UAE is a business hub for many international companies, Dubai especially. In 2018 over 500,000 business licences were issued in the United Arab Emirates, 47% of them in Dubai. If you google ‘business setup Dubai’ you will have over 200 million hits… Mildly put, a jungle to navigate! Among the results, many companies are consulting on business setups, some more costly than others. For the same reason, we have scouted the market and some very professional, efficient and cost friendly consultants. Write us an email if you are looking for an introduction to these business setup guru's. 


There are many ways to set up your business in Dubai and here is some general information to get you started. 

Mainland company setup

Mainland LLC companies are for clients and individuals setting up companies, branches and subsidiaries in the UAE to conduct business in the UAE market and internationally.

According to company law, a mainland company requires a local partner or a local service agent.

Offshore company setup

Offshore or non-resident companies are described as companies that are not permitted to conduct any business within their jurisdiction of incorporation. Meaning, Offshore companies set up in Dubai are not allowed to conduct business in Dubai nor will it give you a residence visa.

There are several jurisdictions in the UAE where you can set up your offshore company.

Free Zone company setup

Setting up a business in a free zone is relatively easy and the ‘go to’ choice for many foreigners as it offers 100% foreign ownership. Free zone authorities require minimal paperwork and the process is fairly quick. 

Dubai has more than 50 free zones to pick from.


The type of business license you apply for depends on the activity of your business, and will also affect the free zone you chose.

Freelance license

Not to be confused with Free Zone. Depending on your activity you can register as a Freelancer in various free zones and conduct business in your own name, not as a company. This might be the most cost-efficient solution for many, but depends on your need for visa, office, the requirement of your clients to be invoiced from a private person vs. business entity. For a freelance license you need documentation on your expertise in the respective field.

H2L Tip: We advise you to go by recommendations when choosing who to help you setup your business. Or at least look for more providers to compare costs. We're happy to connect you to some professionals who can guide you through the jungle. Write us at:

What to ask yourself?

In general, to decide on what type of company setup would be right for you, here are a few things to consider:

  • Where will you conduct the business? In Dubai with mainland companies? Only outside of Dubai? Only with other free zone companies in UAE? 

    NB: Note that a free zone company might have restrictions on dealing with a Dubai Mainland company

  • What industry will you be operating within?

  • What activities will you conduct? You are only allowed to do business defined by your chosen activity(s). However, you can select multiple activities.

  • What license do you require?

  • Do you require an office?

  • Do you require a visa for yourself, family and/or employees? 

  • Do you require a warehouse or production facilities?

Depending on what the answers to your questions above are, you are hopefully one step closer to deciding on what is the best solution for you. To find more information on business setup, go to the official government site of UAE

H2L Tip: No matter if you chose to go ahead with the process yourself or through a business setup agency, make sure you go carefully through all the details and triple check what is required from you in terms of actions to take and documents to provide.

Documents needed

This depends on the type of company you are setting up, the license you are applying for and the activity of your business. But the typical documents requested for setting up your company are:


  • Colour copy of your passport

  • Colour photograph with white background

  • Colour copy of latest UAE entry stamp or latest UAE residency visa

In some cases, additional documents might be requested from the authorities such as birth certificate, bank reference letter, business plan and educational degree.

H2L Tip: When you have decided, process is started, and you are applying for a residency, have a look at our summary of the visa process 

Financial Planning 

If you need help to handle your finances, then we highly recommend Finsbury Associates. Finsbury Associates is an award winning, boutique wealth management firm offering holistic financial planning solutions. They have internationally qualified advisors with specialised skills to deal with expat financial requirements unique to the UAE.


We highly recommend Finsbury Associates when it comes to financial planning solutions and are more than happy to connect you to the right person for safeguarding. Write us at

Visual appearance 

A natural next step in your business set up might be to work on your web page, application, digital presence or other means of software development. 

Napollo Software Design LLC is among the Best Digital Agencies based in Dubai, UAE. They revolutionize businesses with successful digital transformation; achieved through the cognitive business strategy, hyper-automation of processes, cloud Infrastructure, digital marketing and a winning business formula. Let us know if you want us to connect you to the right person to help you develop your visual appearance. 

Want to save money? Let Napollo know that you were referred by H2L or let us introduce you for a special price!

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How can we help? We have a team of qualified people in our network ready to guide you in everything from how to relocate your pet to set up your business in Dubai. Feel free to reach out and we will happily connect you:

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