Free Zone: Ideal Environment for Setting Up a Business
If you plan to be involved in imports, exports, or re-exports, then a Free Zone could be an ideal business option for you. There are many options to choose from in terms of license types and office solutions, and there are other advantages as well:
Quick business setup
An old adage of business is that time is money. To that end, the faster you can navigate the registration and licensing processes to get your business up-and-running, the better. This is one of the reasons why business setup in Dubai Free Zones is such a popular choice. Business licenses and visas can be issued relatively quickly, and office setup – including utility, telephone, and internet connections – can usually be completed in a matter of just days or weeks. In addition, most Free Zones in Dubai have a dedicated customer service department to help you clear any remaining business setup hurdles in a prompt, timely manner.
Scalability for fast growth
Whether you’re a solopreneur, a small startup, or a larger, more established company, once you get your business up-and-running, your next focus will be to help it grow it in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible. Dubai is uniquely poised to help you do just that. Its strategic location joining the East and the West, along with its unrivaled connectivity, gives businesses access to multiple growth markets around the world. For import, export, or other trading companies, accessibility and distribution is key. Dubai is a hot spot for all of the above, and has the infrastructure in place to help your business grow and scale quickly.
What Are the Costs to Set Up a Free Zone Company in Dubai?
While the specific fees and charges can vary based upon what type of Dubai Free Zone business you want to operate, and upon which Free Zone you choose as home base, there are baseline cost factors that will apply regardless:
These are the setup fees you must pay to get your business registered and set up in the designated Free Zone, to begin with. As is the case with most fees related to Free Zones in Dubai, the specific amount due can vary somewhat from Free Zone to Free Zone. On the low end, a registration fee can be as little as AED 3,500, depending upon which Free Zone and upon what type of company you’re registering. Thankfully, initial registration is a one-off expenditure.
Once you get your company registered, then you’ll need to secure the trade license for your business. This licensing fee is paid to whichever Free Zone in which you plan to operate. The type of license you’ll need to acquire will depend upon the primary activity of your business. Different Free Zones make different license options available (including Trading, Service, and Industrial), and the respective fees can vary. As a rule, Free Zone licenses must be renewed every one to three years, and generally range in cost between AED 10,000 and AED 50,000 annually.
As a business owner, you’ll want to apply for your own Residence Visa as well. This is another one-off fee, and it affords the legal status of investor, giving you full legal rights to conduct Free Zone business. Residence visas are necessary for opening personal bank accounts, sponsoring family members, renting property, and applying for a driver’s license.
There are visas for your Free Zone employees as well; the number of available employee visas depends upon the business license you choose. These generally cost between AED 3,000 to AED 6,000 each, and remain valid for one to three years.
Office space & furnishings
Dubai Free Zones offer many cost-effective ways to lease or buy office space. There’s everything From plug-and-play flexi-desks, to co-working spaces, to multistory office buildings available for lease or sale. You can go with a custom-build solution, as well.
Office costs will vary based upon the Free Zone, the specific location in town, the square footage of the space, whether it’s furnished or unfurnished, and whether it’s serviced or unserviced. Costs can vary depending upon the office space, but typically start around AED 15,000-20,000 annually. And if you don’t need a physical office space, you can still operate without one.
Some of the Unique Benefits of Choosing a Dubai Free Zone for Your Business
The choice of which city in which to set up your business is an important one. While there are a number of Free Zones in place across the Emirates, not all Free Zones offer the same types of short-term and long-term opportunities. Business regulations can also differ between Emirates. While some entrepreneurs and investors can be attracted by less expensive licensing costs in certain Emirates, there are some potential drawbacks to that option as well. If you’re interested in doing business in Dubai, here are some things to keep in mind:
The types of business activities permitted in each respective Free Zone can vary; this is an important factor to consider when evaluating Free Zones outside of Dubai. There’s a wider range of Free Zones in Dubai that cater to more specific business sectors, so you’re more likely to find a Dubai Free Zone that matches your exact needs in terms of desired business activities – both now, and in the future.
