Set up your Mainland Company
Mainland Company Formation in Dubai
Is the Mainland company the right choice for you? Choose from over 3,000 business activities and enjoy the freedom to trade anywhere in the UAE and overseas.
Table of Contents
Mainland Company Formation in Dubai
What exactly is a UAE mainland company and why is it so important to have one? A mainland company is a company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) in the relevant Emirate of the United Arab Emirates. Here’s a summary of the benefits of forming a mainland UAE company, plus a guide to mainland company formation in Dubai!
Benefits of mainland company formation in Dubai
There are many benefits to establishing a mainland company. This company structure ensures a prosperous future in your professional ventures. Mainland companies offer a broad scope of trade, 100% ownership and location flexibility. These are some of the reasons why entrepreneurs look to establish a mainland company in the UAE.
Location flexibility and zero trade restrictions
A UAE mainland company has no restrictions on trade between other businesses and has no limits on location. Mainland companies can also offer services to the government, or trade directly with consumers from anywhere in the UAE. Forming a mainland company also allows businesses to open multiple branches, building a strong presence throughout the Emirates.
Broad working scope
Mainland businesses are also in a position to undertake a wide scope of work. When you’re wanting to diversify your offering within the mainland, simply re-register the new business activity with the DED and you’re ready to trade freely.
Access to lucrative government contracts
Any incentive for mainland company formation in Dubai is that government tenders are big business in the UAE. In recent years, the Abu Dhabi Executive Council approved AED 17.5bn (USD 4.76bn) of spending on government projects, including over AED 4bn on infrastructure. Approximately AED 2bn was allocated for education and a combined AED 1.2bn on upgrades to governmental and social facilities. As an established mainland company in Dubai, you’ll be well positioned to take advantage of such lucrative government contracts.
100% ownership control
Traditionally, 100% foreign ownership of a UAE company was only possible under two circumstances:
- When setting up in a free zone or
- When establishing a professional services company in the mainland (Sole Establishment or Civil Company)
In recent years, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has allowed 100% foreign ownership of mainland companies in the UAE. This has been a welcome change for prospective overseas investors looking to conduct business in the Emirates. This is great news for international investors new to the Emirates. 100% foreign ownership means business owners can get straight down to business, without the need to canvass for an Emirati company or individual to act as a partner. 100% foreign ownership of mainland UAE business provides incredible potential for the UAE’s growth-machine economy to foreign investors. However, certain strategic sectors, such as oil and gas, still require a local partner.
Switching from free zone to mainland company formation in Dubai
If you’re currently set up within a free zone business structure and considering the leap to forming a mainland company, we’re here to help. Over 30,000 companies currently trade from the three biggest UAE free zones. Foreign entrepreneurs can set up in a free zone and enjoy the conveniences of pre-packed business inclusions. Yet there are limitations on this model for business owners. While free zone companies form an ideal starting point for UAE businesses, when it’s time to expand, it’s time to make the switch to a mainland company. Switching to a mainland company is crucial for business prosperity. With the right UAE national sponsor or company formation specialist, moving from a free zone to the UAE mainland is a shrewd and manageable move.
Mainland company formation checklist
It’s time for your business setup checklist. Let’s get your venture off to a successful start!
1. Choose your business activity
The first thing to decide before you set up a company in the UAE mainland is the industry in which you will trade. There are thousands of permitted business activities as listed by the Department of Economic Development (DED). Some of these include trading, agriculture, hospitality and manufacturing. Unlike many free zone businesses that are restricted from certain activities based on their location, mainland businesses are free to trade in any of the 2000+ DED-listed activities.
2. Find your ideal location
Once you’ve decided your business activity, the next step is to decide where you wish to operate. Businesses in the UAE mainland incur no restrictions on where they can set up. The right location will depend on many factors such as budgeting and your chosen business activity. Should your company rely on imports and exports, then setting up near one of the UAE’s busy ports – Jebel Ali, Mina Zayed or Mina Khalid – makes perfect business sense. Another advantage of mainland business setup in Dubai is the ease of opening branch offices. This means businesses are not limited to one location and can build a large local presence over time.
3. Determine your business legal structure
From a legal standpoint, there are several types of businesses that can be set up by foreign entrepreneurs on the UAE mainland. The most common mainland business structure is a Limited Liability Company (LLC). An LLC is an independent legal entity owned by two or more shareholders. A business wishing to trade under a commercial or industrial licence (including industrial and manufacturing activities) must form an LLC to set up a company in the UAE mainland. This would require a local sponsor. By contrast, setting up a professional service company does not require a foreign sponsor and can be 100% foreign-owned. More on this next!
