Business setup in Dubai is a dream for many entrepreneurs, thanks to the numerous distinct advantages the city has to offer. Be it the strategic location, the excellent infrastructure, or the easy availability of skilled labor, there are enough compelling reasons for anyone to explore business opportunities in Dubai. However, as someone new to the city’s entrepreneurial landscape, you may not be fully informed as to how to start a business in Dubai. One must bear in mind that there are numerous aspects to be taken into account, right from jurisdictions to legal entities to acquiring company formation services in Dubai. Here you will find crucial information that will guide you along your Dubai business setup journey.

Getting Started with Business Formation: Make a Business Plan

A business plan is a must for any entrepreneur before getting started with business formation in Dubai. A well-written plan details every aspect of your company and helps streamline the process for setting up a business in Dubai. With a business plan, you have all the strategies in place to get the work done and tackle possible complications that may arise. Here’s what can be included in a business plan:

Business description

A description will cover the basic details of your business like the trade name, the industry it will cater to, the legal structure, the ownership, and all other information relevant to your company establishment in Dubai.

Marketing plan

In this section, you can elaborate on aspects like your target audience, key competitors, and your unique selling propositions.


You can define the short-term and long-term goals of your business. Your objectives could be anything like expansion, diversification, etc. Also, elaborate on how you plan to achieve these objectives.


This section can detail financial aspects like the expected revenue, expenses, net profit/loss, and most importantly how you intend to secure funding.

Back-up plan

You can also include a backup plan to spell out the potential risks, and your strategy in case things do not go right.

Choosing the Right Jurisdiction for Your Business

You can choose from three (3) types of jurisdictions for company setup in Dubai:

  1. Free zone
  2. Mainland
  3. Offshore

Free Zone Company Setup

You can choose from over 25 free trade zones in Dubai to set up and run your business. Based on the industry the free zone focuses on, you can choose the one appropriate for your activity and budget. Free zones in Dubai greatly benefit you with perks like 100% foreign ownership, efficient legislation, affordable pricing, and so on.

Popular Jurisdictions for Free Zone Company Formation in Dubai

Meydan Free Zone Company Formation

Meydan Free Zone is an excellent jurisdiction for doing business in Dubai thanks to its central location, premium amenities, and cost-effective packages. The free zone offers one of the cheapest company formations in Dubai.

International Free Zone Authority (IFZA) Company Formation

IFZA is known for its business-friendly regulations and modern facilities, and provides an excellent ecosystem for setting up a company in Dubai. IFZA employs quick and simple setup procedures for business setup in Dubai.

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) Company Formation

DMCC is home to over 20,000 businesses and primarily focuses on trading commodities such as gold, energy, tea, cotton, etc. With business setup at DMCC, you can avail of a host of benefits in the form of excellent office space solutions and networking opportunities.

Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ) Company Formation

DAFZ is a major free zone, based in proximity to the Dubai International Airport, and no wonder is a preferred option for aviation and logistical business setup in Dubai. DAFZ also has a dedicated industrial park with ample warehousing and storage options. Dubai CommerCity, a free zone powered by DAFZ, is an excellent option if you are looking for e-commerce company registration in Dubai.

Dubai South (DWC) Company Formation

Based near Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai South (formerly known as Dubai World Central (DWC)) is a major free zone for business setup in Dubai, and offers licenses for undertaking industrial, logistical, general trading, and other types of activities.

Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) Free Zone Company Formation

DSO is a leading IT hub mainly known for its low operational cost, fast-tracked company incorporation, and excellent infrastructure. With DSO, you can choose from a broad range of offices, warehouses, and conference facilities.

Dubai Internet City (DIC) Company Formation

DIC is another leading tech hub in Dubai and home to some of the biggest names in the IT industry. With excellent community benefits, DIC is a great destination for business setup in Dubai.

Dubai Media City (DMC) Company Formation

Part of the Dubai Development Authority (DDA), DMC mainly focuses on businesses undertaking media and creative activities. DMC offers a wide variety of facilities that include commercial spaces, warehouses, industrial units, etc.

Dubai Mainland Company Setup

A mainland company in Dubai gives you the freedom to conduct business anywhere with no restrictions. You can have the benefits of better customer exposure plus the opportunities to expand and gain a strong presence in the market.

Popular Jurisdictions for Mainland Company Formation in Dubai

Sheikh Zayed Road

As Dubai’s most prominent highway, Sheikh Zayed Road is highly preferred for business setup in Dubai and makes for an excellent road link for setting up showrooms, hotels, and shopping complexes.

