Starting a Business in UAE
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Why Start a Business in the UAE?
If you looked at a photograph of the UAE two decades ago, it would be unrecognisable; all dusty topography and unhabitable vastness. But it's had a complete aesthetic makeover, and the current balance of old and new, antiquation and innovation, is staggering. Chalky, timeworn buildings and futuristic architecture are practically neighbours. Centuries of Middle Eastern ethic and culture is seamlessly sewn into a Western business fabric. It's all a delicate blend of historical substance and 21st century style. The south-east Arabian peninsula has always been a trading centre between the East and West, and the UAE continues that legacy like no other.
The UAE is a veritable shrine to business and commerce, renowned for its efficient admin, infrastructure and sleek licensing. The Emirate state has no problem in attracting foreign investors, and remains unequalled as one of the most sought-after and enticing places to flex your entrepreneurial muscles.
The UAE takes full advantage of its geographical locality, and is surrounded by equally ambitious emerging markets. The government actively encourages a free and harmonious economic policy have fostered a salient international reputation, inspiring both national and foreign finance in almost every area of economic activity.
The UAE is favoured for its permissive approach to business and commerce, exemplified by its liberal standards and regulations. Unlike other countries in the region, The UAE does not suffer from the hindrance of theocratic dogma. This is especially good news for women wanting to establish themselves there, with no social or travelling restraints, you are free to do as you wish.
The UAE caters to the foreign investor like no other in the region. It takes care of business, and if you think it may be the right place for you, then read on to see the benefits of going under its wing.
What is the currency and exchange rate?
The currency used in the UAE is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).
How is the climate/weather?
With blue skies and sunshine throughout the year, the UAE enjoys a dry, sub-tropical climate. Temperatures can reach up to 45C (113F) during the peak months (June - September) where humidity levels are also high. Temperatures wane only slightly over the rest of the year, with the coolest period being between December and March. Rainfall is modest and mostly occurs during the cooler months.
What is the population?
The current population is approximately 9,266,971 80% constitute expatriates: Arab, Asians, European, among others.
Is UAE tolerant and permissive?
To dispel any myths or confusion with other Arab states, Dubai, and the UAE in general, is a very liberal region. There is a very social scene in Dubai. Freedom to worship is allowed in all religions, and various churches have existed in Dubai for many years. Foreign newspapers, magazines, TV, films and DVDs are openly available. Alcohol is allowed to be consumed at home, in hotels, and on licensed club premises (as in the West). Women can drive and move about freely and unaccompanied.
What sort of opportunities are there in the UAE?
The UAE's, namely Dubai's, economy boasts an ambitious combination of cost, commerce and environmental advantages that make an ideal and appealing investment climate for local and foreign businesses. Indeed, these benefits not only pit the Emirate state as the Gulf's leading multifunctional business centre and regional hub-city, but also accentuate it as one of the world's most virile and progressive economic markets.
With its quaint commercial and maritime traditions, Dubai is continually acknowledged as the region's leading trading hub. The Emirate state has become a vital location for numerous flourishing industries and activities, including:
- Meetings, conferences and exhibitions
- Travel and tourism
- Corporate regional headquarters
- Regional transport, distribution and logistics centre
- Banking, finance and insurance
- Information and communications technology
- Business and industrial consultancies
- Media (production, publishing, etc)
This is all a result of Dubai's astute foresight, innovative facilities and infrastructure, and its government's favourable economic policies. Eager to diversify its economy and abate its dependence on declining oil revenues, Dubai is stomping a discernable footprint as the region's premier international business centre. Why not become a part of this economic Cinderella story?
What Are UAE's Key Advantages?
Open and Free Economy: Dubai's economy has remained open and free to attract investors and business. The control and regulation by the government of private sector activities is minimal. Perhaps most appealingly, there are no direct taxes on corporate profits or personal income (with the exception of oil companies and some branches of foreign banks). Customs duties are low at 4% (with many exemptions); 100% repatriation of capital and profits is permitted; there are no foreign exchange controls, trade quotas or barriers; and a stable exchange rate remains between the British Pound and the UAE Dirham (as outlined earlier). Also, relaxed visa policies allow a painless import of expatriate labour with a varied level of skill from across the world.
High Standard of Living: Dubai is renowned for its excellent living conditions, having invested unsparingly in real estate like hotels, residential and commercial properties, and recreational and leisure facilities. Additionally, many social and environmental factors have contributed to Dubai's high standard of living, making it a paradigm for emulation: excellent infrastructural facilities, low crime, clean environment, tolerance and cultural diversity, cosmopolitan lifestyle, contemporary public administration, accessible range of consumer goods and services, mild winters and white, palm-lined sands.
Enterprising Cost Structure: International businesses relocating or establishing in Dubai can acquire substantial cost benefits not commonly available internationally.