Bank account stipulations
If your business is licensed in another Emirate, getting a bank account set up in Dubai can be more of a challenge. Some banks have more stringent requirements when it comes to opening an account in their specific location. If you choose to base your business in a Dubai Free Zone to start with, you’ll be able to avoid many of these potential issues and setbacks.
Location, location, location
If you’re based in the Free Zone of another Emirate, you risk missing out on some key networking opportunities that only occur within Dubai proper. The rule of real estate value applies to business setup in the UAE, too: location, location, location! It’s really best to situate your business where the action is, and that’s even more important if the industry in which you operate already has a prominent presence in Dubai. You want to be as close as possible to your customers, prospects, suppliers, and potential staff hires.
Key Free Zone Locations in Dubai
While there are more than 40 multidisciplinary Free Zone across the UAE, some offer more advantages than others. Here are some of the key Free Zones operating in the Dubai area:
Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC)
Spans locations within the Dubai World Trade Center itself, along with the adjoining One Central. This Free Zone is incredibly well-connected to the Dubai Metro and road network, is just around the corner from Dubai International Financial Center, and is within 15 minutes of the Dubai International Airport.
Dubai World Central (DWC), a.k.a. Dubai South
The second-largest Free Zone in Dubai, Dubai World Central (now dubbed Dubai South) offers ample opportunities for trading, manufacturing, and warehouse business operations. This was the site of the recent World Expo 2020, and it’s a strategic location for international travel, trade, and logistics.
Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA)
Originally known as the Dubai Technology & Media Free Zone (DTMFZ), this Free Zone has since been re-launched under the name Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA). This cluster includes several well-known business parks, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Dubai Design District, Knowledge Village, and others. Its objective is to create a business environment for creativity and innovation.
Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC)
Dubbed the world’s #1 Free Zone by Financial Times Magazine, DMCC is one of two Free Zones which allows crypto commodities trading. The DMCC also offers dual licensing for business ventures, and allows for up to six business activities under the same group. Many firms in the trading and service sectors choose to set up shop here.
Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)
Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is one of the prime financial hubs for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. 17 of the world’s top 20 banks are here, and the DIFC also boasts an internationally recognized, independent financial regulator and a proven judicial system with an English common law framework. Their vision is to drive the future of finance.
Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA)
Rated as one of the top economic Free Zones, the DAFZA offers both dual licensing and a specific e-commerce license as well. This Free Zone is directly linked to the Dubai International Airport and offers a fast-track customs process, which makes it an ideal hub for international trade and transport. This dynamic business hub is located at the very heart of global trade.
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)
The DSO has emerged as a world-renowned Free Zone and integrated technology park. It offers state-of-the-art infrastructure, connectivity, and in-house business services. Silicon Park is Dubai’s first truly smart city. This area has proven to be a great place for both living and working. It’s close to downtown Dubai, and is also convenient to various airports and seaports.
Dubai Free Zone Business License Options
Business establishments in UAE Free Zones require a valid trade license in order to conduct business, regardless of their respective size and legal structure. Free Zone licenses issued in Dubai include the following:
This type of business license is primarily intended for service-oriented firms and various kinds of business consultancies.
This type of business license is applicable to manufacturing firms, import companies, and export companies.
General trading license
This type of business license is for business owners and investors who make a practice of trading across a wide distribution of various goods and commodities.
This type of business license is for the business owner or investor that endeavors to meet the various warehousing requirements of the region, including storage and distribution specifics.
This is a general category of business license which can apply to various pursuits. One particular category of commercial licensing includes the e-commerce license, which is tailored to online-based businesses.
Typical Expenses for a Dubai Free Zone Business
Starting a business in Dubai is a highly profitable venture for many reasons. Still, it’s important to understand all of the related costs for business startup and maintenance.
Name approval changes
Your trade name is the name under which you’ll be managing your company. There’s an initial cost for establishing your trade name, and if you ever decide to change your company name (for instance, if you decide to change the primary focus of your business activity), there will be a fee for that as well.
Any official documents, or any future changes you’d like to make in the nature of your business structure, will need to be stamped by a local notary in order to be considered as legal and official. There is a charge that accompanies this service.