Business Bay

Business Bay is a recently developed business district dedicated to Dubai company formation and provides excellent connectivity benefits thanks to the nearby Sheikh Zayed Road, metro Red Line as well as the marine stations.

As Dubai’s historic commercial hub, Deira is blessed with natural harbors and creeks, ideal for trade activities. The district has some of the most popular souks, malls, and shopping centers, and is quite an ideal location for starting a business in Dubai.

Dubai Offshore Company Setup

With an offshore business in Dubai, you can avail of the Emirate’s business benefits without actually having a physical presence here. As a stable offshore jurisdiction with excellent tax advantages and well-established banking network, Dubai gives you all the reasons to start an offshore company.

Jurisdiction for Offshore Company Formation in Dubai

Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA)

JAFZA is the only jurisdiction for offshore company registration in Dubai. Besides business setup in Dubai, you can avail of the excellent opportunity to own real estate in the emirate.

Choosing the Appropriate Company Structure

In terms of legal entities, you can have different types of company formations in Dubai, UAE. Here are the most common legal forms for business setup in Dubai:

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

With an LLC company formation in Dubai, you as a shareholder are not personally liable should your company face legal or financial troubles. Such a legal structure requires two (2) or more shareholders. A free zone LLC company name has the suffix FZ LLC or FZCO.

Sole Establishment

A sole establishment is owned by a single shareholder who is fully responsible if the company faces legal or financial hurdles. A sole establishment free zone company name has the suffix FZE.


A branch company is an outlet of the parent company that is set up at a different location, conducts the same business activities, and has the same legal status. Numerous MNCs from around the world and within the UAE choose this legal entity for business setup in Dubai.

Choosing a Business Name in the UAE

Selecting a trade name is one of the key steps in any type of business setup in UAE. It must be noted that the government has stringent regulations in place regarding the naming of business. The regulations remain more or less the same for all types of jurisdictions. Here are some of the common things that must be taken care of:

  1. Avoid names that are likely to sound offensive or obscene.
  2. The name must not refer to any political organization, religious affiliation, etc.
  3. The trade name can be a name of an individual provided the said person is a shareholder/owner of the business.
  4. The name must not match the name of another business that is already registered.

Steps for Company Registration in Dubai

The procedure for starting a business in Dubai varies with the type of jurisdiction you choose. Below we have given an outline of the steps involved in company formation in free zone, mainland, and offshore jurisdictions.

Company registration in a Dubai free zone

  1. Trade name reservation
  2. Application and document submission
  3. License issuance

Company registration in Dubai mainland

  1. Trade name registration
  2. Initial approval
  3. MoA and LSA preparation
  4. Rental agreement issuance
  5. External approvals
  6. License issuance

registration in Dubai’s offshore jurisdiction

  1. Company name reservation
  2. Document preparation
  3. Signing and submitting documents

Freezone vs Mainland Business Setup in UAE

It is common for individuals to ponder over the difference between free zone and mainland company formation in the UAE. The below-given table lists out how these two jurisdictions differ from one another.

Free Zone CompanyMainland Company
Ownership100% foreign ownership100% foreign ownership for most activities. Certain activities may have a requirement of a Local Sponsor or Local Service Agent
License Issuing AuthorityThe free zone authorityThe Department of Economic Development
Visa QuotaVisa quota depends on the package selected and is subject to the free zone authorityVisa quota allocated based on the office size
Trading Scope Can only trade within the free zone where the company is incorporated and with other free zones.
Can trade internationally
Cannot trade directly with UAE mainland companies.
Can trade anywhere in the UAE
Can trade internationally
Audit RequirementsAudit requirements depend on the free zone where it is incorporatedYearly financial audits are mandatory
Business Activities Can undertake activities permitted by the free zone authority. Certain free zones are industry-specific. For instance, you can mostly undertake financial activities in a financial free zone. Can choose from over 2000 activities permitted by the DED.

The difference between these two types of jurisdictions is something that anyone considering UAE business setup must be aware of. If you need further clarifications on the distinction between free zones and the mainland, please get in touch with us.

Business Setup Cost in Dubai

The cost of setting up a business in Dubai is influenced by a variety of factors. Firstly, the jurisdiction where you look to incorporate is a major factor affecting the pricing. As an example, setting up a mainland company will have different costs when compared to a free zone company. Furthermore, every free zone comes with its own license costs. Besides the license, aspects such as the number of visas you apply for, the office spaces you have opted for, and the business activity you have chosen impact the costs involved. Hence, it is advisable to acquire professional assistance for new company formation in Dubai. Business setup advisors at InZone can recommend you the appropriate package based on your requirements and provide you with the exact costs involved for Dubai company incorporation.