As Dubai continues to blaze its own trail into the 21st century, this Emirate has come to be admired around the world for many things, including its amazing engineering and architecture, world-class attractions, and a high standard of living. But beyond this, Dubai is also now recognized as one of the best spots on the planet for starting and operating your own business. The UAE economy is booming, with practically every area of industry seeing significant growth in recent years. One thing that’s helped to spark this growth is the UAE government’s clear focus on creating a truly welcoming business environment, both for its own citizens as well as for outside investors. As a result, the number of expats from around the world who are finding their way to Dubai and the UAE rises every day, and for a good reason!

Of course, it’s no secret reality that anyone who isn’t a citizen of the UAE will require a residency and business visa in order to live or work in Dubai. The typical path starts with obtaining a residency visa first, followed by the acquisition of a work visa. At the same time, there are also avenues for established businesses or organizations to help provide business visas for the expat specialists within their employ. Dubai itself offers several types of business visas, which can vary according to the nature of the work and the amount of time spent in the country. And even though the UAE government has made a dedicated effort to help improve and streamline the visa issuing process, there are still some necessary protocols and legal requirements which must be followed.

Employment Visa in Mainland

A Mainland company can operate anywhere within the UAE, including the ability to conduct restriction-free local business. Mainland companies can do business in some international markets, as well. Most Mainland companies require a local sponsor, which holds at least 51% of total company equity. An employment visa issued for a Mainland company is valid for two years.

1. Structure of Ownership

There are selected business activities within the Mainland in which foreign investors can actually hold 100% company ownership.

2. Structure of Operation

A Mainland company has the freedom to conduct business activities in free zones, non-free zones, or even outside the UAE.

3. Administration Authorities Approval

Mainland companies must get approval from various government departments of Dubai, such as DED, MOL, DM, and MOI. 

Employment Visa in Free Zone

Free Zone companies are an increasingly popular option because they allow for 100% foreign ownership, with low trade barriers and special tax-free status. In order to operate in a non-free zone, however, you’ll require the help of a local agent or distributor. An employment visa issued for a Free Zone company is valid for three years.

1. Structure of Ownership

A Free Zone company offers 100% business ownership to foreign investors, with no restrictions.

2. Structure of Operation

Free Zone companies can only operate inside their respective UAE free zones, or with parties outside of the UAE. In order to operate in a non-free zone within the UAE, the company in question would need a local partner.

3. Administration Authorities Approval

Free Zone companies don’t typically need approval from outside authorities, except in the case that the company is conducting a specified activity that requires it.

Whether you’re considering a UAE Mainland company or a Free Zone company, there are definite advantages to each approach. But either way, partnering with a local business specialist can help to expedite the process considerably. To that end, your friends at MSZ Consultancy are elite, course-of-action experts when it comes to navigating business matters in the UAE. You can trust us to come alongside to help you make it happen!

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, or to learn more. Reach out to book your FREE consultation today! Give us a call at +971525441248, or just shoot us an email at; we’d be glad to walk you through every step of the process. Connect with us now, our experts are standing by to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a Free Zone employment visa?

An employment residence visa is the most common visa utilized for an employment contract with a Free Zone business. A Free Zone authority (in this case, the DMCC in particular) and not the employer sponsors visas for Free Zone employees. 

2. Can I sponsor my family on a Mainland or Free Zone employment visa?

Yes! You can sponsor your family through either a Mainland or Free Zone employment visa, as long as you meet the required criteria.

3. Does a Free Zone have labor laws similar to the UAE Mainland?

Each Free Zone authority has its own set of employment laws, and employees are subject to the rules and regulations of their respective Free Zone authority. Employees work under a contract governed by the specific Free Zone authority. The provisions set out in the employment contract must be in accordance with the labor laws of that particular jurisdiction.

4. Can I work in the UAE Mainland with a Free Zone visa?

No, you can’t work in the UAE Mainland on a Free Zone visa alone. In order to work outside of the Free Zone, you’ll need to obtain a Mainland employment visa.

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