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 Start Your Business in Dubai

​Starting a business in Dubai is becoming quicker and easier than ever, in line with the vision of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai to help business owners launch and expand their operations without the need for lengthy processes and administration. 

 
Broadly, there are two jurisdictions in Dubai for conducting business: Dubai “mainland” on one hand, and more than 20 economic free zones in Dubai on the other hand. Mainland and free zones offer different advantages depending on your business type and activities. 

 
If you choose to conduct business in Dubai mainland, you will need to register with DED, who will issue you with a Dubai business license. Should you require assistance at any stage of getting a DED business license, please contact us.


Starting a business consists of eight steps:
  • Select
    Busi​nes​​ ​Activity
  • Select
    Legal Form​
  • Select
    Trade Name
  • Apply for
    I​nitial Approval
  • Prepare MoA &
    LSA Agreement
  • Establish
    Business Location
  • Get
    Approvals
  • Collect
    Business License

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ 

The holding company c​an only perform any commercial activity through its companies.
The purpose of the company is mentioned below:

 
    • Owns stocks and shares in joint stock and limited liability companies.
    • Provides loans and warranties to its subsidiaries.
    • Owns real estates and chattels.
    • Manages its subsidiaries.
    • Have intellectual property rights (patent, trademark, industrial designs, and franchise rights) and rents them to its subsidiaries or others.

 
The company should be a public shareholding or a limited liability company. The subsidiary of the holding company should have a legal independent personality. The subsidiary can’t be considered as a partner or a shareholder in the holding company. Moreover, the name of the company should be followed by the term “holding”.

 

 

A Local Service Agent (LSA) is a UAE National who manages licensing requirements and other government-related matters for your business, in exchange for an annual fee. The LSA has no responsibility and financial obligations to the business; they also have no legal interest in the management, business, profits or assets of the branch.
A Local Service Agent Agreement explains the relationship and the obligations of the owner and the LSA. This agreement must be authenticated by a Notary Public/Court within the UAE.

 

STEP 1 Select Your Busi​nes​​​s ​Activity

 

The first step in the process of issuing a license is determining the activity type which identifies legal form options and parties associated with that activity. There are more than 2,100 business activities​ available in Dubai, which fall into different classes and groups: industrial, commercial, professional and tourism activities.

 
If the business activity that you want to undertake does not appear in this list, you can directly send an email to info@dubaided.gov.ae​​ with a clear description of the activity or report to the activities classification section in DED. 

 
The license type is associated with the activity type, thus if the activity type of the license is professional, then the license should be professional as well. When the license combines several activities, the largest activity which is the industrial activity is taken into consideration followed by the commercial activity and then the professional one. For example, if a license contained both commercial and professional activities, the type of the license should be commercial since it’s the larger activity (not applicable for ​​tourism activities).

 
Please note that some of the business activities require approvals from government bodies other than Dubai DED (see step 7 for further information).

 
Examples of some activities that require approvals of government bodies:​

 
Activity​​ Approving AuthorityDepartment / Section
Road transport activitiesRoad and Transport AuthorityCommercial Activities Department
Oil related servicesH.H. The Ruler's CourtDepartment of Petroleum Affairs
Legal activitiesH.H. The Ruler's CourtLegal Affairs Department
TelecommunicationsTelecomm​unications Regulatory AuthorityLicensing Department
Architectural and engineering activitiesDubai MunicipalityBuilding Department
Veterinary activitiesDubai MunicipalityVeterinary Section

 


 
Some economic activities don’t depend on the legal form or the activity type. They have other laws determined by DED or the body governing the activities.


Consultations​ (include three types):


  • DED-related activities:
    •  Business activities of firms that can’t take a limited liability company as a legal form
    •  Business activities of firms that can take either a sole proprietorship or a civil works company as legal form.
    • Business activities of firms whose parties (owners / partners / managers) should be holding a university degree or having an equivalent experience in the required consultation activity.
    • Foreign companies interested in the consultations activity whose director should have a degree or an experience in the same field.

