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how to start a business in dubai free zone

How to Start a Company in Dubai Free Zone: A Comprehensive Guide for Expats

Dubai’s remarkable success as a global business hub owes much to its array of free zones. These economic giants present distinctive prospects for both entrepreneurs and investors. Embarking on a venture in Dubai’s free zone by establishing a business could be highly profitable.

This guide will delve into the complexities of starting a company in Dubai free zone and the compelling reasons behind its appeal.

What is a Freezone Company in Dubai?

A free zone is a designated geographic area within a country that offers special economic regulations and incentives to entice foreign investment and promote business growth. These zones provide businesses with an environment conducive to economic activity, often characterized by favourable tax policies, full foreign ownership, and simplified administrative procedures.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts a thriving network of free zones, with over 40 established across the country. Each free zone is tailored to cater to specific industries and business activities, making them highly attractive for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a presence in the UAE. These free zones cover sectors like technology, logistics, media, healthcare, and more, providing diverse opportunities for various business endeavours, for different industries.

Rules governing free zone companies in the UAE offer several advantages. Businesses in free zones enjoy 100% foreign ownership, full repatriation of profits, exemption from personal income taxes, and simplified regulatory procedures. These benefits make freezone company setup an attractive choice for expatriates looking to initiate a business in the UAE.

Choosing to operate your business within a UAE Free zone ensures not only ease of doing business but also an environment conducive to growth and profitability. With favourable rules and regulations, the free zone option facilitates a smoother and more cost-effective start to your entrepreneurial journey, offering numerous benefits for entrepreneurs venturing into the dynamic market of the UAE.

How to Start a Free Zone Company in Dubai?

Setting up a business in a Dubai Free Zone offers many benefits for entrepreneurs. With full foreign ownership, tax advantages, simplified regulations, and world-class infrastructure, these free zones provide an enticing environment for business growth.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process of establishing your business in a Dubai Freezone:

  1. Determine Business Type and Activities: Begin by deciding on the type of business you want to establish and the specific activities you plan to engage in. Dubai’s free zones cater to various industries, so choose one that aligns with your business goals.
  2. Choose the Appropriate Free Zone: Dubai boasts a range of free zones, each designed to support specific business sectors. Research the free zones and select the one that best suits your industry and needs. Consider factors like location, infrastructure, and the incentives offered.
  3. Legal Structure and Licensing: Determine your company’s legal structure, whether it’s a Free Zone Company (FZC) or a Free Zone Establishment (FZE). Obtain the required licenses for your chosen business activities. The free zone authority will guide you through the licensing process.
  4. Business Name and Registration: Choose a unique and compliant business name for your company. The name should reflect your business activities and adhere to the free zone’s naming conventions. Once approved, register your business name with the relevant authorities.
  5. Lease Office or Warehouse Space: Secure an office or warehouse space within the free zone. Most free zones offer flexible office solutions and cost-effective leasing options. Lease agreements are an essential requirement for the business setup process.
  6. Prepare Legal Documents: Gather the necessary legal documents, including a business plan, passport copies, shareholder details, and other essential paperwork. These documents will be submitted to the free zone authority during setup.
  7. Application Submission: Submit your application for business setup to the chosen free zone authority. The application will include all the required documents and information related to your business activities and shareholders.
  8. Payment of Fees and Capital: Pay the necessary fees and the minimum share capital required by the free zone. The exact amount may vary depending on the type of business and the chosen free zone.
  9. Approval and Licensing: You will receive your business license upon approval of your application and completion of the necessary payments. This license allows you to legally operate within the free zone and sometimes in the broader UAE market.
  10. Business Operations Commence: Once you have your business license, you can commence your business operations. The free zone environment is conducive to business growth, with top-notch infrastructure and support services.

In summary, setting up a business in a Dubai Free Zone involves crucial steps, from selecting the right free zone and business type to obtaining the necessary licenses and leases.

By following this structured process, you can confidently navigate the complexities of business setup in Dubai’s free zones.

Don’t miss the opportunity to establish your company in a thriving business environment. Take the initial step towards your entrepreneurial journey today.

Cost to Open a Free Zone Company in Dubai, UAE

The cost of starting a Free Zone Company in Dubai can vary significantly based on various factors, including the chosen free zone, business type, and specific requirements. Generally, you can expect to incur expenses such as:

  1. License Registration Fees: Free zones typically charge an initial license registration fee, which varies depending on the selected free zone. Also, the cost depends on the type of selected business activity. Initially, the cost to start a company in the Dubai Free Zone starts from AED 12,500 .
  2. Lease Costs: Renting office or warehouse space within the free zone is another expense. Lease costs can vary based on location and the size of the space.
  3. Visa Costs: If you plan to sponsor employee visas or obtain a visa for yourself, there are associated fees, including visa processing fees and medical examination costs.
  4. Additional Services: Depending on your business needs, you may require services such as legal consultation, document translation, and more.

It’s important to research and understand the cost structure of the specific Free Zone you’re interested in to create an accurate budget for your business setup.

Keep in mind that while costs are involved, the benefits of operating in a Dubai Free Zone, including tax advantages and streamlined regulations, often outweigh the initial expenses.

As we already explained to you, your main concern that is how to start a business in the Dubai free zone, but it is necessary that you be aware of the difference between all the 3 jurisdictions available in UAE, so next, explore the differences in detail.

Difference between Freezone, Mainland, and Offshore

When launching a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it’s crucial to distinguish between three key business entities: mainland companies, free zone companies, and offshore companies. These choices significantly impact your business operations and objectives.

