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Business Setup in Abu Dhabi

Introduction to Business Setup in Abu Dhabi

Initiating a new business venture in Abu Dhabi is a swift and straightforward process, exemplifying the city’s dedication to fostering a favorable environment for entrepreneurs. With a significant focus on simplicity and efficiency, the business setup process is tailored to accommodate various business types and locations, often requiring just a few days. Abu Dhabi’s allure lies not only in its economic strength but also in its commitment to facilitating a hassle-free journey for businesses, making it an enticing destination for those seeking rapid and hassle-free establishment.

Overview of Abu Dhabi’s Business Environment

Abu Dhabi’s business landscape is characterized by diversity, resilience, and economic vibrancy. As the second-largest economy in the GCC, the city serves as a central hub for an array of industries, including finance, technology, energy, and tourism. Beyond its economic prowess, Abu Dhabi is distinguished by its commitment to innovation and sustainability, creating an environment conducive to business growth. The city’s regulatory framework is designed to be business-friendly, providing a solid foundation for startups and established enterprises alike. With strategic geographical positioning, Abu Dhabi emerges as a global business destination offering stability and abundant opportunities within the UAE.

Benefits of Company Formation in Abu Dhabi

  • Global Connectivity: Strategic location in the UAE, offering seamless access to international markets.

  • Efficient Setup Process: A business-friendly regulatory framework ensures a swift and streamlined company formation process, often completed within a few days.

  • Economic Stability: Abu Dhabi boasts a stable and robust economy, providing a secure foundation for business operations.

  • Diversified Opportunities: Commitment to economic diversification and innovation creates a dynamic business ecosystem, offering opportunities across various sectors.

  • Modern Infrastructure: Access to state-of-the-art facilities and modern infrastructure enhances operational efficiency for businesses.

  • Tax Advantages: A favorable tax environment in the UAE, along with various free zones in Abu Dhabi, provides significant financial benefits for companies.

  • Global Competitiveness: Companies benefit from a competitive edge in the global market, thanks to the strategic advantages and supportive business environment in Abu Dhabi.

Different types of Company Setup in Abu Dhabi

Choosing the type of company setup in Abu Dhabi is a crucial decision that establishes the legal framework for your business. Your choice determines the business structure, shareholder requirements, and legal obligations. The options include:

  1. Joint Liability Company: Involves a contractual agreement between a foreign and a regional party, both jointly responsible with unlimited liability for business debts.

  2. Simple Commandite Company: Comprises general partners (required to be UAE nationals) and participating partners who don’t engage in daily business operations.

  3. Limited Liability Company: One of the most common setups, requiring a minimum of 51% capital ownership by a UAE national, with the remaining 49% open to foreign investors.

  4. Public Limited Company: Offers shares to the public to raise capital, typically suitable for larger operations.

  5. Private Limited Company: Requires a minimum of three shareholders, with shares restricted from public offerings.

  6. Civil Society: Ideal for professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, allowing 100% ownership by professional partners.

  7. Local Business Branch: Enables registered companies with a chapter in the UAE to sell or distribute goods within the country.

  8. Foreign Company Branch: Permitted to invoice UAE customers, sign local contracts, and receive income, with a local UAE agent sponsoring visas and licenses.

Business Licenses Issued in Abu Dhabi

Commercial License

Obtaining a commercial license is comparatively straightforward when compared to other business licenses. This license is granted to companies engaged in general business activities. Examples of businesses falling under this license category include public trading companies, hospitals, clinics, real estate, transportation, and construction. The Department of Economic Development is responsible for issuing this license.

Industrial License

Companies involved in manufacturing processes must apply for an industrial license. Any business engaged in production, fabrication, or other specialized activities requires this license. This encompasses companies that create products with the intent of selling them for profit. The license for Specialized Economic Zones is issued by the Higher Corporation.

Professional License

Service-oriented enterprises, such as craftsmen or artisans, require a professional license. This includes individuals like carpenters and steelworkers who earn a living using physical efforts and tools. The Department of Economic Development is the issuing authority for this license.

Tourism License

Given the influx of tourists to Abu Dhabi annually, the tourism industry is a significant sector. To operate any tourism-related business in Abu Dhabi, a tourism license is mandatory. This encompasses services like hotels, travel agencies, boat and car rentals, etc. The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority issues this license.

Occupational License

Occupational licenses are necessary for businesses that utilize mental and intellectual capabilities, talents, and abilities to serve clients. Law firms, accounting firms, research firms, and audit firms are examples of businesses requiring an occupational license.

How to Get a Trade License in Abu Dhabi?

  1. Choose a unique business name and reserve it through the relevant authorities.

  2. Draft and notarize the MOA, outlining key business details.

  3. Prepare and submit the required documents to the appropriate government department.

  4. Apply for the Establishment card at the Ministry of Labor for business legalization.

  5. Register your employees with the Ministry of Labor, ensuring compliance with labor laws.

Step-by-Step Guide in the Abu Dhabi Company Formation Process

  1. Define Your Business Activity: Determine the type of business you want to establish before initiating the legal process. Different businesses have specific requirements, so clarity on your economic activity is crucial.