 

 
  • Dubai Municipality-related engineering activities:
    • Include engineering activities only.
    • Business activities of firms that can’t take a limited liability company as a legal form.
    • Business activities of firms that can take either a sole proprietorship or a civil works company as legal form.
    • Business activities of firms whose parties (owners/ partners/ managers) should be holding a university degree or having an equivalent experience in the required consultation activity.
    • A local service agent agreement is not required for the engineering activities.
    • The foreign engineering consultancy offices can open branches without having to appoint a corporate agent.​

 
  • Legal consultations activities:
    • Should receive an approval from Legal Affairs Department before obtaining the initial approval and the trade name from DED.
    • The foreign legal consultation offices can open branches without having to appoint a corporate agent​.

 
Remarks:

  • There are other consultancy activities that are subject to the approval of governmental bodies.
  • The consultancy activities can have any legal form but only after the approval of the bodies governing the activity.​

 

General Trading:


  • Through this activity, all kinds of commercial activities that does not require approval of other bodies can be done in the same place. It doesn’t include activities that require approvals from external bodies such as: jewelry, magazines and newspapers trade. 
  • The general trading activity can include all kinds of direct commercial activities if approved by the concerned bodies. For instance, it can include telecommunications trade activity if approved by the Telecomm​unications Regulatory Authority​.
  • A general trade branch can be opened to perform a direct commercial activity such as clothing trade.
  • AED 15,000 fees are charged in the following cases:
      • License issuance.
      • Adding any partner.
      • Changing the activity into a general trade activity.
      • Upon the license renewal, AED 3,000 are charged per year.

 

 

Investment: 


  • The company can’t have the sole proprietorship legal form.
  • Branches of different kinds of licenses (professional, commercial, and industrial) can be opened only if they are branches of the parent company.
  • Any economic activity can’t be performed through this activity; however, other companies’ shares can be owned and branches can be opened. 
  • The term “group” or “​hol​ding​” can be used in the trade name for this activity.

  • AED 15,000 fees are charged for the investment activity in its different kinds in the following cases:
      • License issuance.
      • Adding any partner.
      • Changing the activity into any kind of investment activity.
      • Upon the license renewal, AED 3,000 are charged per year.

 

Companies and Institutions Management:

  • This activity authorizes the management of any company or institution related to one individual only as long as the licenses are not less than 3.
  • It is not authorized to manage companies and institutions belonging to others.
  • The term “group” can be u​sed in the trade name such as: “BNB Group”.
  • ​​Only UAE citizens can practice this particular activity. 


STEP 2 Select a Legal Form for Your Busin​​ess​

 
A 'legal form' is a description of what sort of business you are starting up. It is not a form that needs to be filled in.
When you select a legal form for your business in Dubai, you must take into account the business type, business activities, the number and the nationality of owners and the ownership options.

 
Companies in Dubai can take various legal forms. Depending on your particular business activity not all of these legal options may be open to you. Please check which business activities go with which legal forms.

LEGAL FORMS

 

Sole Proprietorship

​ ​​
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Sole Proprietorship is a business owned by an individual, not a company. This person will own 100% of the business, control all of its operations and keep 100% of any profits. He or she will also be 100% responsible for ​business debts and any other financial obligations.

Activities:

    • An industrial or commercial type Sole Proprietorship can be owned only by UAE Nationals or GCC Nationals.
    • The owner of a sole proprietorship engaged in consultancy activities must have obtained a scientific qualification for the same activity selected
    • Certain activities that go with this legal form can be practiced only by UAE nationals.

Owner(s):

    • A professional-type sole proprietorship can be owned by an individual of any nationality. If the owner is a National of a country other than the UAE or GCC, they require a ​Local ​Service Agent (LSA)​.  A corporate body cannot own a sole proprietorship.

Manager(s):

    • Sole Proprietorship can appoint one manager only as per DED business regulations.

Capital:

    • A business capital is not required for a sole proprietorship.

Trade Name:

    • The trade name should be related to the commercial activity of the firm.

Branch(es):

    • A sole proprietorship can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license.
    • A sole proprietorship cannot have a branch outside Dubai.​​

Assignment of License:

    • A sole proprietorship and/or its branches can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner/s can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.
    • An industrial or commercial type sole proprietorship can be sold to a UAE national only. In case a local owner/partner changed the activity to professional, a sole proprietorship can be sold to a foreigner but a Local Service Agent must be assigned.

