If you are thinking about starting a new business in Dubai as a foreigner, you’re likely feeling overwhelmed by the prospect. However, despite your assumptions, opening a new business in Dubai is actually relatively straight forward.

Certainly, it’s not without red tape and there is an awful lot of time and research involved, however, as long as you follow the necessary steps, you shouldn’t run into too much complication. Here’s a quick look at where to begin…

1. Know your industry

It might seem like a daft place to start, however, you must give some serious thought to which industry you want to invest in. This will impact where in Dubai you are able to establish your business as there are a number of ‘sector-specific’ free zones that cater to certain markets (e.g., a digital marketing agency in Dubai would be best suited to the Meydan Free Zone).

You likely already have a good idea of the type of business you want to start – but make sure you do some further research into the competition, and indeed where you can establish yourself.

2. Choose your name wisely

The UAE is relatively strict when it comes to naming businesses so be mindful of the rules before you get too excited and start investing in branding and logo design.

3. Fill out the appropriate incorporation paperwork

Once you’ve thought about industry, location, and an appropriate name, it’s time to start the application process. You will need:

  • Shareholder passport copies
  • Business plan (depending on the zone)
  • Non-objection certificate (NOC)
  • Letter from your sponsor (confirming your eligibility for starting a business in the UAE)

Once all the details are gathered and the paperwork is filled out, triple check it and submit for review and approval (we’d recommend hiring the professionals to assist you – including the appropriate legal representation throughout).

4. Apply for your business licence

Once your incorporation application has been approved, the next step is relatively straight forward and doesn’t require all that much in the way of paperwork. You simply fill out a few standard docs and provide the essentials.

5. Open a business bank account

Obviously, you’re going to need a UAE business bank account before you can start trading. You’ll be looking at a 2 to 4-week process and will need to provide you 

Chosen bank with the following details:

  • Your primary business areas
  • Anticipated volume of currency
  • Total deposits to be made
  • Average revenue levels
  • Your primary customers & suppliers

6. Apply for the appropriate visa

Finally, you’ll need the appropriate visa so that you can both remain and do business in Dubai legally. If you are applying only for yourself then it is a relatively painless process, however, if you have children or a spouse moving with you, it’s almost certainly worth calling in the professionals to take you through the application process.

For an individual, the process is as follows:

  • Apply for your entry permit
  • Carry out status adjustment
  • Take medical fitness test
  • Register your Emirates ID
  • Visa stamping

7. Familiarise yourself with the culture and business etiquette

To be honest, this point should probably be your first step…

Before committing to starting a new business in Dubai and uprooting your life to move there, you should take the time to immerse yourself in the culture and make certain that it is a lifestyle that you are going to be happy with.

Of course, doing business varies from country to country so it is always worth knowing the various intricacies and etiquette when dealing with UAE businesses. This will put you in good stead for a successful start to new relationships.

Final thoughts

As you can see, while there is a fair amount of red tape, so long as you do your due-diligence, establishing a new business in Dubai is no more complicated than it is in any other country.

Just remember that not every new start up is guaranteed to win. Familiarise yourself with the main reasons why new start-ups often fail and do your best to avoid making similar mistakes.

Do all this, and there’s a good chance that your new business—and new life—in Dubai will be bound for success. 

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