Over 2000 companies were formed in the DMCC Free Zone alone in 2015 and with 12 free zones in Dubai, it’s fair to say that company set up in the region is significant. And that’s not including the 22,691 business licences issued in the same year by the Department of Economic Development (DED).

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While business in the region has always been lucrative, thanks to a combination of an ever-ready consumer market and great global connectivity, Dubai’s win to host Expo 2020 only made this piece of the pie even more appealing to business start-ups across the globe.

Whether you’re a resident keen on setting up your own business or are currently overseas and looking to open up an office in Dubai, the emirate offers various ownership options and we can help find the best one for you.

1. Free zone options

Free zone ownership allows for 100% ownership by a foreign national or entity and while the process is known to be relatively time-consuming, certain company types can now be set up within a week, depending on specific business requirements in terms of staffing, premises and third part approvals. Free zone companies are generally regulated by the respective regulatory authorities such as the DMCC or DIFC, but based on the nature of business, certain companies require external regulation from bodies such as the Central Bank, DFSA, Health Authority and so on.

2. Offshore options

Offshore ownership also allows for 100% ownership by foreign nationals. These wealth management companies, also called ‘special purpose’ companies, are quick in terms of set-up and are traditionally used as internationally recognised asset holding vehicles or for facilitating specific transactions.

An offshore company and a free zone company differ in terms of jurisdiction and while there is no need for a physical presence or office when it comes to offshore ownership, the company cannot trade in, or conduct business within the UAE market.

[Related: Setting up a business in UAE? Here’s what you need to know]

3. Local sponsorship

Local sponsorship requires that a national own the licence to the extent of at least 51%. While this is not a service offered at Vital Corporate Solutions, we highly recommend finding a sponsor who has sufficient knowledge and expertise in your field of industry so as to best represent you and your business, as and when required.

This article is written by Amanda Perry, Managing Director of Vital Corporate Solutions.

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