I have a business idea, where do I begin?

Starting a business can be daunting, especially if you are a first-time entrepreneur in this region. There are nearly 60 Free Zones in the UAE, an extensive range of options for Mainland company licensing and many offshore jurisdictions so choosing the right one for your business is vital. Please come and see us for a free, no obligation chat over a cup of coffee and we will help you to make the right decision.

Do I need a license if I am just starting out?

Yes. Starting a business in this region requires you to be licenced.

Do I need a license if I am not making any money yet?

Yes, you do.  UAE law is very clear that all businesses must be licensed and all employees hold a valid work visa.

Can I apply for a licence if I don’t reside in the UAE?

Yes. If your business operates in this region even without you residing here, then you can and should hold a valid trade license in the UAE.

What is the difference between Mainland and a Free Zone?

A Free Zone establishment is incorporated within a designated jurisdiction of the emirate where the company is allowed to do business inside the same Free Zone or outside of the UAE. There are many benefits of incorporating in a Free Zone which include 100% foreign ownership, banking confidentiality, 100% exemption from corporate and income taxes, full repatriation of company profits and capital, low set-up costs compared to onshore companies and no physical office requirements.


A Mainland Company is an onshore company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) of the related Emirate which is allowed to do business in the local market, Free Zones as well as outside of the UAE with no visa limitations. Presence of a UAE National is mandatory in the majority of mainland licenses either as a Local Partner or a Local Service Agent.

What documents will be required?

This differs depending on the jurisdiction of incorporation. A copy of your passport, visa/entry stamp will always be required.  Some jurisdictions ask for business plans, financial plans, CV’s and even bank/character references.

What does the procedure involve?

The beauty of our services is that you do not have to lift a finger. You will be assigned a Customer Relationship Officer who will manage the entire process for you. Should you be needed anywhere for a signature, then our team will come to you and take you there.  We endeavour to ensure that the process be as smooth as possible whilst you focus your energy and time into developing your business. We have many tools and connections that can help you with many aspects of starting your business so please ask us and we will happily guide you.

How long will it take?

This really depends on the jurisdiction. Free Zones outside of Dubai can take approximately 5 – 7 working days to issue a trade licence, this is subject to the right documentation being provided and does not include visa processing. Free Zones in Dubai can take anything from 2 – 10 weeks depending on whether third party approvals are required.


Mainland licensing timings also varies (between 2 – 30 working days) depending on the license type, the activity and the external approvals needed so it’s important to manage your expectations and our team of consultants can help you understand the process and timings for your individual business.


Visas in Free Zones typically take 7 – 20 working days to issue but this can vary at times of the year and the nationality of the applicant.


Visa processing on the Mainland can take 5 – 7 working days but certain nationalities can take longer in some cases.

What is the cost?

Costs can vary depending on the jurisdiction, business idea, visa requirements, office requirements and many other factors.  There are ongoing developments within the business set up landscape and the UAE has been working hard to make setting up a business in the UAE more attractive.  Currently, licensing costs in the UAE range from AED 8,000 – AED 100,000 +.

How long is my licence valid for?

1 Year and it must be renewed annually or closed to avoid fines.

Can I get a visa?

Yes.  Subject to the relevant authority and immigration regulations.

Do I need to register for VAT?

A business must register for VAT if their taxable supplies and imports exceed the mandatory registration threshold of AED 375,000. Furthermore, a business may choose to register for VAT voluntarily if their supplies and imports are less than the mandatory registration threshold, but exceed the voluntary registration threshold of AED 187,500.

Can I import/export?

Yes. It is vital you choose the correct licence for your import/export business. You will also need to apply for an import code and go through various approvals. We will assist you through the entire process, so you do not need to worry.

Why Vital?

Vital are passionate about people and business. We like to see people flourish and see their business ideas come to life. We work extremely hard to ensure your new business is structured correctly choosing the right jurisdiction and legal framework to ensure you can operate within your chosen mandate as well as providing the guidance all new business owners require to ensure their venture can run effectively.