Your business will need to be insured, and if you decide to purchase any local property for conducting your business, that will need to be insured as well. To that end, insurance is another expense you’ll need to factor into your business pursuits.
Bank account in Dubai
If you plan to do business in Dubai, then you’ll need to open a local bank account. Depending upon the nature of your individual or commercial banking services, there may be a charge associated with opening and maintaining said account.
Typing and shipping fees
Any contracts will need to be drafted in both Arabic and English, so typing and transcription fees are another cost to factor. In addition, if your business has items that need to be shipped on a regular basis, shipping will be another cost factor you’ll need to include.
Emirates ID card
In order to live, move, or do business in the UAE, you’ll need to obtain an official Emirates ID card. There is a fee associated with this service.
Police clearance & medical checks
In some cases, you’ll need to obtain police clearance for your business functions. Regular medical checks may also be required for you and your employees, so those are other cost factors you’ll need to include in your business budget.
How MSZ Consultancy Can Help You to Set Up Your Dubai Free Zone Business
We’ve tried to provide helpful information about what it takes to set up a business in a Dubai Free Zone. But here’s one more pro tip: it’s best not to try and tackle the process alone. Our experts at MSZ Consultancy are here to help! We’re a leading management consultancy and advisory team with over 15 years of experience in getting companies successfully set up in Dubai and the UAE.
What we do
At MSZ Consultancy, we can help you get your company started from scratch, and we provide the tools you’ll need to become self-reliant. We walk you through the whole process of getting your company properly registered and licensed for business in Dubai or the greater UAE. And along the way, we’ll also offer sound financial advice and legal recommendations to help you launch your business with greater success.
How we can help
MSZ Consultancy is comprised of a unique team of business setup consultants, lawyers, PRO executives, and PRO service providers. We can do much more than just get your business registered and licensed; our expert staff can also come alongside to help with necessary paperwork, provide legal advice, offer financial expertise, and much more. Basically, we do it all, and we do it all for you!
Why choose us?
We’re the best business setup consultants in Dubai, period. We love what we do, and we truly care about each and every one of our clients. We start by taking the time to listen to your business dreams and goals, and then we work hard to help you get where you want to be. Plus, we believe in providing the highest level of customer service, and we’re here to partner with you for the long haul.
Reach us today to book your FREE initial consultation! Give us a call at +971 52 544 1248, or just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation going. Don’t wait, let’s get started today!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How can I start a Free Zone business in Dubai?
The procedure for getting a business set up in a Dubai Free Zone is fairly straightforward. Start by deciding what type of company you want to form and which Free Zone you want to use as your home base. Then you’ll need to choose a trade name, get your business registered, obtain a trade license, and secure office space.
- What’s the cheapest Free Zone in Dubai?
That perhaps isn’t the best question to ask. A better question is, which Free Zone offers the best opportunities for my business in the most cost-effective manner? The International Free Zone Authority (IFZA) in Dubai is a good option to consider. It offers a range of low-cost company setup packages, and is considered one of the most cost-effective Free Zones for establishing a business in Dubai.
- Can a Free Zone company trade in Dubai?
As a rule, no. The Free Zones are economic regions that are set up to foster more international business within the UAE. In order to do business in the Dubai Mainland, a Free Zone company must connect with a DED-licensed distributor and also acquire special documentation from the Dubai DED.
- What’s the difference between a Mainland company and a Free Zone company?
The Mainland itself includes the physical space encompassed by the cities of the UAE. In order to establish a Mainland business, you need to have a physical location within the Mainland itself. Mainland businesses can trade in the local market as well as internationally without restriction.
Free Zone businesses are set up for international trade, offer many tax advantages and incentives, and can be established with 100% foreign ownership.
- How do Free Zone visas work?
Free Zone visas are relatively easy to obtain. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to register your company in a Dubai Free Zone, you can get either an investor visa or an employment visa. Your dependents can then apply for a residence visa once you obtain an investor visa or employment visa. These visas are typically valid for 3 years.