How to set up a business in UAE mainland: A step-by-step guide

To set up a business in the country, one needs to be at least 18 years of age


Poojaraj Maniyeri

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Published: Wed 5 Jun 2024, 8:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 5:31 PM

The UAE has emerged as a hub of business, with entrepreneurs from all nationalities flocking to the city to practice their trade.

To set up a business in the UAE, one needs to be atleast 18 years of age, according to the Commercial Transactions Law in 2023.

There are a few steps to follow to start a business in the UAE mainland, as per the Ministry of Economy. Here is a look at the approvals, documents required and steps to start your own business.

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You can apply online through the unified Basher platform, or the website of the concerned emirate's economic department. You can also apply in person through government service centres, Tasheel offices, legal services offices, OnTime offices for government services, or customer happiness centers of the emirate's Department of Economic Development.

According to the Ministry of Economy's website, these are the steps to set up your business in the UAE mainland.

Identify licence type

Know your business, determine the type of economic activity that will take place, and what category it will fall under. The UAE offers six main types of economic licences:

  • Occupational
  • Tourism
  • Industrial
  • Commercial
  • Agricultural
  • Professional

Decide the legal structure

Identify the needs of your business, and accordingly choose an appropriate structure.

Choosing the right structure for your business is crucial as it will determine the laws and regulations that your business must follow.

Here are the legal forms of businesses in the country:

  • Sole establishment
  • Civil company
  • Limited liability company
  • Public joint stock company
  • Private joint stock company
  • Branch of a GCC company
  • Branch of a local company
  • Holding company
  • Representative office of a foreign company

Register trade name

The name of your business must be unique, and should not bear resemblance to any other company. To apply for the name, visit your emirate's Department of Economic Development. The application can be done online, through the website or smart app, or in person.

To register the trade name, there are certain conditions you must follow:

  • An abbreviation of the company's legal structure must be present in the name, as its suffix (LLC, PJSC etc).
  • There must be no inappropriate words, and the name should not be offensive in any form.
  • The name must be compatible with the nature of your business.
  • The trade name must not have the names of rulers, government agencies, or the names and logos of government bodies.
  • No other company must be registered with the same trade name as your business.
  • The name, along with the trademark, require approvals by the Department of Economic Development and the Ministry of Economy.
  • Trade name certificates must be renewed when necessary

Initial approval and agreements

You must receive the initial approval from the UAE Government, which is a 'no objection' certificate. This indicates that the government does not object to establishing your business in the country.

With this approval, you can carry out the next step required in the business. You can also approach the authorities concerned to issue a licence.

However, a 'no objection' certificate does not allow you to start running the business.

Once you receive the certificate, you must create a Memorandum of Association (MOA), or Local Service Agent Agreement (LSA).

An MOA is required when your business is a:

  • Civil company
  • Limited liability company
  • Public shareholding company
  • Private shareholding company

An LSA is required when your business is a sole proprietorship.

You may also require additional approvals from different government authorities, depending on the kind of economic activity.

Choose a location

A physical address is required for each business in the country. The location must adhere to the regulations by the concerned emirate's Department of economic Development, along with the policies and laws of local municipalities and authorities.

In Dubai, the Dubai Land Department's Ejari portal is where you must register the tenancy contract for office or warehouse space.

Submit documents and pay fees

To successfully set up and begin practising your business, you need a business licence. To obtain the licence, there are certain documents you must submit:

  • Initial approval receipt
  • Copies of all documents submitted so far
  • Copy of attested lease contract
  • MOA, if required
  • Approvals from other government entities, if required

Pay fees, and collect your business licence from service centres, or through the website.

Register with Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Finally, you must register with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Each emirate has it's own corresponding chamber. The registration must be done in the same emirate of your company.

These are the steps to follow to set up a business in the UAE mainland. To set up a business in the UAE free zone, there is a different process.


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