As the second largest economy in the oil-rich Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been one of the best business centres in recent decades. The UAE’s own emirates have been growing structurally and economically after all, attracting foreign investors, workers, and visitors alike.
WHY EXPAND IN THE UAE?
So why is the UAE a preferred location amongst the world’s biggest multinational companies? Apart from the obviously attractive ultramodern skyscrapers dotting the country, the UAE has a highly diversified economy, with lucrative sectors ranging from finance, real estate, and tourism, to manufacturing, high-tech industries and trade.
More importantly, the UAE is a business-friendly country. In fact, the UAE sits on the 16th spot of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. Furthermore, while Arabic is considered the official language, English is widely spoken by expatriates and businesspeople from all over the world.
If you are a foreigner who wants to invest or build your business in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any one of the UAE’s seven emirates, you have the option to either (1) partner with a local who will represent your company and own 51% of the business; or (2) fully own your business by setting up a company within a UAE free zone.
WHAT IS A UAE FREE ZONE?
While most countries in the world allow only part ownership for foreigners, UAE free zones permit 100% business ownership even for foreign companies or entrepreneurs. If you are tired of the bureaucracy and regulations involved in running your business in your own country, you can build your business in a free zone in the UAE and get more leeway with your own operations.
A UAE free trade zone is also industry-specific. For example, the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi covers construction and engineering, oil and gas, and other advanced factories. Fujairah Creative City, on the other hand, is ideal for media-related activities like marketing, consultancy e-commerce and publishing.
There are more than 50 free zone jurisdictions in the UAE, with at least one free zone in each emirate.
WHAT DO I GET FROM SETTING UP A COMPANY IN A UAE FREE ZONE?
Apart from the freedom to make decisions for your free zone company, you also get a break from income or corporate taxes. You can enjoy tax holidays for decades and still get all the profits from your business. Free zones impose zero tariffs for imports and exports as well, allowing you to save any additional costs on raw materials.
How will you hire employees, though? As free zones are industry-specific, you can also attract local or foreign talent in the area. Free zone authorities can provide residence visas for your employees and dependents. This allows for easier relocation for your trusted team. As a business owner, you will also be eligible for a tax residency certificate, which you can use for your documentation needs.
IN WHICH FREE ZONE DO I SET UP MY COMPANY?
All free zones have their unique benefits, depending on what you’re looking for. Below are some of the most popular free zones.
Fujairah Creative City
Considered a media hub, Fujairah Creative City is the ideal location for events, consulting and broadcast entertainment businesses. Freelancers and established companies alike are welcome in the free zone, with licences offered to individuals, small startups and companies with multiple owners. With the nearby Fujairah International Airport, this free zone is also a smart option for global business owners.
Umm Al Quwain
The Umm Al Quwain Free Zone mainly caters to SMEs and startups, offering incentives, zero currency restrictions and reasonable startup costs. It also offers 100% import and export tax exemption, and a strategic location that gives businesses access to more than 2 billion consumers. Consultancy services, general trading and logistics are some of the business activities supported in the free zone.
With dedicated districts for aviation, logistics and a business park, Dubai South, or formerly known as Dubai World Central, serves as a major economic free zone in the UAE. It is home to Al Maktoum International Airport, one of Dubai’s major airports that is designed to accommodate over 160 million passengers per year and up to 12 million tonnes of freight. Dubai South is considered to be the Emirate’s flagship urban development, and is intended to be a smart and sustainable city.
It is no surprise that global companies are continuing to mark UAE free zones as a prime office location. Whether you are just kickstarting your own mobile app company or aiming to get a wider, more global audience for your business, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or any one of the free zones within the UAE can be your next expansion hub.
Should you need help in setting up a business in the UAE, you can consult ExpressPRO for expert advice. Our company provides a complete business setup solution for free zone companies, with our team managing the paperwork and all other requirements for you.