Company Formation


An investor looking to set up a company in the UAE has a number of options depending on their business’ needs. They have the option to set up a local company within Dubai or UAE or consider the incorporation in a number of free zones that operate in the region.  One crucial difference between a local company and an offshore company is that a local company requires a 51 percent local partner/s and it can sell and distribute products within the region. The free zone company license authorizes 100 percent ownership by foreign nationals but there are restrictions on the kind of services and goods they can deal in.

In a landscape as diverse as that of the UAE, especially when it pertains to setting up of companies, a new set up should look beyond the services of an ordinary business set up provider. A new business and its owners should be cautious and consider employing the expertise of a legal team that can assist not only with the setup of the company but are also well versed in UAE laws which can seem like a maze of paper work and red tape.

It serves to remember that licenses in the UAE are not generic and are instead specific to the nature of the business activity, and its location. There is, certainly, no ‘one size fits all’ approach and it would be prudent to ensure that your company is tailored to suit your needs. For instance, the Commercial Companies Law and the Trade Agencies Law is the primary federal legislative framework controlling commercial activities in the UAE, while each emirate and free zone has its own set of rules and regulations.

Our team provides expertise in establishing all types of business entities, both onshore and offshore, and special purpose vehicles (SPV’s) for special projects. We provide professional and personalized assistance to clients who wish to set up a business anywhere in the country, ensuring that applications meet the approval of authorities in respective jurisdictions. At TWS Legal Consultants, we also offer tailor made solutions to suit specific budgets.

Along with a confirmation that our team will help the process of setting up a business remarkably simple, you also get the added advantage of having qualified lawyers safeguarding your interests by fortifying these into the incorporation documents itself. Keeping your business innocuous and compliant with the changing policies in the region is fundamental to the advice we dispense. We ensure that your activities are following the rules and regulations at Federal, Emirate and Free Zone level.



The DED is the government body for registration and licensing of companies looking to operate in mainland Dubai.

The DED allows you flexibility to do business in any part of the UAE with local and government authorities. There is no limit on number of visas and you may have office premises anywhere in mainland Dubai. There are also fewer nationality restrictions in ownership and visas compared to other jurisdictions.

  • The DED allows you to set-up companies in partnership with a local sponsor for certain activities. Your shareholding would be 49% and the Local Sponsor would have a shareholding of 51%.
  • The DED also allows 100% shareholding for certain types of companies, especially for professional service providers such as Events Management, Accounts and Book-keeping etc. Here, even though you are 100% owner of the company you would be required to have a Local Service Agent to process Labour cards and visas for your business.

The TECOM Group operates sector-focused communities in Dubai known as the TECOM Business Communities. These Business Communities are essentially Free Zones, which issue their own licenses and allow added benefits to the businesses being set-up in their aegis.

Dubai Design District (D3)

d3 is a purpose-built master-plan development in Dubai dedicated to the design community including start-ups, entrepreneurs and established international design, retail, fashion, luxury and hospitality industries. d3 is backed by the establishment of the Dubai Design and Fashion Council by official decree. All companies setting-up businesses in the TECOM Business Communities are issued licenses by the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA).

Setting-up a company in d3 has the following advantages:

  • 100% Business Ownership – an expat can fully own the business without a requirement of a local partner and full repatriation of profits and capital.
  • Strategic Location – d3 is adjacent to the Business Bay area of Dubai. Easily accessible from Business Bay, Al Khail, Dubai-Al Ain and Dubai-Hatta roads.
  • World Class Business Hub – Dubai is perfectly situated to access the world’s developing economies, which makes it the ideal location to set up and grow the business in this region.
  • A Full Range of Business Activity Options – d3 mirrors majority of Dubai Department of Economic Development activities from retail, design to hospitality.

Dubai Internet City (DIC)

An information technology park created by the Government of Dubai as a free economic zone and a strategic base for companies targeting regional emerging markets, the economic rules of DIC allows companies to avail themselves of a number of ownership, taxation and customs related benefits which are guaranteed by law for a period of 50 years.

  • 100% Business Ownership – an expat can fully own the business without a requirement of a local partner and full repatriation of profits and capital.
  • Strategic Location – Located adjacent to the stunning Palm Jumeriah, Dubai Internet City is the largest ICT hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The free zone describes itself as a ‘creative collective engineered for innovation’ and is home to over 1,400 businesses of all sizes – from solo entrepreneurs and start-ups through to large multinationals.
  • Licensing options – One can start as a new business, as a Retailer, or expand your company and set-up a Branch office.

Dubai Media City (DMC)

DMC was launched in January 2001 to establish Dubai as the region’s leading media hub. DMC encompasses a media community of over 20,000 people working in over 2,000 regional and international media companies. The DMC is an excellent choice to register advertising, communication, media and marketing companies.

  • 100% Business Ownership: an expat can fully own the business without a requirement of a local partner and full repatriation of profits and capital.
  • Flexi-desk option: Allowing one visa per flexi-desk package makes the free zone ideal for freelancers and solo entrepreneurs – allowing them the freedom to make use of DMC’s many business facilities on an ad-hoc basis.
  • Licensing options: One can start business as Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ-LLC), as a Branch of a Foreign/UAE Company, or acquire a Freelance Permit.

