Gatestone Group

Dubai is one of the top choices for overseas investors and entrepreneurs wishing to grow their businesses in the region because of its low tax rates and conducive business environment. However, a lot of people frequently wonder how to establish a business in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because there are a lot of factors and complexity involved in the process. If you are one of them, this blog is for you.

The blog will guide you through the entire process of opening a business in Dubai, from selecting the ideal venture to opening a business bank account and obtaining a visa and business licencing.                                    

How to start a business in Dubai from scratch?

The Gatestone Group’s experts help simplify the process of setting up a business in Dubai and the UAE. They will also take care of the paperwork and other matters on your behalf.

Roadmap to start a business in Dubai

Gatestone Group will assist you in the following tasks to ultimately establish your business and make it operational in Dubai and the UAE:

  • Choose a business activity. Dubai generally follows “International standard industrial classification of all economic activities” (ISIC)
  • Choose a jurisdiction that suits your business needs i.e. Onshore also known as Mainland, Free Zone, or Offshore
  • Complete the legal form and documentation requirements i.e. Sole Establishment, Limited Liability
  • Obtain clearance for your business’s name and activity i.e. if required from any third-party regulatory department
  • Locate a local agency or sponsor if necessary, i.e. in most cases this is not required anymore
  • Initiate application for trade licence
  • Register your company
  • Obtain external approvals if required
  • Lease an office if necessary, i.e. a physical or business centre lease is mandatory for onshore or mainland companies, while most of the free zones offer virtual offices
  • Obtain your trade licence
  • Obtain company establishment card from ICA
  • Get your UAE residency visa
  • Open a corporate bank account

Breakdown of the process of setting up your business in Dubai

1. Choose a business activity

The viability of the chosen activity concerning the UAE market should be taken into consideration while choosing a business activity. Make sure the business will be feasible and is a promising market before you establish a business in Dubai. Next, choose when to launch the company. There are various options to choose from. We recommend doing proper research and due diligence. The two factors below will make your business successful:

  • Its’ scope in the UAE’s market
  • Your level of interest and expertise in that activity

2. Choose a jurisdiction that suits your business needs

Three distinct jurisdictions make up the UAE market: Free zones, Mainland, and Offshore. Every jurisdiction has some distinct laws and rules concerning the establishment of businesses. However, the criteria and activity of your firm will determine which jurisdiction is best for you.

3. Select a legal structure and complete the legal form

Selecting the legal structure for your business is crucial when launching a venture in the UAE. It establishes the guidelines and framework for handling gains and losses as well as how to allocate your assets and resources. During the early phases of planning, choose your firm structure or legal form. This will assist in establishing a structure for your business. It is also important because before deciding on your company’s legal structure, you cannot apply for a business licence. Following are some of the legal company structures that are available in the UAE:

  • LLC (Limited Liability Company)
  • Public Joint Stock Company
  • Private Joint Stock Company
  • Branch of a foreign company
  • Branch of a free zone company
  • Civil company
  • Representative office
  • Holding company
  • Sole proprietorship

4. Obtain clearance for your business’s name and activity

To initiate the process of establishing your company in the UAE, you should get approval from the Dubai Economy and Tourism (DET), previously known as Department of Economic Development (DED) for your trade name. During this phase, your chosen business activity is approved in addition to your company name. Following acceptance, you will need to submit the necessary paperwork to apply for a UAE trade licence and start the process of establishing a business in Dubai.

5. Locate a local agency or sponsor if necessary

Before 2021, having a local partner for your UAE mainland company was a mandatory requirement when starting a business in Dubai. Only UAE nationals were eligible to be partners or agents in the company. Now it is only necessary for specific activities such as trading in oil and gas or related fields.

It can be difficult to find a reliable local agent, particularly if you are an ambitious business startup seeking to establish a company in Dubai. With the new rule, foreign investors are eligible to setup businesses in the UAE with or without a local sponsor.

6. Initiate application for trade licence

In the UAE, there are four different types of trade licences, also known as business licences. They are:

  • Professional License
  • Commercial License
  • Industrial License
  • Tourism License

If you intend to start a business in Dubai mainland, you can also apply for any of these trade licences. The licencing structure in Dubai free zones varies and is also contingent upon the type of business activity your company chooses to engage in.

7. Register your company

The process of company registration and licencing is done concurrently, but there are several steps involved in the documentation and approval process. Dubai Economy and Tourism will require you to obtain all necessary approvals from the appropriate government authorities. The documents needed for each type of company and activity must be gathered, respectively.

8. Obtain external approvals if required

Based on your business activity, DET may request for you to get extra approval from other governmental or non-governmental organisations, for example, if you are dealing in international trade or tourism. Certain companies might also need to obtain permission from the local government, particularly banks, embassies, etc.

9. Lease an office space

You have the option of renting an office space or using a shared workspace at a business centre, depending on your needs as a company. The size of the office space you have can also affect how many visas you can apply for from DET. It is also essential to consider that there are certain regulations on the square meters per visa.

10. Obtain the Ejari and tenancy contact

You may require an Ejari while launching your own company in Dubai. The agreement between your company and the real estate company whose office space or shared workspace you want to rent is called a tenancy contract.

11. Obtain your trade licence

The following must be submitted for you to receive your UAE trade licence:

  • Application for a Trade Licence
  • Required official documents
  • Certificate of Trade Name Reservation
  • Certificate of initial approval
  • Memorandum of Association (MoA)
  • External authorisations if any
  • Ejari and Tenancy Agreement
  • Copies of the partners’ passports with their NOC, if any
  • Additional DET requirements, if any

Finally, all of these, together with the required government fees, ought to be turned into the Dubai Economy and Tourism.

12. Get your UAE residency visa

It is essential to apply for a UAE residence visa to be able to stay in the country or if you plan to fly in/fly out frequently and easily. It is also needed to open both your personal and corporate bank accounts. Applying for a UAE residence visa requires certain procedures and Gatestone Group will assist you along the way, such as completing the medical test, biometrics, and Emirates ID application.

13. Open a corporate bank account

After obtaining your trade license and UAE residency visa, you can proceed with opening a corporate bank account. This is essential for operating your business and managing your finances. There are a variety of national and International banks available to choose from, based on your business needs. Gatestone Group partners with the most reputable banks in the UAE and can assist in making the bank opening process seamless and quick.


Starting a business in Dubai may seem difficult initially but it can be made easy if done with careful planning and the help of professionals. This blog was aimed to walk you through the steps involved. By following these steps and getting help from experts when needed, you can be well on your way to opening your business in Dubai successfully.


The costs of setting up a company in Dubai will vary depending on the jurisdiction you select, type of license you require and the complexity of your business operations. Contact Gatestone Group for more information via [email protected] or call +971 4 450 1023


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