One Person Company (LLC)

​ ​​
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​The one person limited liability company is owned by one natural or one corporate body. This company is different than the other forms that require having two parties at least to sign a contract.
The one person company consists of one person only. It is similar to the sole-proprietorship but they differ in some provisions, the most important of which is that its liability is limited to the single partner’s share whereas in the sole-proprietorship the liability is unlimited.

Activities:

    • The activities are according to the procedures.

Owner(s):

    • A local/GCC person or corporate body can establish and own a one person company (LLC).
    • A natural person (UAE national, or a decree holder as per the procedures, or GCC national).
    • A corporate body (UAE or GCC establishment and 100 % owned by UAE or GCC nationals).
    • The license owner is called a shareholder.

Manager(s):

    • At least one and up to 11 managers should be appointed in the license.
    • The manager can be of any nationality (according to the procedures).
    • The license owner and the manager can be the same person.
    • The number of the company’s managers shouldn’t exceed 11 managers.
    • The company should notify the concerned authority about the end of service of the manager within duration of 30 days starting from the end of service date. The company should appoint a new manager during this period.

Capital:

    • The capital of the company is determined in the memorandum of association only.

Trade Name:

    The trade name can be determined in two ways:
    • Shareholder’s name + the activity + the legal form+ LLC
      Example: Mohammad Ahmad general trading one person co L.L.C
    • OR
    • The trade name + shareholder’s name + the activity + the legal form+ LLC
      Example: Golden sun owned by Mohammad Ahmad general trading one person co L.L.C

Remarks:

    • The trade name should be identical to its owner’s name followed by one person and ending with LLC.
    • The trade name should follow its legal form.
    • The name of the shareholder in the trade name can consist of two names at least for instance the first name + the second name or the nickname (consists of more than one name).
    • If the trade name doesn’t start with the shareholder’s name then the phrase “owned by” should be mentioned.
    • The legal form should be fully mentioned “one person co.”

Memorandum of association:

    • A memorandum of association for the company shall be issued and authenticated by the notary public.

Dissolving, liquidating, and stopping the activity of the company:

    • The company is dissolved by the death of the natural person owner or by the dissolution of the founding corporate body. However, the company shall not end with the death of the natural person if the inheritors want it to continue. Its status shall be adapted according to the provisions of this law and someone shall be appointed to manage the company on their behalf within duration of six months starting from the death date.
    • If the owner of the one person company dissolves it with bad intentions or stops its activity before the end of its term or before achieving the purpose stated in its memorandum of association, he is personally held liable for its commitments.

Civil Company

​ ​​
A Civil Company is a business partnership for professionals in recognised fields such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants.

Activities:

    • ​​Partners of any nationality can practice professional activities in accordance with DED business regulations.

Owner(s):

    • ​​A Civil Company can be owned by professional partners of any nationality. If the owner is a National of a country other than the UAE or GCC, they require a Local Service Agent (LSA).
    • A foreign company can be a partner in a Civil Company, as long as the foreign company is in the same profession as the civil company.
    • A civil company for engineering must have one partner who is a UAE National, who owns no less than 51% of the business and must be an engineer of the same type as the business’s activity.
    • A civil company can practice consultancy activities but must be 100% owned by professional partners of the same type as the business’s activity.

Manager(s):

    • A civil company can appoint one manager only as per DED business regulations.

Capital:

    • The capital shouldn’t be specified but mentioned in the Memorandum of Association.

Trade Name:

    • The trade name should be consistent and in proportion with the commercial activity of the firm.

Branch(es): 

    • A civil company can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license.

Assignment of License:

    • A civil company and/or its branches can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner(s) can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.

Limited Liability Company

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a flexible form of enterprise that blends elements of partnership and corporate structures. An LLC must have between 2-50 shareholders, each of whom is liable only to the extent of his or her share in the capital of the company. With the exception of public shareholding company, an LLC can be changed to any other legal form.​

Activities:

    • LLCs can practice any industrial, commercial, professional or tourism activity. Some professional activities are excluded as per DED's business regulations​ and other require approvals of authorities that regulate these activities.