  2. Secure a Local Sponsor: Engage a local sponsor, a service agent, or a company owned by UAE nationals. The local sponsor will handle necessary licenses and legal procedures on your behalf.

  3. Choose a Legal Structure: Select whether your business will be a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). Each structure comes with its own set of regulations.

  4. Register Your Trade Name: After finalizing your business activity and legal structure, choose a distinct trade name for your business to set it apart from others.

  5. Complete Licensing Requirements: Obtain a trade name certificate, a prerequisite for applying for a business license.

  6. Obtain Special Approvals: Foreign investors must seek approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. Additionally, approval from the Commercial Protection Division is required for the chosen business premises.

  7. Confirm Business License: Upon receiving approvals, proceed to confirm the business license and fulfill the necessary fee payments.

We offer you citizenship by investment programs, company formation services, and an array of options that allow you to secure citizenship and obtain additional passports without residency obligations.

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      Company Registration in Abu Dhabi: Process

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      Following the finalization of your business activity and legal structure, selecting a distinctive trade name is imperative. It should be unique, align with your business’s nature, and comply with legal guidelines. After preparing and submitting the necessary documents detailing your business, the authorities review and approve the name, reserving it exclusively for your company. This registered trade name not only establishes a clear identity for your business but also contributes significantly to its legal recognition and market presence in Abu Dhabi.

      Best Areas to Setup A Company in Abu Dhabi

      Abu Dhabi Mainland

      Abu Dhabi Mainland is a fancy place known for its wealth. Many global business folks are starting companies there because of its easy rules, access to UAE markets, tax breaks, and affordable workers. The government is encouraging both local and foreign investors. However, companies in the Mainland can only have a maximum of 49% ownership by foreigners, even though they can do business all over the UAE.

      Abu Dhabi Mainland includes various locations and districts where businesses, residential areas, and landmarks are situated. Some notable places in Abu Dhabi Mainland include:

      Corniche Road Downtown Abu Dhabi Al Markaziya Al Khalidiya Al Bateen
      Al Nahyan Camp Al Rowdah Al Muroor Madinat Zayed Al Manhal

      Abu Dhabi Free Zones

      Abu Dhabi Free Zone is like its own separate area where business people can own their companies completely. Setting up a business there is quite simple and doesn’t require a UAE partner. In the Free Zone, you get chances for trading, full ownership, and tax advantages. The place has all the necessary facilities and services to make starting a company easy.

      Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone (ADAFZ) Masdar City Free Zone Twofour54 Abu Dhabi (Media Free Zone Authority) Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD)
      Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones (ZonesCorp)

      Legal Requirements and Documentation for Setting up a Company in Abu Dhabi

      Setting up a company in Abu Dhabi involves adhering to specific legal requirements and documentation procedures. Essential steps typically include obtaining a trade name, securing necessary approvals, preparing the memorandum of association, and fulfilling licensing requirements. Additionally, documentation such as passport copies, visa details, and proof of initial capital may be required, varying based on the business structure and type.

      Emerging Sectors in the Abu Dhabi/UAE Economy

      Here are the most pivotal sectors shaping Abu Dhabi’s future:

      1. Renewable Energy: Abu Dhabi has been making significant strides in the renewable energy sector, particularly with projects like Masdar City and the commitment to sustainable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
      2. Technology and Innovation: The emirate has been actively promoting technology and innovation, fostering the growth of a knowledge-based economy. Initiatives like tech hubs, investment in research and development, and support for startups have been driving this sector.
      3. Healthcare and Life Sciences: Investments in healthcare infrastructure, medical research, and the life sciences industry have been a focus, positioning Abu Dhabi as a hub for advanced medical services, research, and pharmaceuticals.


      Setting up a company in Abu Dhabi's Mainland involves costs tied to business type, office space, and visa requirements. Essential expenses include one-time incorporation and legal fees, along with annual sponsor fees, government taxes, and visa fees for investors (three years) and employees (two years).

      For Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) in Abu Dhabi, the UAE law mandates investors to outline the capital value in the articles of incorporation and company statutes. However, it does not impose a minimum capital amount for LLCs.

      Certainly, a foreigner is permitted to initiate a business in Abu Dhabi, with the flexibility to choose between starting a business in the Mainland or opting for a Free Zone.

      • Commercial License
      • Tourism License
      • Occupational License
      • Industrial License
      • Professional License

      The city boasts top-notch infrastructure, attractive incentives, and tax advantages, along with convenient global access, ample resources, and a proficient labor pool – collectively positioning Abu Dhabi as one of the premier destinations for entrepreneurs seeking fresh prospects.


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