Dubai has become one of the most popular global destinations for foreigners looking to start or expand their businesses. Starting a business in Dubai has many advantages, from tax-free profits to world-class infrastructure and a strategic location connecting East and West. As Dubai continues to establish itself as a significant financial and commercial hub with a dynamic, business-friendly environment, it offers tremendous opportunities across sectors for entrepreneurs.

Excellent Infrastructure and Connectivity

Dubai boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure and transport links that facilitate trade and connectivity. Whether airports, roads, ports or ICT networks, Dubai has invested heavily in providing first-rate infrastructure and connectivity that fosters business growth. This includes Dubai International Airport, the busiest airport in international passenger traffic, and sophisticated telecommunications and technology capabilities. The robust infrastructure reduces costs and logistical barriers for companies operating in Dubai.

Access to Large Customer Base and Expansion Opportunities

Dubai's free trade policies, safety, and stability, have attracted many companies and workers worldwide. With a resident population of about 85 per cent expats from over 200 nationalities, starting a business in Dubai provides access to an incredibly diverse customer base. Many expat residents have high purchasing power. Dubai also serves as a gateway to Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia markets. Setting up free trade zones can provide opportunities for 0 per cent business setup and ownership, along with 0 per cent import tax.

Strong Legal Framework and Government Support

Dubai offers foreign investors legal reassurances, including clear business ownership laws. The government is focused on increasing foreign direct investment and easing business registration and licensing processes. Numerous free zones provide various ownership, tax, and customs duty benefits. The independent judiciary system follows international standards, instilling confidence in foreign investors and entrepreneurs. Policies aim to create an attractive, secure climate for foreign businesses.

Low Tax Rates

One of Dubai's biggest draws for foreign companies is its lack of corporate or personal income tax. While a 5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) was introduced in 2018, Dubai still offers significant tax advantages. The UAE also has double taxation agreements with many countries, providing tax savings for certain foreign nationals and companies. Low tax rates enable businesses to retain a bigger share of profits.

High Quality of Life

From luxurious amenities to year-round sunny weather, Dubai offers an excellent standard of living that draws many expats. International restaurants and world-class shopping malls provide comfort and convenience. Family-friendly neighbourhoods and activities make it appealing for raising children. The high quality of life also makes it easier for companies to attract and retain international talent.

With its strategic location, business-friendly environment, infrastructure, and resilience to global headwinds, Dubai is likely to remain a leading global centre for business and foreign investment. By offering advantages ranging from tax incentives to connectivity, policy toward the expatriate community, and quality of life, Dubai provides compelling reasons for foreigners to set up or expand their ventures.

Key Takeaways

  •     Excellent infrastructure and connectivity make doing business efficient in Dubai.

  •     Large customer base and expansion opportunities given Dubai's global connectivity

  •     Supportive business policies and environment for foreign investors

  •     Attractive tax incentives like no income tax or corporate tax

  •     High quality of life draws international talent pool


Dubai offers an attractive proposition for foreigners looking to set up or grow their businesses. By providing a secure climate with clear ownership laws, increasingly business-friendly practices and incentives aimed at boosting foreign investment, Dubai enables international entrepreneurs to thrive. In addition to connectivity, customer diversity, and high living standards, Dubai presents tremendous commercial potential. As the emirate cements its reputation as a global hub, the future looks bright for foreigners launching ventures in Dubai.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of starting a business in Dubai as a foreigner?

Some of the key benefits include tax-free profits, the ability to fully own your company in free zones, access to a global customer base and suppliers, excellent infrastructure and connectivity, a supportive business environment with pro-foreign investor policies, and a high quality of life.

What kind of business opportunities are available in Dubai?

Almost any kind of business can find opportunities in Dubai's diverse, trade-based economy across sectors like financial and professional services, tourism and hospitality, logistics and transport, construction, technology, healthcare and education.

What are free zones, and how do they benefit businesses?

Free zones offer foreign companies 100 per cent ownership and zero taxes. They feature investor protections, streamlined processes and pre-built facilities. Each free zone focuses on specific activities. They allow customs duty exemptions and facilitate global market access.

