The Initial Steps in Setting a New On-Shore and Off-Shore Business in Dubai

Setting up new onshore and offshore businesses in Dubai involves different processes and requirements. Set out below are the initial steps for each type of business.

Onshore Business Setup

  1. Determine the Business Activity and Legal Structure: Identify the business activity you wish to undertake and determine the appropriate legal structure for your company. Options include Limited Liability Company (LLC), Sole Establishment, Civil Company or Branch of a Foreign Company.
  2. Choose a Business Name: Select a unique and relevant name for your company. Ensure that the proposed name adheres to the naming conventions set by the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai.
  3. Engage with Local Partner or Service Agent: If you opt for an LLC or Civil Company structure, you will typically require a local partner or service agent who will own a certain percentage of the company. Engage with a reliable local partner or service agent and define the terms of the partnership through a legal agreement.
  4. Obtain Initial Approvals and Permissions: Submit the necessary documents to the DED, along with the application for initial approvals and permissions. This may include obtaining preliminary approvals from relevant authorities based on the nature of your business activity.
  5. Prepare the Memorandum of Association (MOA): Draft the MOA, which outlines the company’s activities, shareholding structure, and other relevant details. This document must be notarized and registered with the DED.
  6. Lease Office Space: Secure office premises in Dubai that meet the requirements set by the DED for your business activity. Obtain the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities.
  7. Register with the DED and Obtain Trade License: Submit the completed application along with the required documents to the DED. Upon approval, pay the applicable fees and obtain the trade license.

Offshore Business Setup

  1. Choose the Offshore Jurisdiction: Decide on the offshore jurisdiction within the UAE where you wish to establish your business. Dubai offers two offshore jurisdictions: Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) Offshore and Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) International Corporate Centre (RAKICC) Offshore.
  2. Engage with a Registered Agent: Appoint a registered agent who will facilitate the offshore company setup process. They will guide you through the necessary steps and handle the required documentation.
  3. Select a Company Name: Choose a unique name for your offshore company. The proposed name should comply with the naming guidelines of the respective offshore jurisdiction.
  4. Prepare the Incorporation Documents: Provide the necessary information and documents, such as passport copies, address proof, and shareholder details, to the registered agent. They will prepare the incorporation documents, including the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
  5. Pay the Required Fees: Pay the incorporation and annual fees associated with setting up an offshore company in the chosen jurisdiction.
  6. Obtain the Offshore License and Certificate of Incorporation: Once the documentation is complete and the fees are paid, the registered agent will submit the application for the offshore license and certificate of incorporation.
  7. Open a Bank Account: After obtaining the necessary documents, you can proceed to open a corporate bank account for your offshore company.

Notwithstanding the above, specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on the nature of the business, the chosen jurisdiction and any additional regulatory requirements. We therefore always recommended that our clients engage professional consultants or company formation experts who can guide them through the setup process and ensure compliance with the applicable laws and regulations.

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