Toll Free: 800-SLiDE (75433)

Free zones & how to grow your business with them in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has long been an attractive destination for entrepreneurs around the world. With low taxes, a strategic location in the heart of the world’s largest and fastest-growing market, and governments dedicated to promoting and supporting businesses, it’s not hard to understand why. But, while these are outstanding factors, there is another important reason why so many people flock to the UAE coast to do business- free zones.

So what is a free zone?

 Also known as a free trade area – a Freezone is basically an economic area where goods and services can be traded at tax breaks. These were originally introduced to boost international business in the region by offering benefits such as 100% foreign ownership of the company. The United Arab Emirates currently has 45 free trade areas.

 Over the years, the UAE Free Zone has evolved to provide greater profits to the businesses within it. Many free zones correspond to a particular industry. For example, Dubai Healthcare City serves the healthcare industry, but the JAFZA Free Zone Authority is favored by importers and exporters because it has a direct link to the region’s largest port.

What does this all mean for your business?

 The concept of free zones provides your business with many benefits. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to establish a business in one of the free zones in the UAE:

 Easy setup: The setup process in most free zones is very simple. The exact application process depends on your business activity and the free trade area you have selected, but in many cases, you only need to provide basic documentation such as a passport or a copy of your business documentation. The entire process only takes a week or two. Many free zones also offer flexidesk and virtual packages that allow you to use free zone addresses and features on an ad hoc basis.

 Taxes and Obligations: This is probably the most influential reason to choose a free zone: taxation. If you are in a free trade area, your company will not only benefit from 0% corporate and personal tax but is currently exempt from 5% VAT., and that’s not all. Free zone companies are also exempt from import and export taxes and can trade without currency restrictions.

 Foreign Ownership: Another awesome advantage to establishing in the free zone is foreign ownership. Most foreign entrepreneurs who want to establish a position in the United Arab Emirates need to work with their local partners to do business. This is not the case in the UAE Free Zone. Start your business here and retain 100% ownership.  In the UAE Freezones, companies are not allowed to trade directly with the UAE local market, which can be easily overcome. One option is to work with a locally appointed distributor who can sell your goods and services for a fee. Alternatively, you can set up a Free Zone Company and a Free Zone Company branch throughout  Emirates at a later date. These branches can be used to market and do business in the United Arab Emirates.

 Support and Assistance:

Free Zone Authorities are ready to provide you with support during and after the company setup. Most free trade areas provide visa application support to both shareholders and their dependents, such as spouses and domestic workers. Many also help you open a corporate bank account, advise on the bank that best suits your needs, and even arrange branch meetings for you. From the perspective of ongoing business support, it is not uncommon for Freezone to provide business consulting and networking services. There are also growth initiatives to help you access startup hubs.

Privacy: Finally, a free zone is for entrepreneurs who value privacy because there is no public record of corporate ownership, and corporate information such as shareholder data is not disclosed to the public.

How to set up your company in a Freezone

 If you are convinced of the benefits of doing business in a free trade area, there is even better news. Only 5 simple steps are required to get you and your business all set up…

 Step 1: Select a business activity. You can choose from a list of more than 100 activities, and one license allows you to select multiple activities. Your business activities will help you decide both the cost of your license application and the freezone that best suits your needs.

 Second step: Enter your company name. Determining a company name can be difficult anywhere in the world, but here in the United Arab Emirates, there are specific rules regarding naming conventions that require you to get the job done as soon as possible. There are a few things to remember. Offensive words are prohibited. The company name cannot contain religious references or references to well-known organizations (everything from “FBI” to “Mafia”). There are several other quirks in the United Arab Emirates naming process, so it’s a good idea to work with your company’s founding specialists to determine a compliant name and see if you can register.

 Step 3: Complete the paperwork and submit the application. Incorporating in the United Arab Emirates Free Zone usually requires some standard documentation. Completed application forms, copies of shareholder passports, etc. In some free zones, you may be required to submit a business plan. Again, to avoid unnecessary delays, we encourage you to work with a company formation specialist who can make sure everything is in place before submitting your application.

 At this stage, we encourage you to work with a business formation specialist who can ensure that everything is right.

Step four: Licence notification and opening bank account. You’ll be notified as soon as your licence application is approved so you can collect your corporate documents and get to work. With this paperwork in hand you can open your corporate bank account and start trading. Your chosen free zone can usually help you with finding a suitable bank, as can a company formation specialist. Alternatively, you’re welcome to approach any financial institution on your own.

Step five: Visa processing. The final step in the business setup process is immigration and visa processing. Free zone authorities or a company formation specialist can manage this process on your behalf – assisting with your application and liaising with relevant government departments.

So, still wondering “what is a free zone?” That’s all there is to it. All that’s required is a few hours of your time and some basic documentation and you could be trading from a UAE Freezone and reaping all the benefits that come with it – in just a couple of weeks.

Setting up your own business has never been easier. Slide Corporate takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 54 323 5060, send an email to, click here. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *