6 questions to ask when choosing the right UAE free zone

With an open and diverse economy, the UAE is considered a strategic global business centre. Convenience is key, after all, and the country is a plane ride away to and from key cities in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

To further improve the international business climate in the region, the UAE has also established more than 50 free zones that allow foreign investors to own 100% of their business within the country. Each free zone has its own rules, requirements and benefits. As such, it takes a lot of research and effort to decide where to build your business.

Before you even book a flight to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or any of the major cities in the UAE, ask yourself and your team six questions that will help you choose the right free zone for your business.

What is the purpose of your business? Will you be working in retail, consultancy or e-commerce? With 50+ free zones catering to a variety of industries, it’s important to choose one that fits your business activities.

Being in the right free zone allows you to be close to both partners and competitors. Free zone authorities may also provide support services for recruitment, visa processing, office space leasing, and more.

Here’s a closer look at some of the free zones in the UAE, plus the businesses they cater to.

Fujairah Creative City – If you’re in the broadcast entertainment business, Fujairah Creative City is an ideal free zone for you. Small startups and multinational companies can get licences in this media centre. The area is industry-specific, so you can also interact with fellow creatives in this field and even forge partnerships.

Umm Al Quwain – With its advantageous location, this free zone is convenient for expats flying in from any major city around the world. The free zone authorities here offer both trading and consultancy licences, as well as permits for service providers and freelance professionals.

Dubai South – Also known as Dubai World Central, Dubai South is considered as the Emirate’s flagship urban development. It’s a general purpose zone, and a startup or offshore location for your business is welcome here. Both Jebel Ali Sea Port and Al Maktoum International Airport are within reach as well, making it a prime location for logistics and manufacturing industries.

After identifying the specific nature of your business, you’ll take care of the licence next. As with anything related to paperwork, getting the right licence saves you time and money.

You may need a professional, trading or service licence, and this will also depend on your business. Some free zones may require more than these common licences as well. For example, you’ll need an education licence if you’re offering training and consultancy services.

The UAE has set guidelines in issuing visas for shareholders. If you’re aiming for a physical office in your chosen free zone, ask the local business setup experts about these visas so you can better prepare the required documents for your shareholders. Doing this saves you time and ensures smart business planning and strategy.

As with any sovereignty, the UAE requires residence visas for any foreigner working in its free zones. Some free zone authorities may provide visa processing services, and this may be included in the licencing fees.

It will be your responsibility as the business owner to process and renew the right visas for your employees.

Your required number of employee visas will also affect whether or not you’ll need a physical office space. Depending on the free zone, the type of facilities you get will often involve visa quotas and fees.

In addition, you need to consider the pros and cons of staying in an office versus allowing for a flexible workspace setup. You will need a larger office if you will regularly entertain clients and shareholders. If you have a small startup, a shared or flexi-desk may be enough for your team. This will depend on your type of business as well.

Setting up an office, getting the right licences and knowing the minimum capital requirements are integral parts of your financial plans. The free zones allow for 100% repatriation of capital and profits, so these expenses will be part of your business operating costs.

With all the free zone options available and their unique requirements, it is best to consult the experts to make sure you set up in the right free zone for your business.

Contact our team at ExpressPRO for a free consultation. Fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you shortly.

