Mainland VS Free Zones in UAE

The two main business setup in UAE and also their differences: 






  • A foreigner can only obtain 49% shares of the company and the remaining 51% shares will be given to the UAE nationals.
  • Only in case of a professional license, a foreigner can own 100% shares. However, even in this case, he/she has to appoint a local service agent.
  • A foreigner can hold 100% shares of the company.
  • Not required a local partner or service agent.
Business Opportunity
  • Business can be done in any free zone or outside UAE and also the local market.
  • Applicable to all commercial or professional licenses.
  • Business is restricted to specific free zone.
  • Most favourable businesses for such jurisdictions are import and also re-export.
Office space
  • A Minimum of 200 sq. ft office space is compulsory for any company in mainland UAE.
  • There is no compulsory requirement for a free zone company. The company can function without physical offices.
Government Authorities – Approval
  • Mainland company requires standard government approvals according to the type of business.
  • Example: Department of Economic Development, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Interior and also Dubai Municipality are few such departments that will require an approval for company registration in mainland UAE.
  • Free Zone jurisdictions usually do not need approval from external authorities for issuing the license except in cases of special activities which require external authority’s approval.
  • There is no limitation of visas on the mainland license. Eligibility for visas depends on the office space. if you have more office space then you may get the number of visas.
  • Usually offers 2 visas on the smart office. If you require more visas then a physical office/warehouse has to be leased out.


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