Mainland is a designated licensing area in the UAE termed to be more significant. Companies registered in the Mainland have lesser restrictions and are free to operate anywhere across the UAE and globally. A mainland company also referred to as an onshore company is licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) of the Emirate in which it is registered.

  • Obtain a preliminary approval
  • Reserve a trade name
  • Obtaining approval of other authorities if the activity deems necessary
  • Signing the appropriate legal documents of the company (for example the Memorandum of Association)
  • Obtain a premise to register the trade license and start operations. 

Companies in the UAE can be formed under various legal types depending on their activity and purpose. The different legal types of companies are as follows:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Civil Works Company
  • Limited liability Company
  • Partnership Company
  • Public Shareholding Company
  • Private Shareholding Company
  • Government Liaison Office
  • Representative Office
  • Branch of a local company
  • Branch of a foreign company
  • Branch of a free zone company
  • One person company (LLC)
  • The sole proprietorship is owned by a one person only.
  • The minimum number of partners for the limited liability company is 2 and the maximum number is 50.
  • The civil works and the partnership companies are composed of two or more partners.
  • The private joint-stock company doesn’t include less than 3 founders.
  • The public joint-stock company offers its shares for subscription and has unlimited number of partners
  • The sole proprietorship is owned by a one person only.
  • The minimum number of partners for the limited liability company is 2 and the maximum number is 50.
  • The civil works and the partnership companies are composed of two or more partners.
  • The private joint-stock company doesn’t include less than 3 founders.
  • The public joint-stock company offers its shares for subscription and has   unlimited number of partners

Commercial and Industrial licenses registered in the Mainland (onshore) require a UAE National as a local partner holding a minimum of 51% shares in the company. A 100% UAE nationals owned company can also become the local partner.

  • A copy of the passport
  • A copy of the current UAE residence visa/ tourist visa and the identity card
  • A No Objective Certificate (NOC) from the current sponsor of your UAE residence visa (if resident) to practice the business

The trade name of the company is the title under which it conducts its activity. While opting for a business trade name, the following basic points should be kept in mind:

  • The name should not have obscene or indecent words and should not be offending to the general public
  • The name should not indicate Allah’s name or God or his divine attributes, for example Al Qader, Al Aleem, etc.
  • If the name is of a person then that person must be a partner/owner of the trade license
  • Family names should not be used as a trade name unless it includes the first name as well
  • The name should not be of a country or government name
  • The business activity should be reflected in the business name
  • The name should not include any punctuation marks

Industrial activities include manufacturing, mining, quarrying, electricity, gas, and water.

  • Commercial activities include wholesale and retail trade, construction, transportation, stockpiling, communication, financial intermediation, real estate, and leasing.

Professional activities are the activities that depend on mental and physical effort to be practiced. They include agriculture, fishing, education, health, social work, and community, social and personal services.

A General Trading License includes the trade of all kinds of goods and products that are mentioned in full details in the trade category of the activity classification guidebook except for those that require an external approval from concerned authorities.

The trade of the various kinds of goods and products that are mentioned in full details in the trade category of the activity classification guidebook can be practiced except those that need an approval from other specialized authorities.

These activities should have something in common for example: computer maintenance and computer trade despite being in different activity groups.

The approvals obtained from the official concerned authorities specialized in organizing the activities that fall within their jurisdiction.

The instant license is an initiative of the Department of Economic Development, Dubai. Through the instant license, UAE residents and visitors can get a commercial or professional license of certain activities in just 5 minutes. The instant license makes it easier and quicker for entrepreneurs to acquire a trade license and start their business in UAE mainland.

Free zones or free trade zones in the UAE are business zones where companies operating in them are exempt from all types’ taxation such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Income Tax, Corporate Tax and Customs. Business owners in the free zone areas have 100% ownership of the business. The aim of these zones is to encourage foreign investment and promote economic activity in the country.

Free Zones are designated areas that allow business to be conducted only within the particular free zones and internationally. As the free zone companies are governed by the free zone licensing authority, they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Mainland Department of Economic Development. Therefore a free zone company cannot do business in Mainland.

Free zone jurisdictions do not permit companies registered under free zone authorities to do business in Mainland. Most trading companies in free zone are completely restricted to do business in Mainland, certain professional activities are given a leverage.

However, in case a restricted free zone company wants to do business in the Mainland, specific licensing and documentation is required. Such free zone companies would have to obtain appropriate licenses from the Department of Economic Development of the Emirate in which it intends to practice Mainland business.

Free zone companies also have an option to get connected with a distributor who has a Mainland license and then do business in the Mainland. Apart from this, free zone companies may do business in Mainland by establishing a branch office.

To open a UAE branch of a foreign company a Board of Directors’ resolution to open a branch and to appoint a director for the UAE branch is required. The resolution has to be executed in the country of origin of the foreign company and then attested by the UAE Embassy/Consulate/Mission of that particular country.

Once the resolution has been attested, it has to come to the UAE in original, translated into Arabic and endorsed by the relevant government bodies to be eligible for executing.

Once ready, due paperwork is filed with the licensing authority where the branch license has to be obtained from and the license is issued.

A Board of Directors’ resolution to open a branch and to appoint a director has to be executed and then filed with the supporting documentation with licensing authority of the Emirate in which the branch has to be opened.

A Board of Directors’ resolution to open a branch and to appoint a director for the UAE branch is required. The resolution has to be executed in the Gulf country of origin of the company and then attested by the UAE Embassy/Consulate/Mission of that country.

Once the resolution has been attested, it has to come to the UAE in original, translated into Arabic and endorsed by the relevant government bodies to be eligible for executing.

Once ready, due paperwork is filed with the licensing authority where the branch license has to be obtained from and the license is issued.

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