What taxes do companies pay in Dubai?

Outside free zones, foreign shareholders can hold up to 49 per cent equity in limited liability companies without paying personal or corporate taxes. Value Added Tax is set at 5 per cent. No import or re-export duties exist between UAE and Arab countries.

What kind of talent is available in Dubai?

Dubai's vast expat population ensures the availability of diverse talent pools across industries and functions, spanning various nationalities and experience levels. From skilled labourers to financial analysts to designers, companies can tap technical skills and niche expertise.

How much does it cost to start a business in Dubai?

Costs vary across industries, locations, and company legal structures. Starting a mainland limited liability company costs around AED 8,000-12,000 plus commercial lease costs. In free zones, setup fees start from around AED 7,000. Overall, Dubai offers competitive startup costs and great facilities.

What are the visa options for foreign business owners in Dubai?

Investor/Partner visas enable part-ownership in mainland companies. Entrepreneur visas support setting up private companies in Dubai. Free zones offer flexible visa options for business owners, employees and dependents. Investor/retirement visas have options depending on investment size.

Does Dubai offer any financing options?

Several options exist. Government agencies like the Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund for SMEs offer subsidized loans. Banks provide business loans and lines of credit. Numerous venture capital firms and business incubators offer funding support. Many free zones also offer customized financing packages.

How easy is it to import and export from Dubai?

Dubai facilitates seamless import and export, given its best-in-class sea and air connectivity, growing land bridges with neighbouring economies, and low tariffs and duties. Customs clearance is highly efficient with minimal red tape, and re-exports benefit from many trade agreements and treaties.

What support does Dubai offer for startups and entrepreneurs?

Startups can benefit from business incubators, government accelerators like Area 2071, innovative grants, discounted licensing and housing, flexible visas, subsidized loans, mentorship programs, and incentives to incorporate disruptive technologies and IP into their offerings.

How fast and easy is it to get electricity, water and other utilities in Dubai?

Connection timelines are among the shortest across categories like electricity, water, gas, etc. Clearances and installation processes are streamlined, with limited paperwork. The innovative Dubai utility model enables efficient application submission, metering and billing processes.

Can foreign business owners buy property in Dubai?

Foreigners can buy or rent property in Dubai's private property market. Purchases are allowed in selected areas on a freehold basis. Rental contracts span from one to multiple years. Investors also buy into real estate investment trusts or properties registered under certain emirate authorities.

What are the labour laws in Dubai relating to foreign employees?

Labour law protects both employees and employers while supporting workforce diversity. Rules govern recruitment, contracts, working hours, leave policies, benefits/compensation, dispute resolution, termination procedures and labour rights. Free zone entities have their regulations.

What business reforms have been introduced in Dubai, and what impact have they had?

Reforms around foreign ownership, residency permits, bankruptcy law, mainland licensing norms, and intellectual property regulations have increased investor confidence. Steps like the formation of Dubai Virtual Commercial City, legislative updates, and the adoption of global best practices have also boosted prospects.

What options are available to resolve business disputes in Dubai?

Dispute resolution choices include litigation in civil courts, arbitration via Dubai International Arbitration Center (DIAC), mediation through Dubai International Financial Center courts, and International Islamic Mediation/Conciliation practices. The Dubai World Tribunal hears disputes within its designated free zones.

How does Dubai support innovation by startups and growth-stage companies?

Support spans from research grants to regulatory easing to ICT infrastructure and zones like Dubai Internet City/Silicon Park. Steps like Dubai Future Accelerators, Innova financing, Scale2Dubai incentives and Mohammad Bin Rashid Innovation Fund provide funding/assistance.

What sectors are currently attracting the most foreign investment in Dubai?

Expo 2020 sparked an investment uptick across transport, hospitality, real estate, and infrastructure sectors. Interest continues to grow in logistics, ICT, fintech, education, healthcare, and tourism. Emerging priority sectors include agri-tech, renewable energy, electric mobility, and AI applications across verticals.