- No foreign exchange controls
- No trade barriers or quotas
- Competitive import duties (4% with many exemptions)
- Competitive energy costs
- Competitive real estate costs
- Competitive financing costs and high levels of liquidity
- No taxes (except for oil companies and some foreign banks)
Political and Economic Stability: As a member of the UAE, Dubai benefits from a low-crime rate and socio-stability. Additionally, the UAE is financially and monetarily sound. The Emirate's advancing capital markets are built on the foundations of cutting-edge technology and grounded regulatory systems. The government, to reiterate, has an admirable commitment to business and lenient economic policies. The UAE gains from constant and balanced industrial relations. And finally, there is a distinguished legal structure for business and an unequivocal set of ownership rules.
Foreign business is allowed ownership rights of up to 49% for limited liability companies established in Dubai, and up to 100% for professional companies, branches and representative offices of foreign companies and free zone enterprises.
Eminent Infrastructure and Service Sector: Dubai's well-thought strategy of investing widely in transport, telecommunications, energy and industrial infrastructure has allowed it to maintain one of the most impressive infrastructure facilities in the world. Its features include a network of seven industrial areas; a business park; prosperous, specialised free zones; two high class seaports; a major international airport and cargo village; a modern highway network; state-of-the-art telecommunications; reliable power and utilities.
This is all complimented by an integral service sector, which includes shipping, banking and finance, legal firms, hotels, schools, shopping centres, hospitals, and more.
What Are Free Zones?
A free zone is an exceptional area of a country where standard trade practice and regulation, such as tariffs or trade barriers, are made redundant or lowered for the purposes of enticing new businesses and investment, generally from overseas.
The Dubai Silicon Oasis
The Dubai Silicon Oasis is a 7.2 kilometre-square high technology park and free trade zone, which specialises in the microelectronics and semiconductor sector. The mission of the park is to be a world hub in electronically innovation, research and development. It offers employees the chance to work in a strategic and progressive location with avenues to some highly lucrative markets in the region and beyond.
The Silicon Oasis is positioned on the Emirate Road, with easy accessibility to the International Airport, Jebel Ali Port and business districts, and boasts a self-sufficient environment and infrastructure of office towers, research and development zones, apartments, educational institutions, day-to-day facilities, hotels and healthcare services. It is also the only free zone offering on-site accommodation, comprising of over 500 residential villas. Residents can enjoy a supermarket, swimming pool, coffee shop, gym, playgrounds, and more.
Ajman Free Zone
Situated at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, Ajman Free Zone is well placed to serve the eastern and western markets.
Dubai International Financial Centre
The Dubai International Financial Centre, or DIFC, is a financial hub and free zone. It was designed to establish a sound environment for progression and development of the UAE economy and wider region. It achieves this by providing an infrastructure which adheres to international standards.
The DIFC is divided into sectors:
- Banking Service (investment, corporate and private banking
- Capital Markets (equity, debt, commodity trading, etc)
- Asset Management
- Fund Registration
- Islamic Finance
Each sector offers incentives, such as tax free income and profits, 100% foreign ownership and little or no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital repatriation. The aim is to establish 10,000 jobs in each sector, filled by a mix of immigrant and local employees.
Hamriyah Free Zone
The Hamriyah Free Zone is a free zone in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Established by an Emiri decree in November, 1995, the Free Zone is 24 square kilometres in size and has a 14 meter deep port and 7 meter deep inner harbour. Sharjah is the only one emirate, which having ports on the Arabian Gulf’s west coast and east coast with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
Internet City Free Zone
As the Middle East's largest information technology infrastructure, Dubai Internet City is designed to accommodate the business development of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) companies. The 'City' has grown so expeditiously that new businesses are joining the 800-strong community on a daily basis. Neighbours include Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Compaq and Sony Ericsson.
Internet City is the Middle East's largest IT infrastructure, and boasts the largest commercial Internet Protocol Telephony system in the world. Dubai Internet City is a strategic base for businesses targeting emerging markets in a vast region extending from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, and Africa to the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, covering roughly 1.6 billion people.
As a free-zone, it offers 100% foreign ownership, a high-grade of business-to-business interaction and invaluable networking opportunities.
Dubai Media City Free Zone
Strategically located at the crossroads of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Dubai Media City is the region's media hub. Every area of media and creativity is covered here, from publishing to advertising to music to journalism, and the environment has been specifically cultivated to suit and benefit the needs of the industry.
The Media City's intention is to create and sell a world class enabling environment for the media industry. Their objective is to entice and nurture businesses from specific areas of the media /entertainment industry.
Jebel Ali Free Zone
This Free Zone really defines the brilliant entrepreneurship of Dubai. Firstly, there is no tax. Secondly, as a business, you are under no duty to recruit a local partner; staff maybe recruited from anyway. Features include ports, warehouses, office space, and, typical of Dubai's commitment to business, newly built factories ready for use.
This keeps being repeated, but necessarily so, the strategic location allows ready access to 1.6 billion potential clients and customers in the neighbouring regions.
Unlike the outside of Jebel Ali, which requires foreigners to go into business with local companies or sponsors, there is no such requirement in this Free Zone. Essentially, you do as you please.
Knowledge Village Free Zone
Knowledge Village as an autonomous offshoot of the Technology and Media Free Zone. The Village was fundamentally designed to complement its parent Free Zones; it provides the facilities to train and educate the potential workforce of the future. It is focuses primarily on media, communications and information technologies. It currently nurses 200 companies, including universities and general academic institutes, including research, training and development facilities.
