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Dubai free zones

Dubai is one of the most attractive business destinations globally, due to its tax policies, regulatory environment and a strategically advantageous location bridging Europe, Africa and Asia. One of the most attractive features of the country for international investors is the presence of so-called free zones. Dubai free zones offer the opportunity of conducting business in the UAE under favorable conditions. But let's take it step by step. What is a Dubai free zone, what advantages do such zones propose, what are the types of Dubai free zones, and how can you start a business in one of them? We will cover all of these topics in the following article.

Dubai free zones

Posted 14 September 2023

What are the Dubai free zones?

Free zones in Dubai are specific geographical areas where you can register a company and conduct business, benefiting from special tax incentives and business regulations. Dubai boasts around 50 free zones, each offering unique advantages and services tailored to various industries.

One of the main specificities of Dubai free zones is the allowance of 100% foreign capital and complete foreign ownership. This means that foreign investors can have full control of their companies without the need for a local partner or sponsor. Furthermore, companies registered in free zones benefit from various tax and duty exemptions, which can significantly reduce business costs.

Advantages of the Dubai free zones

Free zones in Dubai offer numerous advantages to foreign companies looking to register and conduct business in the UAE. These advantages include:

  • Full foreign ownership and 100% foreign capital: in contrast to setting up a local company in the UAE, which often requires a local partner in the structure, companies registered in free zones can be entirely owned by foreign investors;
  • Tax and duty benefits: companies in free zones are exempt from customs duties, corporate income tax (although this is subject to change with planned low rates ranging from 0% to 9%), and VAT (Value Added Tax). This can significantly reduce business expenses;
Important:

VAT is applicable if the company’s activities are conducted within the UAE and cater to the UAE market. VAT is levied on the end consumer of goods and services.

  • Simple registration process: registering a company in a Dubai free zone is straightforward and can often be completed in just one or two working days. However, the turnaround time may vary depending on the specific free zone and its workload. Nonetheless, the company registration process rarely exceeds one week;
  • Fast visa acquisition: companies registered in free zones make it easy to obtain visas for both company employees and their family members, as well as for the company’s shareholders;
  • Convenient access to superior infrastructure and services: Dubai’s free zones are strategically located near major airports, ports, and highways. They also provide access to high-quality services, including banking, legal and consultancy services, telecommunications, logistics, and more;
  • Various types of licenses: Dubai free zones offer different types of licenses for businesses, including trade, manufacturing, services, and more;
  • Wide range of industries: Dubai hosts approximately 50 free zones, each designed for different business sectors. These free zones cater to various fields, such as trade, IT, manufacturing, a wide range of services, and more.

Types of Dubai free zones

Dubai boasts a multitude of free zones, each tailored to specific industries. Here are some of them:

  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC): specializes in trade;
  • Dubai Internet City (DIC): focused on IT companies;
  • Dubai Media City (DMC): designed for businesses in the media industry;
  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC): the primary hub for financial services and the banking sector in Dubai;
  • Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA): located near Dubai International Airport, it specializes in logistics and warehousing services;
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO): geared towards companies producing information technologies, electronics, and more. Associated with DSO is the equally popular IFZA free zone, offering diverse business sectors for company registration, including trade, services, and manufacturing;
  • Dubai Health Care City (DHCC): specializes in healthcare and medical services;
  • Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP): intended for educational institutions, courses, and training centers;
  • Dubai Science Park (DSP): focuses on companies involved in healthcare and science;
  • Dubai Maritime City (DMC): designed for businesses in the maritime industry, including shipbuilding and ship repair;
  • Dubai International Academic City (DIAC): oriented towards educational institutions, research centers, and innovative projects;
  • Dubai Production City (DPC): specializes in companies involved in production, printing, and publishing activities.

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Specificities of starting a business in Dubai free zones

Opening a company in a Dubai free zone has several features to consider:

  1. Types of companies: you can register several types of companies, including Free Zone Establishment (FZE), Free Zone Company (FZCO), and Branch Office;
  2. Market restrictions: companies registered in the free zones of Dubai typically cannot sell their goods and services in the local UAE market. They can only sell internationally, but they are allowed to collaborate with local companies and provide them with services;
  3. Capital: registering a company in a Dubai free zone requires a minimum share capital, the exact amount of which varies depending on the particular free zone;
  4. Licenses: companies in Dubai free zones need to obtain licenses for their activities. Licenses can be issued for various types of activities, including manufacturing, trading, services, and more;
  5. Visas: companies opened in a Dubai free zone provide the opportunity of obtaining residency visas for their shareholders, employees, and their families. The number of visas depends on the type of company and its capital;
  6. Financial reports: companies in the free zones of Dubai are required to provide financial reports and tax declarations.

Conclusion

Registering a company in a Dubai free zone offers numerous advantages for foreign investors looking to do business in the region. It provides an opportunity for quick and straightforward company registration, minimizes bureaucracy, and simplifies the process of obtaining licenses and work visas.

Despite some limitations on selling products in the local market, companies can freely collaborate with local businesses and offer them their services.

The free zones of Dubai free are an attractive location for foreign investors looking to start and expand their businesses in the region.

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