Owner(s):

    • ​​​At least 51% of LLCs must be owned by UAE Nationals, and can be owed by GCC nationals by up to 100%. In this case, the capital  can be distributed in a different ratio as per the Memorandum of Association.
    • An LLC can be owned by partners of any nationality in accordance with DED business regulations. A corporate body can buy shares of an LLC.​​

Check this table for more details about LLC ownership rules and requirements according to owners' nationalities:
First Party​​ Second Party Ownership Rule Requirements
UAE NationalUAE NationalAny ownership percentage 
UAE NationalGCC NationalAny ownership percentage 
UAE NationalForeign PartnerAt least 51% must be owned by the UAE national 
UAE NationalUAE national owned companyAny ownership percentageCorporate body based in UAE
UAE NationalUAE national owned companyAny ownership percentageCorporate body based in GCC
UAE NationalUAE national owned companyAt least 51% must be owned by the UAE nationalCorporate body based in a foreign country
UAE NationalGCC national owned companyAny ownership percentageCorporate body based in UAE
UAE NationalGCC national owned companyAny ownership percentageCorporate body based in GCC
UAE NationalGCC national owned companyAny ownership percentageCorporate body based in a foreign country
UAE NationalForeign CompanyAt least 51% must be owned by the UAE nationalCorporate body based in UAE or GCC
UAE NationalCompany owned by a foreign partner and a UAE national who owns less than 68%At least 51% must be owned by the UAE nationalCorporate body based in UAE or GCC
UAE nationalCompany owned by a foreign partner and a UAE national who owns less than 68%Any ownership percentageCorporate body based in UAE

Manager(s):

    • LLCs must appoint between 1-11 managers for the business. The managers may be selected from the partners. Unless the Memorandum of Association states otherwise, the manager has full powers of administration. Within the scope of his or her powers, the manager's actions and commitments are binding to the business.
    • The company must send a notice of termination to the concerned authority within a maximum period of 30 days from the date of the termination and appoint another manager during that period.
    • LLCs must appoint a UAE-accredited auditor.
    • The auditor must notify DED in case of resignation. The General Assembly must also notify DED in case the auditor was dismissed.​

Capital:

    • The capital shouldn’t be specified but mentioned in the Memorandum of Association.
    • Shares of an LLC cannot be offered to the public. The company may not resort to public subscription to establish or increase its capital or secure loans, and it may not issue any negotiable stocks or shares.

Trade Name:

    • A limited liability company shall have a name derived from its activity or from the name of one or more partners.
    • The term "with limited liability" shall be annexed to the company's name.

Branch(es): 

    • An LLC can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license.

Assignment of License:

    • The limited liability company branches can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.
​​

Private Share Holding Company

A Private Shareholding Company (Private Joint-Stock Company) is a partnership of 2-200 individuals. The partners must invest a minimum capital of AED 5,000,000 in the business.​

Activities:

    • A Private Joint-Stock Company can be created for any commercial or industrial type of business. Professional activities are not allowed under this legal form.
    • An approval from Ministry of Economy must be obtained to establish a private shareholding company.

Owner(s):

    • A private shareholding company can be owned by partners of any nationality in accordance with DED business regulations. A corporate body can establish and own a private shareholding company and the term "private shareholding company" shall be annexed to the company's name.
    • At least 51% of a Private Shareholding Company (Private Joint-Stock Company) must be owned by UAE Nationals, and can be owed by GCC nationals by up to 100%.​

Manager(s):

    • ​​​The company must have an appointed manager as per DED business regulations.

Capital:

    • Minimum capital of AED 5,000,000.
    • While the shares of a Private Shareholding Company (Private Joint-Stock Company) cannot be offered to the public, the business can be converted to a public company two years or more after its creation, given certain conditions:
      • The nominal value of the issued shares is fully paid up
      • A period of not less than two financial years has expired
      • During the two years preceding the application for conversion, the company achieved net profits distributable to the shareholders, the average value of which is not less than 10% of the capital
      • A resolution of the extraordinary assembly for the conversion of the company is adopted by a majority of shareholders representing at least three quarters of the company's capital​

Trade Name:

    • The trade name should be consistent and in proportion with the commercial activity of the firm. The firm name should be identical to the trade name. Both names must include one or more of the partners’ names and followed by the phrase “Private Shareholding Company”.

