United Arab Emirates

Starting a Business in

United Arab Emirates

Below is a detailed summary of the bureaucratic and legal hurdles faced by entrepreneurs wishing to incorporate and register a new firm in United Arab Emirates. It examines the procedures, time and cost involved in launching a commercial or industrial firm with between 10 and 50 employees and start-up capital of 10 times the economy's per-capita gross national income.

This information was collected as part of the Doing Business project, which measures and compares regulations relevant to the life cycle of a small- to medium-sized domestic business in 189 economies. The most recent round of data collection was completed in June 2015.

Compare United Arab Emirates to 188 other economies.

  • Standardized Company

  • Legal form: Limited Liability Company
  • Paid-in minimum capital requirement: AED 0
  • City: Dubai
No. Procedure Time to Complete Associated Costs
1 Reserve a company name and Apply for registration at the Department of Economic Development (DED)
Agency: Department of Economic Development

To register a company and submit a registration application, the entrepreneur must first obtain preliminary approvals from the Licensing Section of the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) on the business activities, trade name, and identity of partners. The name availability check, reservation, and payment can now be done online at the website of DED.
1 day AED 110 for initial approval + AED 210 for name reservation
2 Notarize the company’s Memorandum of Association at DED
Agency: Notary

The applicant notarizes the standard Memorandum of Association (MOA) at DED. Notarization takes no more than 1 day. A common practice is for the entrepreneur’s lawyer to obtain a preliminary approval from the notary beforehand, so that the client can arrive at a specified time and have the documents notarized immediately. The maximum notary fee is AED 10,000.
1 day 0.25% of the capital (for 3 copies of the Memorandum of Association), AED 5 for each page of the additional copy
3 File company documents with the Department for Economic Development (DED); Obtain trade license and Register for membership at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI)
Agency: Department for Economic Development

To obtain the Trade License and Commercial Registration Certificate, the LLC must submit the following original documents to the Commercial Registry at the DED Trade License and Commercial Registration Department. These documents can also be submitted online due to the ongoing efforts by DED to render electronic registration available and convenient.
- The prescribed application form, signed by the company manager(s) or their legal representative(s).
- The memorandum of association (an original and a copy).
- A letter issued by the DED, attesting to the company name approval.
- The original letter of company approval, issued by the DED Committee of Limited Liability Companies.
- Passport copy of each partner.

If Commercial Registry officials deem the documentation to be in order, the company name will be entered into the Commercial Register. The DED then forwards the following documents to the Federal Ministry of Economy to arrange for publication:
- Notarized memorandum of association (copy).
- The application for entry of the company name in the Commercial Register (copy).
- Extract of the entry of the company name in the Commercial Register.

Publication takes several months. However, this time frame is not important because the authorities will accept a copy of the Ministry's receipt of publication fee payment. After the publication, the Ministry of Economy issues its approval letter.

Before the newly formed company can begin operations, it must apply to the DED for a trade license. After the notary public at the Commercial Registry notarizes the memorandum of association, a license application form is completed in Arabic, signed by the authorized company signatory and filed with the DED in duplicate. The DED files one copy and forwards the other to the UAE Federal Ministry of Economy.
The trade license application must be filed with the applicable fee and the following documents:
- The prescribed form for setting out the proposed company name in Arabic and English.
- The original lease for the company’s office premises.
- The prescribed form for obtaining the Dubai Municipality Building Department’s clearance on the suitability of the office premises.

All business activities fall into three categories of licenses: (1) commercial licenses, covering all kinds of trading activity; (2) professional licenses, covering professions, services, craftsmen, and artisans; and (3) industrial licenses, establishing industrial or manufacturing activity.

Upon the conclusion of this procedure, the DED issues the original Trade License and Commercial Registration certificates. Upon presentation of the receipts showing payment of the Ministry publication fee and the Chamber of Commerce membership fee, the DED will issue the original trade license and certificate of commercial registration for the limited liability company and the DCCI membership. Alternatively, the online license application is available whereby the applicant submits the filled-in form, completes online payment and instantly receives the license certificate which can then be printed out.

Recently, DED has launched electronic memorandum of association and "120-day" hassle-free trade license initiatives. These reforms aim towards the transition towards online registration, making it easier to start a business.

Fees are: 5% of the value of the lease agreement + AED 1,000-3,000 waste fees + AED 480 for company registration + AED 350 fees for name board + AED 1,200 for Chamber of Commerce membership registration
3 days see procedure details
4 Apply for the establishment card at the Ministry of Labor
Agency: Ministry of Labor

Either the entrepreneur or the authorized representative of the company should go in person to apply for the "Establishment Card" at the Ministry of Labor. Provided the trade license is obtained and the fees are paid, the "Establishment Card" can be issued the same day.
1 day AED 2,000
5 Register native workers with the Ministry of Labor
Agency: Ministry of Labor

According to Ministerial decree No 1215/2005, native workers must be registered with the Ministry of Labor.
The following documents are required for submission during this registration:
- 3 copies of the employment contract
- A copy of employer's passport
- A copy of the trading license
- A proof that the worker is a UAE citizen
1 day no charge
* 6 Register native workers with the General Authority for Pension and Social Security
Agency: General Authority for Pension and Social Security

Registration requires the submission of the native workers’ updated salary certificates or labor contracts.
1 day (simultaneous with previous procedure) no charge
  * Takes place simultaneously with another procedure.

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