Starting A Business in Dubai as A Foreigner – A Comprehensive Guide

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In the bustling city of Dubai, entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe find a welcoming haven for their business aspirations. With an ever-growing influx of foreign investors and business enthusiasts, Dubai has positioned itself as a global hub for ambitious ventures. The recent introduction of long-term visas adds a new layer of appeal, providing non-residents the chance for extended stays and potential retirement in this dynamic metropolis. Moreover, the allure extends beyond borders, allowing individuals to set up and manage their companies in the UAE with the right support. Let’s embark on a detailed exploration of the intricacies involved in initiating a business in Dubai as a non-resident.

Embracing Entrepreneurship: Foreigners in Dubai

The straightforward answer is yes – foreigners can indeed establish and successfully run their businesses in Dubai. The city’s demographic landscape is a testament to this fact, with over 80% of the population consisting of expatriates, many of whom have carved their path to entrepreneurial success. Dubai actively welcomes foreign investors and entrepreneurs, offering specialized assistance through setup agents and experts dedicated to easing the complexities of acquiring licenses, visas, and incorporating businesses.

The benefits are multifaceted, ranging from tax exemptions and streamlined initiation processes to speedy procedures, a thriving economy, and political stability. These advantages make Dubai, along with other UAE emirates, an attractive destination for foreign entrepreneurs seeking new opportunities.

Navigating the Landscape: Things to Know

The Appeal of Dubai

Dubai has risen to prominence as the economic nucleus of the Middle East, gaining international recognition for its strategic location and business-friendly environment. Its geographical advantage facilitates easy connectivity to suppliers in the Gulf, Asia, and Africa. A significant factor contributing to its allure is the diverse population, where 90% are expats from around the world.

Beyond geography, Dubai’s appeal lies in its excellent infrastructure, secure living environment, tax-friendly policies, and visionary leadership that actively supports technology and innovation. All these factors collectively create an environment conducive to entrepreneurial success. Therefore, deciding to start a business in Dubai as a foreigner not only unlocks business opportunities but also offers the chance to live in a city teeming with prospects.

Choosing Your Corporate Path

Before venturing into the world of business in Dubai, one of the crucial decisions you’ll need to make is determining the type of company structure that suits your needs. Two prevalent options are the Limited Liability Company (LLC) and Sole Establishment, each with its unique merits and considerations based on the nature of your business.

Mainland vs. Free Zones

Dubai provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the flexibility to establish their business on the mainland or in various free zones. Operating on the mainland allows businesses to engage in local and international trade with a systematic formation process. On the other hand, opting for free zones, including prominent ones like JAFZA and DAFZA, offers favorable conditions for new businesses, albeit with varying regulations and considerations.

Licensing Insights

Understanding the types of licenses issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai is crucial. There are four main types: Commercial, Professional, Industrial, and Tourism licenses. Each serves a specific purpose, emphasizing the need for a clear understanding of your business activities to ensure proper licensing.

Steps to Success: Initiating Your Business

Business Type Decision

Choosing the type of business structure is a foundational step. Decide whether a sole proprietorship for exclusive ownership or an LLC for a separate legal structure aligns better with your business goals.

Crafting Your Identity: Trading Name

Reserving a trade name is a prerequisite for company registration. Your chosen name should reflect your business activities while complying with regulations. Legal advisors, such as those at Shuraa, can guide you in selecting a name that is unique, unregistered, and aligns with your business vision.

Mandatory License Acquisition

Securing a license is a mandatory step in starting a business in Dubai. Depending on your chosen location, you can obtain it directly from free zone authorities or the DED.

Registration and Incorporation

After completing the preliminary steps, registering your business with the relevant jurisdiction is the next crucial milestone. This involves compiling necessary documents, identity proofs, trade licenses, and permissions to establish your business as a legal entity in Dubai.

Accessing a Business Visa

A business visa plays a pivotal role in facilitating smooth movement for business purposes. It also allows senior business staff to apply for residency. Expatriates aspiring to start a business in Dubai can secure a long-term visa, enabling them and their dependents to stay. The application process typically involves contacting the local embassy.

Financial Considerations: Costs and Approvals

Cost Breakdown

Commencing a business in Dubai as an expatriate involves various costs, including the trade license fee, which can range from AED 15,000 to AED 25,000, depending on the region. Additionally, opting for a foreign name (non-Arabic) for the company incurs an additional fee of AED 2000.

Necessary Approvals

Certain businesses in Dubai require approvals from government agencies. For instance, opening a restaurant necessitates a permit from the municipality for food and safety. Industrial activities mandate leasing or renting factory space, meeting specific area requirements.


In conclusion, Dubai’s business landscape offers a blend of diversity, opportunity, and support for entrepreneurs worldwide. By understanding the steps, choices, and intricacies involved, foreign business enthusiasts can unlock the potential of establishing and thriving in this dynamic city. Dubai’s welcoming environment and strategic advantages make it not just a destination for business but a global hub for entrepreneurial success.


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