Branch(es):

    • ​The company can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license..

Assignment of License:

    • Private shareholding company branches can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner(s) can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.

Public Share Holding Company

A Public Share Holding Company is a company whose capital is divided into transferable shares of equal value.

Activities:

    • Partners can practice any industrial, commercial or professional business activities in accordance with DED business regulations.

Owner(s):

    • A public shareholding company can be owned by partners of any nationality in accordance with DED business regulations. A corporate body can own shares in a public shareholding company.
    • A Public Share Holding Company must have at least 5 founding members who are UAE Nationals, owning between 30% and 70% of the capital shares.

Manager(s):

    • The company must have maximum 5 appointed managers as per DED business regulations.

Capital:

    • Minimum capital of AED 30,000,000.

Trade Name:

    • The business name cannot include the name of any of the shareholders, with the exception of patents registered in the name of a shareholder or if the business uses a store that has the name of a shareholder. The phrase “Public Shareholding Company” must be included in the business name. ​

Branch(es):

    • The company can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license.

Assignment of License:

    • Public Shareholding Company branches can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner(s) can also change its legal form according to DED procedures

Simple Limited Partnership

A Simple Limited Partnership is formed between a minimum of two partners – one general partner and one limited partner. The general partners are liable for the company's liabilities to the extent of all their personal and business assets; the limited partners are liable for a share of company liabilities equal to their share of the company capital.

Activities:

    • The company can conduct commercial and industrial activities only.

Owner(s):

    • A Simple Limited Partnership must have UAE Nationals as general partners; Nationals of other countries can be limited partners.
    • Each general partner and limited partner can own any share of the business. There is no minimum or maximum ownership level for any partner.
    • A limited partner may not intervene in management or administrative issues related to the other partners. If he or she does so, that limited partner shall be responsible for all the business’s obligations.

Trade Name:

    • ​​​The name of the company should be that of one or more of the general partners, with an addition noting that this is a company name. The company can also have a special trade name. The name of any limited partner should not be mentioned in the name of the company.

Branch(es):

    • The company can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license. ​

Partnership Company

A Partnership Company is a single business where two or more people share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business and must administer the company unless a contract assigns administration to one partner or to another party.

Activities:

    • The company can conduct commercial and industrial activities only.

​Owner(s):

    • A Simple Limited Partnership must have UAE Nationals as general partners; Nationals of other countries can be limited partners.
    • Each general partner and limited partner can own any share of the business. There is no minimum or maximum ownership level for any partner.
    • A limited partner may not intervene in management or administrative issues related to the other partners. If he or she does so, that limited partner shall be responsible for all the business’s obligations.​​

Trade Name:

    • ​​​The name of the business must contain the name of one or more of the partners, with the addition of a word signifying that it is the name of a business. If a non-partner is named in the business name, with his or her knowledge, that individual is jointly responsible for the business’s debts. The business can also have a commercial name.​

​Manager(s):

    • ​​A Partnership Company can appoint one manager only as per DED business regulations.​


Branch(es):

    • ​​​A Partnership Company can have more than one branch. Each may undertake one or all of the activities included in the main business license.

Assignment of License:

    • Partnership Company branches​ can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner(s) can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.​

Branch of a Foreign Company

Activities:

    • A branch of a foreign company can practice professional activities and some commercial and industrial activities.
    •  An approval from the Ministry of Economy is required for practicing commercial and industrial activities.

Owner(s):

    • ​​A Branch of a Foreign Company is 100% owned by the parent company, operate under the same name and conduct the same business as the managing firm,​ in order to open a branch in Dubai.
    • A Branch of Foreign Company also requires a Local Service Agent (LSA), who can be a UAE National or a company owned by one or more UAE Nationals.

Manager(s):

    • ​​A branch of a foreign company must have a manager to represent the company and to open the branch, appointed by the Board of Directors.

