A Dubai trade license (also referred to as a business license)

The most important document you need to obtain to be legally entitled to set up a business. Basically, it is a document that specifies the activities you are legally authorized to undertake. It is issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) if you are considering a mainland setup. In the case of a free zone, the license is issued by the free zone authority itself. It must be noted that offshore company setup involves the issuance of documents such as Certificate of Incorporation and Registers of Members and Officers.

Types of Dubai Trade Licenses

A license is issued based on the business activities you undertake. Notably, some free zones allow a combination of different types of activities on one license. Below we have mentioned the most common types of Dubai business licenses:

Type of LicenseDescriptionWho requires it?
General TradingA general trading license in Dubai is issued to businesses conducting activities such as import, export, and re-export of goods.Examples of businesses requiring this permit include supermarkets, retail stores, wholesalers, etc.
Professional LicenseA professional license is opted by individuals who offer specialized services in various fields such as law, medicine, engineering, etc.Examples of businesses requiring a professional trade license in Dubai include consultancies, accountancy firms, printing presses, etc.
Industrial LicenseAn industrial license is opted by businesses that undertake activities such as manufacturing, packaging, assembling, etc.Businesses such as equipment manufacturing and petroleum product manufacturing.
Freelance LicenseThis type of Dubai business license is issued to freelancers, meaning individuals who are identified as sole practitioners.Professionals like graphic designers, fitness trainers, and nutritionists who freelance can opt for this type of trade license in Dubai.
E-commerce LicenseAlso, known as an e-trader license in Dubai, an e-commerce license is required for the online selling of goods. With the growing popularity of e-commerce, the demand for online business licenses in Dubai is constantly on the rise.Individuals selling via their own websites, social media pages, or online marketplaces such as Amazon.

Why Obtain a Business License in Dubai

Comply with regulations

A business permit is a must-have for the legal operation of any business in Dubai. Conducting any form of business in Dubai without a valid license can have severe consequences.

Leverage benefits of Dubai’s business ecosystem

As the first step in your business setup journey, obtaining a license opens up doors for you to take advantage of one of the world’s leading commercial hubs. A city like Dubai gives you an ideal environment, regulations, customer segment, and numerous other benefits to start and succeed with your venture.

Obtain visas

Once you are issued a trade license in Dubai, you can proceed to obtain a residency visa for yourself. As a UAE resident, you can reside in any of the seven Emirates while managing your business.

Sponsor dependents

You have the opportunity to sponsor your dependents including your spouse, children, parents, and maids. However, it may be necessary to comply with certain eligibility criteria for sponsoring dependents.

Cost of a Dubai Trade License

The fee for a business license depends on the jurisdiction where your venture will be set up. As an example, you will be charged differently for a Dubai free zone business and a mainland business. That’s not all. The license prices also depend on the type and the number of activities chosen. For example, an e-commerce license cost in Dubai will vary from the general trading license price. Besides, whether you opt for a physical office space or not largely influences the cost of your permit.

How to Obtain a Business License in Dubai

Below is the outlined process for business registration and licensing in Dubai. It must be noted that the process is different for free zone and mainland jurisdictions.

Process for Free zones

  1. Reservation of trade name
  2. Submissions of applications and documents
  3. Issuance of license

Process for Mainland

  1. Reservation of trade name
  2. Initial approval from DED
  3. Preparation of Memorandum of Association (MoA) and Local Service Agent (LSA) agreement
  4. Issuance of rental agreement
  5. External approval from government bodies
  6. Issuance of business license

Documents Required for a Dubai Trade License

Free Zones

    • For individual shareholder(s) and manager(s):

      1. Copy of passport
      2. Copy of UAE visit visa/entry stamp
      3. Residence visa/Emirates ID (if shareholder/manager is a UAE resident)
      4. Address proof
      5. Passport-size photo

For corporate shareholder(s):

    1. Incorporation certificate
    2. Board Resolution
    3. Trade license (for an existing company)
    4. MOA and AOA


  • The below documents must be submitted to the DED during the license issuance process:
  • Initial approval receipt
  • Duly attested copy of the tenancy contract
  • Duly attested MoA
  • Duly attested Local Service Agent (LSA) agreement
  • External approvals from other government bodies

Timelines for a Dubai Trade License

Just like the license costs, the timelines also vary from one jurisdiction to another. However, the good thing to know is that this processing time is usually short and can be a few days to a few weeks. Dubai is known globally for its fast and efficient systems, and this is no different when it comes to trade license issuance. Be it the Department of Economic Development or the free zone authorities, you can quickly avail of a business permit with minimal hassle.

Obtaining a License Without Office Space

Securing workspaces is a common concern for anyone looking to pursue entrepreneurship in Dubai. However, it is very much possible to start and run a business without actually owning or leasing an office space. If you are looking for a Dubai business license without office space, it is advisable to start your business in a free zone.

Trade License Renewal in Dubai

As per the UAE’s regulations, you are required to renew your permit periodically. The renewal process is usually pretty straightforward and requires you to produce certain documents and pay a fee. The period for the renewal of your license depends on the validity of the permit you opted for. For instance, if you obtain a 3-year permit, you are not required to renew it during the first three (3) years.

Renewing your Dubai trade license is mandatory, and not adhering to this regulation can have severe consequences such as fines, blacklisting, and restrictions on expanding the business.