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start a business

8 steps to start a business in Dubai

The emirate constantly rationalizes its processes to help companies spend less time setting up and maintaining a license, freeing them to concentrate on business


Starting a business in Dubai is quicker and easier than ever, helping business owners launch and expand operations with the minimum interaction with the licensing agency, Dubai Economy.

Dubai offers two jurisdictions for conducting business, the Dubai “mainland” and more than 20 economic free zones, both offering distinct advantages depending on the type of business you’d like to run.

Starting a business in Dubai comprises just eight steps. These are so simple, that you can take them yourself. Alternatively, visit one of several service centers, law firms, or Dubai Economy’s Happiness Lounge, and everything will be done for you while you relax.

But first, take a few minutes to understand the process and what is required.

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1: Select the kind of business you want to do

The first step in the process of issuing a license is determining the type of activity, which in turn identifies the legal options, permissions, and service providers you would need. For instance, an architectural and engineering business would need approval from Dubai Municipality and the Building Department. Or a road transport business would have to be approved by the Roads Transport Authority and the Commercial Activities Department.

Whichever one of the 2,100-plus business streams you choose, all approvals can be channeled through a single entity: Dubai Economy. If your choice of business is not on the list, you can directly send an email to​​ with a clear description of the activity.


2: Select a legal structure for your company

When you select a legal format or structure for your business in Dubai, take into account the business type, business activities, the number and the nationality of owners, and the ownership options.

Dubai offers more than 15 such structures from Sole Proprietorship to Limited Liability Company to Public Shareholding Company. Surely, one of these will be perfect for your needs!


3: Choose a name for your business

Dubai Economy gives you multiple easy ways to apply for a trade name. You can use the iOS or Android app, visit one of several service centers, relax at Dubai Economy’s Happiness Lounge while this process is completed, or use one of multiple law firms authorized to help you out.

Just make sure you understand the guidelines that need to be followed while naming your company, and the associated costs. Payments, too, can be made through any of multiple channels, such as online or by cash, credit card, or check, at authorized service centers, or by bank transfer.

Trade Mark: An associated activity is that of registering your trade mark, or the logo under which your service or product will be sold.


4: Get an Initial Approval Certificate

An Initial Approval Certificate is a document confirming that Dubai Economy has no objection to you starting a business and is a key milestone in your journey to a business license.

​You can apply for the initial approval through eServices, the iOS or Android app, service centers, the Happiness Lounge, or law firms. Payment can be made via the various approved channels.


5: Get some basic paperwork ready

Depending on the legal structure 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 prepare a Local Service Agent (LSA) / Corporate Agent agreement with a UAE national, who will represent your business in all matter related to licensing and compliance.

Make sure you check the agreements required by your company structure, and get them executed using a law firm, Dubai Economy Legal Affairs, or a Notary Public.


6: Establish a base for your business

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, you will need your initial approval certificate and other documents required by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) to any authorized service center.​ Submit the attested contract later to Dubai Economy and proceed with the process of issuing the trade license.​

You can add a new trade license to the same location if certain criteria are met.


7: Get licensing approvals if required

You’re almost there now; you can see the finish line!

As we mentioned in Step 1, 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 Dubai Economy; you will also need to meet and be certified for the Dubai Health Authority’s standards.

If your business activity falls solely under Dubai Economy’s control, you can skip this step. You do not require any additional activity-specific licensing approvals.


8: Collect your business license

Once you’ve completed Steps 1 through 7, get all the paperwork to Dubai Economy, where you will receive your business license – once all payment formalities are finished.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of your own company and you can start managing your business​​.


Talk to us!

Dubai FDI offers tailor-made solutions for locating your business in Dubai. If you are considering setting up or expanding your business in Dubai, talk to us. Our specialized staff is trained to advise you on every aspect of locating in Dubai, not only when you are setting up, but also as your business grows.


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Dubai Economy