companies are limited to the free zones, mainland corporations can operate across the UAE. Offshore companies, of course, cannot do business in the UAE. Furthermore, mainland enterprises are subject to corporation tax in the UAE because their operations are conducted there. In the UAE, both free zone and offshore enterprises enjoy tax-free status.

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Tips for Establishing a Company in the United Arab Emirates

Tips for Establishing a Company in the UAE
Tips for Establishing a Company in the UAE

Starting a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a thrilling endeavour with enormous possibilities for development and success. However, handling this process carefully is critical to ensuring a seamless one. When thinking about forming a corporation in the UAE, here are some things to consider:

Do Your Research

Before you take any action, conduct an extensive study on the UAE market, its regulations, and the many types of businesses you can develop. You may avoid numerous stumbling blocks if You thoroughly research UAE company creation. The most significant barrier is time, a never-ending cycle of discovering that you require an extra document or procedure before moving further. If you know everything before investing time and money in the proper places, you can build up your business much faster and for much less. With guidance, you end up working with efficient people.

Set Your Goals

Clearly outline your objectives for establishing a firm in the UAE. Are you seeking market growth, tax breaks, or asset protection? Well-defined goals will guide your decisions throughout the process.

Ask for Professional Advice

Engage with local specialists, such as lawyers, business consultants, and financial advisers, who are well-versed in the UAE’s legal and business landscape. Their insights are valuable for making educated judgments.

Never Jump for Quick Fixes or Cheap Offers

While timetables and budgets are essential, it is always prudent to be wary of scammers posing as legitimate businesses. Because of the tremendous demand for entrepreneurs to start firms in the UAE, some people have fallen victim to scammers promoting speedy and affordable company creation. Always research the firm you intend to use to ensure you are not duped.

Don’t Neglect Specialized Assistance

The UAE’s commercial landscape is distinct and intricate, with several legal, financial, and administrative complexities. Rather than dealing with these intricacies on your own, consider hiring the services of a specialised organisation that helps entrepreneurs with company creation.

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Is capital required for an LLC in UAE?

Limited liability corporations (LLCs) are Dubai’s most prevalent registered business type. UAE companies’ law does not set a minimum share capital. Still, there should be enough capital to achieve the aim of the incorporation, and the capital should be valued equally.

How can I check the ownership of a company in the UAE?

You may find out who owns a corporation by visiting the DED and Ministry of Economy websites.

Can you own 100% of a company in UAE?

The introduction of revisions to the Commercial Companies Law (CCL) on June 1, 2021, represents a key milestone in the UAE’s corporate landscape. Expatriates can now own 100% of enterprises in the UAE, ushering in a new era for the country’s entrepreneurial community.

Can a foreigner own a business in the UAE?

Foreign ownership of firms in the United Arab Emirates is unlimited. This means you can own your entire firm, regardless of nationality. Dubai is a global Centre for trade and commerce.


Business Ownership UAE has transformed with the introduction of the Commercial Companies Law, allowing foreign ownership of new companies. This shift from previous UAE regulations has opened doors for foreign companies, making the UAE a more friendly business environment. The opportunity to establish a limited liability company with 100% foreign ownership marks a significant milestone in UAE’s business landscape.

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