Mainland Companies

Mainland companies, or onshore companies, are registered to operate across the entire UAE and are governed by UAE federal laws. This setup is advantageous for businesses targeting the local market, making it a practical choice for businesses planning to cater to customers throughout the UAE and also outside the UAE. Additionally, in light of recent updates, mainland companies in the UAE now offer 100% foreign ownership,  too!

Another great benefit of setting up a company in Dubai Mainland is that starting January 2024, there will be 0% corporate tax. You won’t have to pay corporate taxes if your company earns less than 3 million dirhams in a financial year. This information is as per the latest update from the Federal Tax Authority, specifically Article No. 21 of Federal Decree-Law No. 47 of 2022, which deals with the taxation of business incorporations.

Read Also: UAE Corporate Tax for Mainland Companies

Freezone Companies

Conversely, free zone companies are established within the UAE’s designated free trade zones. They offer the benefits of 100% foreign ownership, no personal income taxes, and full repatriation of profits and capital. However, they might restrict conducting business outside the free zone without a local distributor or agent. This option suits those desiring foreign ownership advantages, streamlined business setup processes and want to do business outside the UAE.

In pursuit of availing 0% corporate tax benefits in Dubai, foreign nationals can establish their business in the below designated free zones:

  •       Jebel Ali Free Zone (North-South)
  •       Dubai Cars and Automotive Zone (DUCAMZ)
  •       Dubai Textile City
  •       Free Zone Area in Al Quoz
  •       Free Zone Area in Al Qusais
  •       Dubai Aviation City
  •       Dubai Airport Free Zone
  •       International Humanitarian City – Jebel Ali

Additionally, the business must comply with all regulatory requirements below to meet the 0% corporate tax benefits. 

  1. Registration

The company must be duly registered in one of the aforementioned designated free zones.

  1. Intra-zone Management and Operations

All management and operational activities must be conducted exclusively within the designated free zone.

  1. Unified Visa Issuance

The issuance of all visas for employees and stakeholders must be exclusively handled by the company registered in the designated free zone.

  1. Transfer Pricing Compliance

The company must comply with Arms Length Transactions (Article 34) and Transfer Pricing (Article 55) of this Decree-Law.

  1. Derivation of Qualifying Income

The company must derive income that aligns with the conditions stipulated in cabinet decision no. 55 of 2023. 

  1. De-minimization Criteria

The de-minimization requirement must be met to avoid classification as a disqualifying free zone entity. Specifically, non-qualifying income in a given tax period should not exceed the lower of:

  • AED 500,000 (AED 5 Million); or
  • 5% of total revenue (calculated as the noted amount of non-qualifying income divided by total revenue).

Offshore Companies

Offshore companies are typically used for international business and asset protection. They cannot engage in business within the UAE but provide strong privacy and asset security; they can benefit from international financial transactions and asset holding. Your choice of business entity should align with your business goals. Mainland companies suit local market-focused businesses, while free zone companies offer foreign ownership benefits. Offshore companies are valuable for international financial transactions. Understanding these distinctions aids in making an informed decision as you embark on starting your business in the UAE.

Benefits of Doing Business in Dubai Freezone

Dubai’s free zones offer many advantages for entrepreneurs, making it an attractive destination for businesses of all kinds. Here are the key benefits of setting up your business in a Dubai Free zone:

  1. Full Foreign Ownership: Dubai’s free zones allow 100% foreign ownership, allowing expatriates to establish and manage their companies without the need for local sponsors or partners.
  2. Tax Benefits: Businesses in Dubai’s free zones often enjoy tax exemptions for extended periods, creating a tax-friendly environment that can enhance your profitability.
  3. Simplified Regulations: Free zones offer streamlined administrative procedures, reducing bureaucracy and making the setup process more efficient.
  4. Repatriation of Profits: Companies in free zones can repatriate 100% of their profits and capital, enabling you to manage your earnings as you see fit.
  5. World-Class Infrastructure: Dubai’s free zones are known for their state-of-the-art facilities, which include modern offices, warehouses, and access to excellent transportation networks.

In summary, Dubai’s free zones offer a business-friendly environment with foreign ownership, tax benefits, streamlined regulations, and access to top-notch facilities.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to expand or start a new venture, the advantages of Dubai’s free zones provide a compelling reason to consider this location for your business setup.

Get Started with Avyanco Business Setup:

Embarking on your entrepreneurial journey in a Dubai Free Zone is a promising venture, and Avyanco is here to guide you every step of the way. We specialize in assisting businesses in selecting the ideal free zone for their unique needs. With extensive knowledge of the UAE’s business landscape, we can help you make informed decisions that align with your objectives.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy full foreign ownership, benefit from tax advantages, or streamline your business setup, Avyanco can provide the expertise and support you need. Our professional team is dedicated to simplifying the process and ensuring a smooth transition into Dubai’s free zones.

Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards establishing your business in a Dubai Free Zone. Contact Avyanco today, and let us help you realize your entrepreneurial dreams. Your success story begins with us.

FAQs around Starting a Business in Dubai Freezone

We acknowledge that you might have inquiries. Below, we’ve collected a list of frequently asked questions regarding commencing a business in a Dubai free zone:

Q1: Can free zone companies do business in the mainland?

A1: Yes, they can, but with certain restrictions.

Q2: Can a free zone company sell in the UAE?

A2: Yes, under specific conditions and regulations, which is appointing a distributor and agent.


Starting a business in a Dubai Free Zone offers a world of possibilities. From tax benefits to simplified regulations, the advantages are clear. Should you be prepared to initiate this endeavour, do not hesitate to contact Avyanco.

Our assistance is available at every stage of your journey. Your aspiration of establishing a thriving business in Dubai can come to fruition.

Get started today.


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