Representative Office

A Representative Office for Commercial Activities is not a business structure in its own right but it is a business activity that a branch can conduct. It has its own criteria, which includes the authorisation to promote and market the parent company's business – but not conduct business operations. A Representative Office requires a Local Service Agent (LSA), who can be a UAE National or a company owned by one or more UAE Nationals.
The Agent's responsibilities towards the company and third parties shall be limited to rendering necessary services to the company without his bearing any financial liabilities or obligations related to the company or its branches and offices inside and outside the State.​

Branch of a Dubai-based Com​pany

Activities:

    • A Branc​h of a Dubai-based Company must undertake one or all of the activities included in the main company license. For a company with multiple branches, each branch can undertake different activities as long as they were all included in the original license for the main company.

Owner(s):

    • A branch of a Dubai-based company must be 100% owned by the parent company.

Manager(s):

    • A ​branch of a company should appoint a branch manager.

Capital:

    • Not required.

Trade Name:

    • Branches of LLCs, public shareholding companies and private shareholding companies: 
    • The trade name of a branch can be different from the trade name of the parent company provided that the trade name of the branch includes the phrase “a branch of the parent company name” and the legal form of the parent company (e.g.: a branch of Gulf Company for General Trading LLC).
    • Branches of civil works, partnership and simple limited partnership companies: The trade name of the branch must be identical to the trade name of the parent company.

Assignment of License:

    • ​​Branch​​​​​​es can be sold and waived to any party or company. The owner(s) can also change its legal form according to DED procedures.

Branch of a UAE-based Com​pany

Activities:

    • A Branch of a UAE-based Company must undertake one or all of the activities included in the main company license. For a company with multiple branches, each branch can undertake different activities, as long as they were all included in the original license for the main company

Owner(s):

    • A branch of a UAE-Based Company must be 100% owned by the parent company.

Trade Name:

    • ​​​The trade name of the branch must be identical to the trade name of the parent company. The trade name of the parent company must be changed in case the same name previously registered in Dubai.​​

Branch of a GCC-based Company

Activities:

    • A Branch of a GCC-based Company must undertake one or all of the activities included in the main company license. For a company with multiple branches, each branch can undertake different activities, as long as they were all included in the original license for the main company.
    • While other GCC countries may follow different rules in terms of combining activities, for Dubai branch licenses, only activities of the same group will be accepted, even if other activities are registered in the GCC main company

Owner(s):

    • A Branch of a GCC-based Company must be 100% owned by the parent company

Trade Name:

    • The trade name of the branch must be identical to the trade name of the parent co​​mpany. The trade name of the parent company must be changed in case the same name previously registered in Dubai.​​

Branch of a Free zone Company

Activities:

    • A branch of a free zone company can carry out commercial, industrial and professional business as long as the activity of the main company is authorised in mainland Dubai. If you have a company whose main license was issued in a UAE free zone, (not as a branch of a foreign company), you can obtain a branch license from DED to expand your operations to mainland Dubai.

Owner(s):

    • For a branch of free zone company, if there is no local shareholder in the main company, or the local shareholder in the main company owns less than 51% of the shares, you will need an approval from Ministry of Economy and a Local service agent.
    • Neither a local service agent nor an approval of the Ministry of Economy are required if the branch performs professional activities.
    • Companies owned 100% by GCC nationals do not need a local service agent.

Intelaq (Home-based business for UAE Nationals)

​An Intelaq License Company can only be set up by UAE Nationals. It is a home-based business that can conduct almost any type of professional, trade or artisan business. The business must be reasonable for operation in a residential environment. The business must not harm the environment or the health of any person, and should not generate noise or other irritants that could negatively impact neighbours. It can take the following legal forms: Sole Establishment, LLC, Civil Company and Partnership. Intelaq license holders cannot sponsor employees.

Activities:

    • Each person can have only one commercial or professional Intelaq license but can operate more than one related activity under this license. 

Owner(s):

    • 100% UAE National owned. An Intelaq license does not allow the business owner to hire staff but may engage contractors.​

SME License

An SME license can be given to businesses owned 100% by UAE Nationals and can take any legal form. The license is valid for three years and allows the owners to sponsor employees.