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC)

A healthcare free economic zone, DHCC was mandated by the government to meet the demand for high-quality, patient-centered healthcare with the main aim of attracting tourists to Dubai for medical services and treatments. It provides a wide range of services in healthcare, medical education and research, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, wellness and allied support.

  • Unlike the other TECOM Free zones, DHCC Free Zone, issues its own Free-zone Commercial and Professional licenses.
  • A business may apply as a Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ-LLC), Branch of a UAE Company/Branch of a UAE Establishment, or as a Branch of a Foreign Company.
  • As a professional, you may apply for a Medical, Dental, Nursing, Allied Health or Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) License. One may also apply as Faculty or Trainee.

Dubai International Financial Centre

DIFC is a global financial centre providing a stable and secure platform for businesses and financial institutions to tap into the emerging markets of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. The Centre’s internationally recognised and independent regulation, common law framework, tax-friendly regime, and enabling environment make the ideal hub to access the region’s rapidly growing demand for financial and business services.

  • In the DIFC subsidiaries and incorporated entities enjoy 100% ownership.
  • An independent risk-based regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) grants licenses and regulates the activities of financial services conducted through DIFC.
  • DIFC offers a Common Law Framework, followed by the DFSA and the DIFC Courts.
  • DIFC provides a platform for businesses to centralise the regional and global management of operations, and their rollout to branches around the world.
  • DIFC provides a 40-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits, enhanced by the UAE’s wide network of double taxation avoidance treaties with regulators and central banks.
  • There are no restrictions on capital repatriations from the DIFC.

Dubai Airport Free Zone

DAFZA offers a wide range of business setup and administrative services to its prospective and existing clients. Located within DAFZA are all relevant government departments and private organizations that you need to access on a day to day basis to run your business smoothly. The one-stop shop concept brings together the dedicated Government Service Centre and private organizations such as Banks and Telecommunications companies to allow you to enjoy the ease of access and seamless processes. Companies operating at Dubai Airport Free Zone follow the free zone’s Registration Regulations. The Dubai Airport Free zone offers two different company formation types: Free Zone Company (FZCO) or Branch of an existing company.

  • DAFZA provides 24/7 customs services, rapid cargo clearance, a dedicated logistics centre and extensive cargo handling facilities.
  • No corporate tax, personal income tax or import and export tax
  • 100% foreign company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits and no currency restrictions.

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre

More than 14,100 companies, ranging from multinational corporations to start-ups call the DMCC Free Zone home. A further 170 companies join DMCC every month, 95% of which are new to Dubai. Whatever their size and status, every company is united in benefiting from unparalleled access to world-class business services, connections and infrastructure.

  • DMCC Free Zone companies enjoy zero taxes on corporate income and profits for 50 years.
  • 100% foreign ownership; you do not need a Local Partner to form a company in the DMCC unless your business is a pharmacy.
  • Simple set-up process.
  • Assistance with sponsorship of employees and many other UAE-government related services.
  • Wide range of affordable property choices

Dubai South

Dubai South is projected to sustain a population of a million. As an economic platform, it is designed to support every conceivable kind of business and industry and create 500,000 jobs. It is home to the world’s largest airport in the making – the Al Maktoum International Airport – and is host landmark events such as World Expo 2020 and the Dubai Airshow. Launched as a Government of Dubai project in 2006, Dubai South is easily accessed from downtown Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


Hamriyah Free Zone

Hamriyah Free Zone Authority was established by a decree issued in November 12, 1995. Hamriyah Free Zone is challenged to provide competitive incentives and unique opportunities to establish a business in a tax-free environment, full company ownership, exemptions from all commercial levies and repatriation of capital and profits. The free zone manages an area of approximately twenty-two million square meters of prime industrial and commercial land and a 14-meter-deep water port which includes room for expansion.

  • The Hamriyah Free Zone provides access to 14-meter-deep water port and 7-meter-deep inner harbor.
  • Land lease for 25 years; which can be renewed for a similar period.
  • Pre-built warehouses, factories and office units for lease.
  • Transportation via road, 3 sea ports and Sharjah International airport.
  • Abundant and inexpensive energy (Electricity: $0.05 per KWA, Water: $8.17 per 1000 Gallons).
  • 100% foreign company ownership.
  • No commercial levies or personal income tax, 100% repatriation of capital and profits.

Sharjah Airport Free Zone

Sharjah Airport International Free Zone or “SAIF-ZONE” gives personal and corporate tax-free income with no import export duties. Leasing of Warehouses, storage areas, container parking, bunkers and labour housing are all available.

  • As with other free-zones SAIF Zone provides 100% foreign ownership.
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profits.
  • 100% free transfer of funds.


Creative City Fujairah

Since its launch in 2007, Creative City sets up professional environment for individuals and businesses working in a broad spectrum of business fields including media, events, consulting, education, communication and marketing, music and entertainment, design and technology complementing existing media clusters in the region and further facilitating creativity in all fields.

