Designated zones and freezones

Free zones in the UAE

What are free zones?

Free zones are also known as free trade zones. These zones are meant to promote international businesses in the UAE by allowing foreign enterprise ownership.

These zones exempt businesses from the common UAE business requirements:

  • Companies do not require a UAE national to be a shareholder.
  • Businesses are exempt from tax on duties, corporate tax, personal income tax.
  • Businesses are exempt from all import and export duties.

Are all free zones free from VAT?

Not all free zones are VAT-free zones. The UAE VAT law calls VAT-free zones designated zones.

How do I obtain a free zone license for my business?

To set up your business in a free zone, you’ll have to follow these steps:

  1. Determine the type of legal entity: You can choose from 2 types of legal entities depending on the number of shareholders.

    • Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ LLC) or Free Zone Company (FZ Co.): 2 to 5 shareholders are required.
    • Free Zone Establishment (FZE): only one shareholder is allowed
  2. Choose a trade name: Check with your respective free zone authority and with your Department of Economic Development about the allowed trade names. For the Development of Economic Development to approve your trade name, it should:

    • Not violate the public orders or the public morals of the country.
    • Be followed by the legal form of the company such as LLC, FZE, DMCC, etc.
    • Not be previously registered.
    • Be compatible with the required type of activity and legal status.
    • Not include names of religions, government authorities, names, or logos of external bodies.

    Did you know?

    You are not allowed to use “Abu Dhabi” and “United Arab Emirates” in the name of the FZ LLC or its branch.

  3. Apply for a business license: You should apply for a business license depending on the primary activity of your business. To view the different business activities that you can conduct, click here.

  4. Get pre-approvals. You are required to provide the following documents

    • The completed application form.
    • The business plan.
    • If you are an existing local company, provide a copy of the existing trade license and registration certificate.
    • A copy of the signature of the company’s shareholders and the manager or director for the new company.
    • Audited financial reports from the previous 2 years from the corporate entity, or a reference certificate from the personal bank of the shareholder.
    • A letter of intent.
    • The Registry Identification Code Form (RIC) for the manager or director (original and notarized).

    If you are a freelancer, you are only required to provide the following:

    • The application for the registration
    • Your CV
    • The bank reference letter
    • The Registry Identification Code Form (RIC) (original and notarized).
  5. Register your business: You’ll need to pay the registration fees and license fees. Depending on the type of license required for your business, you’ll need the following.

    • The completed application for the registration.
    • A passport-size photo of the manager or the director against a white background.
    • The Board Resolution of the manager or director (Notarized and attested).
    • The Memorandum and Articles of Association (Notarized and attested).
    • The Power of Attorney given to the manager or director (Notarized and attested).
    • A copy of the signature of the manager or the director (Notarized and attested).
    • The share capital information.
  6. Getting your license. The Authority will prepare your lease agreements:

    • The trade license will be issued.
    • The visa processing will begin.