Owner(s):

    • 100% UAE National owned.
​STEP 3 Select a Trade Name for Your Business​​


When choosing a name for your business or company you should follow general trade name guidelines. The trade name should be related to the license type so that clients can't be confused.​

You can apply for a trade name online or through Business in Dubai App (iOS​Android​​)​. You may also visit authorised service centers​Happiness Lounge, or law firms. Please note that to access online services, you need a user account​.​​

During the application process, you will be issued with a payment voucher or a transaction number, which you will need to use as a reference when you pay. You can make the payment online or by cash, credit card or cheque at authorised service centers​ or you can transfer money from your account. Please check different payment channels.​

 

Remember:

  • You have to pay trade name reservation fees within 72 hours of receiving the payment voucher.
  • A trade name certificate is valid for 6 months.
  • Trade name reservation costs AED 620.
  • It can be renewed through eServices 3 times valid for 6 months each. Renewal costs AED 620.
  • It has to be renewed within one week before it is due to expire.
  • A trade name certificate that has already expired should be reserved again. All fees should be paid.
  • ​DED reserves the right to levy fines for name violations in previous years.
  • DED has the right to cancel or change a business name if an existing trade name has been found similar to another name.​
  • The name should not be the same name of one of the brands active in UAE or government projects or brand names.​​​


 

Trade Name Guidelines:

    • The name should not have obscene or indecent words, and should not be offending to the general public even if it is a personal name.
    • The name should not include Allaah's name nor "God" or His divine attributes, for example (al wader, al alee , al razzes, etc.).
    • If the business includes the name of a person, that person must be a partner/owner in the license. (For example, a license issued for Mohammed Al Ghamdi, cannot include the name Mohammed Al Zaheri).
    • Family names should not be used as a trade name unless it includes the first name. (For example, Ahmed al Ghandi cannot have "Al Ghandi Contracting", he must change it to "Ahmed al Ghandi Contracting".
    • Names should be written literally and not translated. (For example, if the Arabic name is (الصقر للمقاولات) it must be written as "al Saqer contracting".
    • The name should not include the name of a country or government.
    • The business name must strictly reflect the business activity. 
    • The name cannot include any restricted names such as global political organisations, religious sectarian organisation etc. (For example, FBI, Mafia.).
    • The name should not include any of the punctuation marks, such as (., !?/) .
    • Please note that if your name contains special features, you will have to pay an additional fee of AED 1000-2000 at the time of getting your license. The total amount of special features fees should not exceed AED 3,000.
    • Trade name includes foreign words that cannot be translated into Arabic, for example, "Platinum" – Fee: AED 1,000
    • Trade Name includes regional references, for example "East", "West", "International", "American", "European" – Fee: AED 1,000
    • Part of the trade name is a trade mark – Fee: AED 1,000
    • Trade name includes numerical digits, for example "China 2,000 Trading". Writing numbers in letters is excluded, for example "China One" – Fee: AED 2,000
    • Trade name includes foreign words – Fee: AED 2,000
    • Trade name includes the word "Gulf" – Fee: AED 2,000
    • Trade name includes an abbreviation, for example A.L. Trading – Fee: AED 2,000.

 

Trademarks:

    • Trademarks cannot be registered by DED. The Trade Marks Department in the Ministry of the Economy is responsible for receiving, studying and deciding requests of registration of the trade marks. When the client submits a complaint of infringement of a trademark, the intellectual property rights unit at DED will first ensure that the registration certificate of the trademark at the Ministry of Economy is available then take legal action.
    • A company is entitled to use the trade name of another company granted a franchise after submitting a franchise agreement to DED.
STEP 4 Apply for an I​nitial Approval Certificate​​​

​​​

An Initial Approval Certificate is a document which says that the Dubai DED has no objection to you starting a business and means you can take the next steps to getting a business license.


​You can apply for the initial approval through:

  1. eServices ​- to access eservices you need a user account​.​​​

  2. Business in Dubai App (iOS​Android​​)

  3. Service centers

  4. Happiness Lounge

  5. Law firms​

During the application process, you will be issued with a payment voucher or a transaction number, which you will need to use as a reference when you pay. You can make the payment through various approved payment channels.