  • Creative City provides 100% ownership of business.
  • No Capital requirements or taxes.
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profits.
  • No mandatory office lease.
  • No mandatory auditing requirements

Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ)

FFZ is located near the Port of Fujairah and Fujairah International Airport which is the only airport serving the UAE East Coast as well as northern Oman.

FFZ offers a unique Connectivity – logistic link to the world; by air through Fujairah International Airport, by sea through Fujairah Sea Port, and by road to Middle East & beyond. Investors benefit by way of faster transaction, accruing due to shorter delivery times. FFZ offers cheaper tariffs and minimum start up time.

  • FFZ Licenses can be issued within one working day.
  • 100% Foreign Ownership.
  • No import duties, corporate or personal income tax.
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profits.

Ras Al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone

Based in the heart of Ras Al Khaimah, Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) was established to oversee and consolidate the specialized parks and clients of both Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) and RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA).

  • For Free Zone entities RAKEZ provides the 100% ownership of business and profit repatriation.
  • Zero income and corporate taxation.
  • Access to local markets through a local agent.
  • No customs duty on re-exported goods.
  • Freedom to source labour.

RAK Maritime City

To envision the combination of unrivalled port and free zone facilities, a conveniently-located logistics gateway, superb infrastructure, flexible company set-up frameworks and smart support services is to get a glimpse into the host of business possibilities that awaits you at RAK Maritime City Free Zone Authority, one of the Middle East’s most progressive business hubs.

RAK Maritime City Free Zone covers an area of several million square meters, divided into zoned plots which can accommodate businesses of varying size and across multiple industrial sectors. It’s strategic position as the nearest Free Zone the Strait of Hormuz has unique advantages in terms of fuel cost savings for tenants, and it has good port functionality and features in terms of entrance draft depth, deep-water berths, exclusive jetties and available quay wall.

  • The RAK Maritime city has no tax regime in force.
  • The is no limit on foreign ownership of companies.
  • Freedom to source labour, with RAK Maritime City Free Zone acting as nominal sponsor for residency purposes.


Ajman Free Zone

Ajman Free Zone is a free trade zone in Ajman, one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates located on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf. The zone was established in 1988 and was granted autonomous status under the Amiri decree No. 3 of 1996 issued by Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, ruler of Ajman. Ajman Free Zone Authority has been named as the sole regulatory agency for Free Zone in the Ajman.

  • Ajman Free Zone offers 100% ownership of establishment/company.
  • Easy transfer of capital and profits.
  • Exemption from personal income tax, other taxes, import and export duties.
  • Competitive prices on facility usage.
  • Competitive prices for power/electricity.
  • Competitive prices on leasing.
  • One-stop counter service for effecting transactions (Residency, visa’s etc.).
  • Fast and easy procedures and in most cases get the license within 24 hours.

Umm Al Quwain

Umm Al Quwain Free Zone Authority

UAQ FTZ is situated close to the UAE’s primary sea ports and within one hour’s drive of Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport. SMEs and micro-businesses in particular can benefit from advantageous set-up costs, 100% company ownership and zero currency restrictions.

Offshore Jurisdictions

The British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands or simply “Virgin Islands” are a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, to the east of Puerto Rico. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

The Virgin Islands have historically been a good place to set-up both financial and non-financial offshore companies for the ease of registration and licensing, low license renewal costs and confidentiality of corporate structure. However, recently, with the advent of the Financial Services Commission the laws for company set-up have become more stringent, and transparency of corporate structure is now enforced.

However, the financial services and ease of setting-up a company in the Virgin Islands continue to be excellent.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis, also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country in the West Indies. Located in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles, it is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population. The country is a Commonwealth realm.

Nevis offers companies and individuals ideal conditions for those looking to form a offshore company in an English-speaking jurisdiction, with a stable democracy, an easy-to-understand legal system founded on British Common Law together with a modernized corporate climate and an open economy. In addition to being known as one of the most flexible tax havens for offshore company formation.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands were once part of the British Empire as a colony and then became a British Overseas Territory.  English is the primary language in the Caymans.  English common law has always been the standard for its judicial system. Cayman Islands is a good choice among international investment fund managers and investors. The popularity of the exempted company is principally as a result of the Cayman Islands being rightly recognized as a stable jurisdiction for structuring international investments. Cayman Offshore Companies have no direct taxes of any kind. There are no corporation, capital gains, income, profits or withholding taxes. The law protects the confidentiality of the Shareholder, Director of the companies registered here.


Seychelles officially the Republic of Seychelles, is an archipelago and sovereign state in the Indian Ocean. The 115-island country, whose capital is Victoria, lies 1,500 kilometres east of mainland East Africa.

Seychelles provides an excellent business environment since the country serves not only well as an offshore jurisdiction but also as a regional business hub. Seychelles provides many advantages to businesses in the offshore sector due to its pro-active and stable government, modern business approach and modern reliable infrastructure as well-being strategically situated.

The Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA) is essentially a one-stop shop, licensing and regulating offshore activities. It is the Registrar of International Business companies and International Trusts and regulates International Trade Zone activities in Seychelles.To book a consultation with one of our experienced corporate lawyers today for more details. Email us at or call +971 4 448 4284.