How to Open a Business in The UAE

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Opening a business in the UAE requires a good lawyer.
Opening a business in the UAE requires a good lawyer. (Image: dubai marina image by Handjani from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an oil-rich collection of 10 smaller nations in the Middle East. Due to its proximity to Europe, Asia and Africa, the UAE acts as an important economic bridge to these regions. For this reason, businesses flock to the UAE and especially, the larger emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The process for opening a business in any of these emirates is complicated, however, with the assistance of a skilled local lawyer, the business can be established within weeks.

Reserve a business name with the appropriate agency. In Dubai, this can be accomplished by using the Department of Economic Development’s (DED) website. In Abu Dhabi, you can first perform a trade name search at the DED website to determine if your preferred name is available. If it is, visit the department’s office and fill out the appropriate form. In Sharjah, complete the Trade Name application form, which is available on the Economic Development Department’s (EDD) website. Submit the form at the EDD’s office. Once the respective department approves the trade name application, a letter of approval will be issued.

Obtain licensing approval. The trading license, or commercial license as it is called in Abu Dhabi, will depend on the business’s structure. The license will be different if the business is a sole proprietorship, private liability company, a limited liability or another business form allowed. To obtain a license in Dubai, complete the Registration & Licensing Application Form, which is available at the DED’s website. In Abu Dhabi, the commercial license application is available on the Abu Dhabi DED website. And in Sharjah, the License Form is also available online. If all information on the form is correct, the respective department will issue a trade license to the business.

Open an account at a local bank for the business and deposit money in it. In Dubai, the minimum capital requirement for limited liability companies is AED 300,000 (USD $81,688.08) as of July 2010. The lawyer hired to complete business formation will inform you of the minimum amount required in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Notarize the Memorandum of Association (MOA) at the office of the notary public. An experienced lawyer should be hired to create the MOA and will ensure that the document abides by the laws of the emirate in question. Each clause of the Memorandum of Association clarifies the duties of the business’s officers and directors. Notarization indicates that the MOA meets basic legal requirements and is therefore appropriate for use in the registration process.

Add the business to the Commercial Register. Upon approval in Dubai, the new business will be included on the Commercial Register and a Commercial Registration certificate will be issued. In addition, the DED will automatically register the business with the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. To be included on the Commercial Register in Abu Dhabi, visit the Commercial Registration and Municipality License Section of the Abu Dhabi DED and ask for the necessary form. A lawyer will file the necessary forms for inclusion on the Register in Sharjah.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or the American Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates. These organizations are crucial for networking purposes and gaining important advice on business ownership in Dubai.
  • The emirates require foreign businesses to partner with a local citizen in the formation of a business. The UAE national must own at least 51 percent of the business. In addition, the UAE partner need not invest any money in the company.

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