 

Remember:

  • You have to pay for your Initial Approval within seven days of applying for it.
  • You must have an Initial Approval Certificate and Initial Approval Form to obtain a license.
  • The Initial Approval Certificate records partners, legal type and activities of the license.
  • It is valid for six months and renewable with a cost of AED 120 provided that the required documents are valid.
  • In the event of non-payment within 6 months of receiving the payment voucher, transaction will be cancelled automatically.
  • To apply for an initial approval, external approvals of bodies governing the following activities are required:

​STEP 5 Prepare a Memorandum and an LSA agreement (if necessary)

​​

Depending on the legal form of your company, you and your business partners may need to draft and sign a Memorandum of Association (MOA). In some cases, you will have to sign a Local Service Agent (LSA) / Corporate Agent agreement with a UAE national, who will represent your business with regards to licensing and compliance.

 
You will need to draft a Memorandum of Association (MOA) if the legal form of your business is a:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • One Person Company
  • Private Shareholding Company (Private Joint Stock Co)
  • Public Shareholding Company
  • Simple Limited Partnership
  • Partnership Company
  • Civil Company

 
Drafting an MoA is a process that you cannot do yourself. You will need to use a law firm, DED Legal Affairs or Notary Public.

 
You will need a copy of an MOA, if you are registering a branch of an existing company. If you are a Sole Establishment or Intelaq license holder you do not need an MOA.
 
 
For more information about the required documents for issuing a trade license please refer to the following table: 

 
Legal Form MoA Required? Local Service Agent Agreement Required?
(When no local partner present)
Individual Establishment (Sole ​​Proprietorship) NoYes – Professional
​​One Person Company​Yes​NA
Civil CompanyYesYes
Limited Liability CompanyYesNA
Private Shareholding Company (Private Joint Stock Co)YesNA
Public Shareholding CompanyYesNA
Simple Limited PartnershipYesNA
Partnership CompanyYesNA
Branch of Foreign CompanyCopy of the main company's MoA attested by Ministry of Foreign AffairsYes
Branch of Dubai Based CompanyCopy of the main company's MoANo
Branch of U.A.E. Based CompanyCopy of the main company's MoA​No
Branch of GCC CompanyCopy of the main company's MoA attested by Ministry of Foreign AffairsNo
Branch of a Free zone Company
(commercial/industrial/professional– no local)
Copy of the main company's MoAYes
IntelaqNANA
​Step 6 Establish your Business Location

 

All businesses in Dubai must have a physical address. You can sign your tenancy contract with the landlord and register the contract with Ejari for attestation. 

 
To register with Ejari, take your initial approval certificate and other documents required by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) to any authorised service centre.​ You will need to submit the attested contract later to Dubai DED and proceed with the process of issuing the trade license.​

You can add a new trade license to the same location taking into account the following conditions:

  • The local party of the new license should be the same owner, partner or LSA in the existing license of the desired location.
  • The total number of licenses owned by the local party should not exceed 10 licenses per same location.
  • The space of location allocated for each license should not be less than 200 sq. ft.

​​
STEP 7 Get Licensing Approvals (if required)

 

Some business activities require special licensing approvals by different government departments (federal and local). 

For example, if you want to set up a hospital, it is not enough to get licensing approvals from DED only but also from the Dubai Health Authority.
You can check if your business activity requires additional approvals by various government bodies. If yes, you need to contact the relevant government departments to find out what documents they need or you can refer to the business activities and external approvals list which is updated regularly by Business Registration and Licensing Sector in DED.
 
Business activities that fall under DED control do not require any additional activity-specific licensing approvals.
STEP 8 Collect Your Business License

Now that you have completed the steps above, you need to submit all the documents through the following application channels:

Application ChannelsLegal forms
DED eServices - an online user account should be available​ All legal forms
Service Centers​As per services offered in each center
Happiness LoungeAll legal forms​


Please consider attaching all required documents for each of the previous steps.

 
Finally, you will be issued with a payment voucher or a transaction number, which you will need to use as a reference when you pay. You can make the payment through various approved payment channels.

 
Remember:

  • You have to pay for your trade license within 30 days of receiving the payment voucher.
  • In the event of non-payment within 6 months of receiving the payment voucher, transaction will be cancelled automatically. 

Congratulations! You can now start managing your business​​

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