The United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers several options for business licensing depending on the type of company and activities. Choosing the right license is important for legally operating in the Emirates.

Overview of Business Licensing in UAE

The UAE has specific regulations regarding business setup and licensing overseen by governmental departments. The main types of business licenses include:

  • Mainland licenses for companies physically operating in the UAE
  • Free zone licenses for operating within designated free zone areas
  • Professional licenses for practitioners with professional degrees
  • Commercial licenses for trading goods in the UAE
  • Industrial licenses for industrial manufacturers in the UAE

Companies must adhere to Emirati standards and regulations based on their licensed business activities. The exact requirements, costs, and processes depend on the license type.

Mainland Business Licenses in UAE

A mainland business license allows companies to operate on the UAE mainland outside of the free zones. It gives the broadest access for doing business across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the other Emirates.

There are a few main types:

Commercial Licenses

This allows trading of products/goods in the UAE mainland:

  • General trading license covers broad trading activities
  • Trading specific products depending on the license

Industrial Licenses

This covers manufacturing or industrial production in the UAE:

  • Light industrial for light manufacturing
  • Industrial activity for heavy manufacturing

Professional Licenses

This allows licensed professionals to offer services in mainland UAE:

  • Consultancy license
  • Healthcare professional license
  • Education professional licenses
  • Technical professional licenses

Other key points about mainland business licensing:

  • Requires a local Emirati partner owning 51% of business
  • Minimum capital requirement ranging from AED 300,000 to 2,000,000+
  • Government fees start from AED 15,000 per year

UAE Free Zone Business Licensing

UAE free zones offer full foreign ownership business licensing without needing an Emirati partner. There are over 45 free zones specializing in certain activities.

Key Types of Free Zone Licenses

Each free zone has licenses catered to specific fields with different requirements and costs, including:

Commercial Trading Licenses

Covers importing, exporting, distributing and storing goods in the UAE. Available in general trading, trading specific goods depending on the free zone.

Consultancy Licenses

Allows businesses to offer services like management consulting, HR consulting, marketing, design services and more. The activities depend on the free zone.

Industrial Licenses

Allows manufacturing or production activities in a free zone. Can range from light product assembly to heavy industry depending on the zone.

Technology Licenses

Offered in technology-focused free zones for companies working in fields like software, IT, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT and other high-tech verticals.

Creative Licenses

Caters to businesses in creative fields like media, design, art, broadcasting, publishing, music and more. Mainly available in Dubai free zones.

Key Benefits of Free Zone Licensing

Free zone licensing offers major perks including:

  • 100% foreign ownership without an Emirati partner
  • Exemption from UAE's corporate taxes
  • Ability to easily import goods and equipment duty-free
  • Government fees starting from AED 7,500 per year
  • Quick license processing times from 2 weeks

Each free zone has its own company types, capital requirements, office space or flexi-desk options. This makes free zones attractive for foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

Professional Licenses in UAE

The UAE has laws requiring certain regulated professions to have specific licenses issued by relevant government bodies. These professional licenses authorize properly credentialed individuals to offer services in the Emirates.

Some key professional licenses in UAE are:

Medical Professional Licenses

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners must be licensed by health authorities like DHA or MOH to legally offer medical services.

Engineering Professional Licenses

Engineers handling structural, electrical, mechanical or civil engineering require accredited engineering licenses from authorities.

Legal Services Licenses

Firms and individuals providing legal advice must be licensed by the MOJ. Practicing lawyers require approval by the bar association.

Accounting & Auditing Licenses

UAE's MoF oversees the licensing of audit firms and accounting professionals like CPAs, CAs or experts.

Teaching Licenses

Teachers or education consultants need teaching licenses from education bodies like the KHDA or ADEK before teaching in UAE schools.

Insurance Professional Licenses

UAE Insurance Authority regulates licensing of insurance brokers, agents, assessors and loss surveyors operating locally.

Depending on the profession, licenses may require Emirati partners, verified credentials, office space, minimum fees, attestations and other conditions. Renewal is typically required annually or bi-annually.

Key Takeaways

  • UAE offers commercial, industrial, mainland, free zone and professional business licensing options
  • Choosing the right license type is critical based on business activities and investor objectives
  • Free zone licensing allows 100% foreign ownership while mainland licensing needs Emirati partners
  • Professional services require license from relevant UAE authorities before practicing locally
  • Adhering precisely to licensed scope of work, renewal rules and operating conditions is essential


UAE provides transparent business licensing frameworks enabling foreign investors and professionals to legally operate. However, the license types have specific scopes, so working with a consultant can help choose the optimum route aligning with commercial goals. Meeting all licensing conditions and renewal rules is vital for smooth functioning. Overall, the licensing regimes make UAE an attractive market for global enterprises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the minimum fees for business licenses in UAE?

A: Minimum fees start from AED 7,500 a year for free zone licenses and AED 15,000 a year for mainland licenses. Professional licenses also have minimum fees.

Q: What documents are needed for business licensing in Dubai?

A: Documents like passport copies, no-objection letters, office lease contracts, attested degrees, criminal records, and application forms are typically needed.

Q: Can I get industrial license for manufacturing in UAE?

A: Yes, UAE offers industrial licenses for light to heavy manufacturing either in mainland or free zone areas depending on activities.

Q: Are freelance visas available in UAE?

A: Yes, freelancers can obtain trade license visas from free zones tailored to consulting & professional services.

Q: Can foreign company establish Branch In UAE?

A: Yes, foreign firms can apply for branch office setup with 100% ownership through UAE free zones.

Q: Can freelancer get Ejari contract without license?

A: No, Ejari contracts require a valid trade license or establishment card from commercial authorities.

Q: How Investment is protected in UAE Free zone Company?

A: UAE constitution protects foreign investor rights. Dispute resolution through arbitration helps secure investments.

Q: How long does it take to get a license in the UAE?

A: With fast-track processes, it typically takes 2 to 4 weeks to get a new business license in UAE free zones.

Q: What Legal Protection Foreign Investors have in UAE?

A: UAE has commercial laws and dispute resolution frameworks governing local business protecting foreign investors.

Q: Can we open LLC company In UAE free zone?

A: Yes, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are one of the structures allowed in all UAE free zones.

Q: What is the Difference Between LLC and Offshore in UAE?

A: LLCs operate locally in UAE while offshore enables international trade without local presence. Different laws apply.

Q: How do I renew my business licence online?

A: Through Department of Economic Development (DED) online portal you can conveniently renew licenses.

Q: Where to make the Will In UAE as foreign investor?

A: Wills for assets in UAE can be made through notary public or registered wills with DIFC or Abu Dhabi judicial department.

Q: How UAE Free Zone Company is beneficial for Investor?

A: It allows full foreign ownership, zero taxes, flexible visa options and scalable business structures attracting investors.

Q: Can a freelancer or investor apply for UAE residence visa?

A: Yes, freelance permits and investment activities allow eligibility for 3-year UAE residency visas renewal.

Q: What license is required for trade in UAE?

A: Commercial trade licenses from Department of Economic Development (DED) are required for trading goods in UAE.

Q: Can mainland company register in freezone or required new license?

A: Yes, mainland firms can apply for operating licenses through freezones that offer broader scope.