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Mohsin Khan
Mohsin Khan
15:52 18 May 24
First of all thanks to Express PRO to have a man like Mr.Rohit I know he is giving me the right direction towards reaching my dreams. He is very professional, friendly, helpful and no matter how many... times I ask question they never failed to answer my concern and explained all the details that i need. I would strongly recommend their service if you want a better future here in Dubai. No words can explain how lucky I am to find a consultation company Expess Pro like this. All transaction were smooth and easy. Thank you again Mr.Rohit for all the help.They are truly knowledgeable, skilled and has empathy throughout the process. No doubt, the company’s success and the recommendations of their clients speaks for itself.read more
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Sajjid Patel
14:12 17 May 24
Rohit provided a very quick and efficient service to help us renew our company license. A big thanks to Rohit and the ExpressPro team for their thorough professionalism.
Muhammad sarfaraz uddin
Muhammad sarfaraz uddin
12:02 16 May 24
I recently contacted ExpressPRO to set up my business in Dubai and I couldn't be happier with their service. The entire process was smooth and efficient, thanks to their professional and... knowledgeable team. They guided me through every step, from company formation and trade license acquisition to opening a bank account.read more
Plat E
Plat E
07:51 14 May 24
This is the first time we setup business in Dubai. The business setup was done smoothly. When we moved forward to the visa processing, initially the information given to us was not been communicated... correctly by another department. Hassan had demonstrated his professionalism to make the process done in proper manner. Despite some delays in the process, which were entirely outside of Hassan’s control, he managed to navigate these challenges with grace and persistence. He helps us to solve all the problems and ensure everything was in order, his efforts did not go unnoticed. We highly recommend him for his outstanding service and dedication to his clients. Thank you once again for your helps!read more
Oriane International
Oriane International
08:00 07 May 24
Prompt reply and coordination and excellent services by Irshad Ismail. He assisted very professionally and helped me to get my license on time.
07:55 24 Apr 24
I am very lucky to met you, Hassan. Throughout the entire application process, I encountered issues like my name being written in reverse order, even during the medical check-up, you were online to... answer my questions in real-time. You were attentive to my worries even on weekends and during the Ramadan period. When Dubai faced its first major flood in 75 years, I still received your immediate response. Your dedication is truly commendable.The process for obtaining residency in Dubai is now longer due to the increasing population influx. Fortunately, applying through ExpressPro has been a breeze - fast, efficient, professional, and with prompt responses that provide peace of mind. I highly recommend this company. Once again, thank you, Hassan. May Allah bless youread more
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Mj Tolentino
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Sheen Gurrib
Sheen Gurrib
10:02 22 Apr 24
I had such a smooth and quick experience. Hassan was so helpful, always keeping me updated and making sure it was done super fast! Strongly recommend!
Alessandro Nadalin (Alex)
Alessandro Nadalin (Alex)
13:06 08 Apr 24
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Erika Matullano
12:05 03 Apr 24
I recently had the pleasure of utilizing the exceptional services of ExpressPro for my business setup in Dubai, and I must say, it was an outstanding experience from start to finish.Professional and... Knowledgeable StaffI want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Paul Pasumbal, whose exceptional patience and dedication made the entire process smooth and hassle-free. His prompt responses to all my queries, unwavering support, and expert guidance were truly commendable. His in-depth knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile exemplify the professionalism at ExpressPro.I also want to acknowledge Mr. Hassan and Ms. Girlie for their efficient handling of all my documents. Their expertise and attention to detail were instrumental in ensuring a seamless process.Efficient Business Setup and Legal ExpertiseExpressPro.ae demonstrated a remarkable level of efficiency and expertise in navigating the legal and administrative procedures related to business setup in the UAE. Mr. Hassan for emailing me all the forms needed for the processSeamless Company Formation ProcessThe entire team at ExpressPro, especially Paul Pasumbal, Girlie, and Hassan Ali, delivered nothing short of professionalism, helpfulness, and extensive knowledge throughout the company formation process. Their dedication and support were instrumental in making my entrepreneurial journey in Dubai a reality.Expert Advice and Exceptional SupportI cannot thank Mr. Paul Pasumbal enough for his unwavering commitment to addressing all my concerns and providing expert advice at every step of the company formation process. His wealth of knowledge and genuine willingness to assist made a significant difference in my experience with ExpressPro.In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend ExpressPro to anyone seeking business setup services in Dubai. Their exemplary team, led by individuals like Mr. Paul Pasumbal, Ms Girlie, and Mr. Hassan Ali, sets a benchmark for professionalism, expertise, and customer-centric approach. Thank you for making my entrepreneurial journey a seamless and gratifying experience.read more
13:02 19 Mar 24
very efficient and knowledgeable about procedure and how-to of the legal and administrations procedures in the UAE. Hassan and Rohit have provided me with excellent guidance for my company set-up and... employee legislation process. I clearly recommend them with no reserve.read more
Umair Khalid
Umair Khalid
09:57 19 Mar 24
It’s been a good experience.
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