By nurturing the region's talent, Knowledge Village is cementing the UAE's status as the enviable, runaway economy.
Dubai Airport Free Zone
Dubai Airport Free Zone is located within the area of an airport, so the activities allowed are generally limited to high-value, low-volume products that require a rapid access to markets. Therefore, the Airport Free Zone is a perfect spot for electronics, gadgets and IT products, luxury items, jewellery, and general activity related to aviation.
The Zone is structured to meet the requirements of companies setting-up and established at the airport. It offers attractive incentives including 100% foreign ownership, corporate tax immunity for 15 years (renewable for an additional 15 years), no income tax, freedom to repatriate both capital and profits, full exemption of import duties, and no currency restrictions.
RAK Free Trade Zone
RAK Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) is one of the fastest-growing, most cost-effective free zones in the Middle East and rapidly emerging as the preferred business hub in the region. With excellent infrastructure, a tax-free environment, customized business solutions, hassle-free procedures, value-added services and all the facilities that you expect from a world-class free zone, RAK FTZ is definitely the best choice for your next business venture.
Traditionally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been viewed as a gateway to not only the GCC markets, but also those of the surrounding countries and regions, like Iraq, South Asia and East Africa, which have a steady demand for infrastructure development projects and growing middle classes. One of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is only a 45 minute drive from Dubai. A business set-up in the RAK will enable you to explore market opportunities, be closer to your clients and agents and organise distribution more efficiently.
RAK Investment Authority Free Zone
Established in 2005, RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA) has become one of the major business destinations in the Middle East Region. Today around 7000 companies including 500 manufacturers such as Ashok Leyland, Dabur, Mahindra, JBF, Zamil Steel, GK Wires, Saver Glass, Vesuvius, Arc International, etc. are operating from the 2 purpose built industrial parks of RAKIA.
RAKIA’s “One-Stop-Shop” approach delivers exceptional value and convenience by facilitating business set up to ensure faster approvals.
Sharjah Airport International Free Zone
Sharjah International Airport is an airport located 7 nautical miles east south east of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. It is spread over an area of 15,200,000 m²
Workforce and labour
There are many of recruitment agencies in Dubai that provide recruitment consultancy. The workforce of Dubai is comprised mainly of expatriates. However, there are current efforts to begin absorbing nationals as part of the mainstream workforce. Skill levels vary accordingly. Foreign workers may be recruited through private employment agencies licensed by the local Ministry.
Fridays and Ramadan - Friday is the Muslim day of prayer and rest and so scheduling meetings or making phone calls to colleagues or clients on this day should be avoided.
During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Muslim hospitality allows that non-Muslims may be invited to eat and drink by their hosts, but this must take place sensitively, and strictly away from public view.
Dress - UAE adheres to an unspoken dress rule that is both conservative and modest compared to that experienced in the West. For those working in the more rural and traditional areas, you should take care to wear clothing that covers the body and limbs. Despite the occasionally stifling heat, those doing business in the UAE are expected to dress smartly.
Work Hours - The Arab working week runs from Saturday to Wednesday with the working day between 0800 to 1300, and then after the temperatures have cooled between 1600 and carries on until 1900.
Organisations that can assist with Starting a Business
Based in the Kingdom of Bahrain, IQTESADI is a worldwide corporate services provider, helping international companies and investors to succeed in the Kingdom of Bahrain and other GCC & MENA Markets
We do payroll there. We can do it anywhere. Many companies with global employees find that payroll can be a stressful part of doing business overseas. Finding a reliable payroll company, faxing and emailing multiple payroll spreadsheets each month, and treasury management are just some of the obstacles
Here at Europe Emirates Group we are proud of what we do and how we do it, we understand that in some instances our first contact with our clients is via our website, therefore have revamped our site to make it easier to navigate and so that you have more information at a glance.
Caught out by Brexit? Concerned about Trump’s unpredictability?
Company formation in Dubai is not a straightforward task. Despite this, Dubai has a unique set of appealing features that attract entrepreneurs and established businesses alike, to make Dubai a base for their operations
Whether you are entering a new market and have yet to establish a business entity, or you have been in a country market for some time; whether you have one worker or thousands of employees, SafeGuard World International can help. We can support you during every stage of your journey with global payroll, contingent labor, global recruitment and a variety of multinational HR consulting and professional services.
Capital International group is a well established company based in Dubai, UAE, providing professional solutions, growth advisory and comprehensive range of business services to both new and experienced investors. Established in 2007, CIG has been growing in leaps and bounds. With a healthy, professional work attitude and a mix culture, surrounded by intellects that are well trained and geared to provide the practical guidance and quality assistance in starting and running a business across UAE
AURION is an award winning business consulting company established in the UAE for more than a decade, providing professional services for incorporation of 100% expatriate owned Freezone Companies , Main Land Companies and Offshore Companies.
The OXFORD team draws together many years of practical experience in the area of International Tax Planning and “offshore business”.
Sovereign offers a range of advisory and support services to assist companies of all sizes to establish successful business operations in foreign markets.