4. Obtain a local sponsor or local service agent
Previously, foreign entrepreneurs could only manage mainland company formation in Dubai by partnering with either a sponsor or local service agent. If trading under a commercial or industrial licence as an LLC then a local sponsor is required. Your local sponsor can either be a UAE national or a UAE-based company. In both cases, the local sponsor will own 51% of the business.
Masar Al Ameen can provide you with a Corporate Nominee to act as your Local Partner. This allows you to retain 100% operational and financial control of the business and protects you against any risk. When setting up a professional company in the mainland, only a local service agent (LSA) is required. The LSA will not own any share of the business and will only act as a representative in all administrative dealings and with the government.
5. Name your company
Deciding on a company name that conveys your brand and professional values is one of the most important business decisions an entrepreneur can make. In the UAE, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Offensive language, religious references or inferences to other organisations are all forbidden. Only full personal names can be included in your company name. When it comes to your company name in different languages, all names must be written as they are sounded out, rather than translated. To know all the guidelines on naming your company, check our Choosing a Company Name in the UAE guide.
6. Apply for a mainland trade licence
Now it’s time to apply for a mainland trade licence with the DED. Several documents are required as part of a trade license application. These include a licence application; memorandum of sponsor arrangements; and ownership percentage among all partners and shareholder visas, just to name a few.
7. Secure your office space
Once you’ve obtained a business trading licence, it’s time to secure an office space. In the UAE mainland, serviced offices are usually owned and maintained by a third party and contain everything you need to move in immediately. Desks, phone and internet access and reception services are some usual inclusions. Your lease payment would usually cover rent, use of office equipment and utility bills. The other end of the spectrum is a ‘shell and core’ type of office space. This usually requires a full fit-out and decoration, with bills on top of rent costs. A middle ground exists too, with office spaces pre-fitted, where the business owner simply provides their own equipment and pays bills separately.
8. Apply for relevant visas
There’s no limit with mainland visa applications for business owners in the UAE mainland. But the number of visas applied for should correspond with the amount of office space required. Usually, 100 sq. ft. of office or warehouse space per visa is the rule. There are circumstances where this may not be applicable. For example, if the business is a domestic cleaning company with 500+ employees working remotely, the office space needs would be decidedly smaller compared to a textiles or manufacturing company. As the owner of a UAE mainland company, you will also be able to sponsor dependents – such as family members and domestic staff (maids or drivers, for example) for their visas as well. Foreign entrepreneurs who establish business on the UAE mainland are also entitled to an investment visa which gives them and their families the right to live and work in the UAE for up to three years.
9. Partner with a Company Setup Consultant
Setting up a mainland company in the UAE requires a deep understanding of the legal and company formation process. Working with a UAE-based consultant helps take the stress out of setting up a company for overseas entrepreneurs. A business consultant can collaborate with you and understand your business goals. This will help you feel confident in starting a successful business in the UAE mainland.
Local or corporate sponsorship
Find a Sponsor
Our corporate nominee sponsorship programme allows you to have 100% beneficial ownership and 100% operational and financial control.
Setting Up Your UAE Company Starts with Masar Al Ameen
One of the most common questions asked by first-time entrepreneurs in this part of the world is whether they need a local sponsor in Dubai. The answer depends on many factors, including your nationality and the type of business you wish to set up.
If you’re a non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) national looking to set up a business with a commercial or industrial licence on the UAE mainland, then yes, you will need to partner with a local sponsor. If, however, you are setting up in a free zone, or your business activity is covered by a professional services licence, a local sponsor is not required.
If your business does require a local sponsor, Masar Al Ameen is on hand to help.
First, you’ll need to establish a mainland LLC—of which you retain 49% ownership with the other 51% going to the local sponsor. Rest assured, however, that profits are not split along the same lines and your local partner will have little-to-no say in the day-to-day running of your company.
Choosing a Local Sponsor in Dubai – The Corporate Option
At Masar Al Ameen, we understand that many entrepreneurs find the concept of engaging a local sponsor and passing off a 51% share of their company worrying. That’s why our corporate sponsorship service is designed to give you complete peace of mind.
By partnering with Masar Al Ameen, there’s no need to spend time searching for and building a rapport with an individual. Instead, we’ll provide a premier corporate nominee to act as your 51% local sponsor in Dubai.
Our main objective is to give you 100% financial and operational control, while protecting your shareholder rights in your LLC company. The agreements and documents we use are drafted by first-tier legal counsel, and have been tried and tested for over a decade. We’ll make sure you’re armed with all the documentation you need to protect your business and secure the financial rights of your business.
No interference from the sponsor
With corporate sponsorship, entrepreneurs maintain complete control over their business, despite the sponsor holding a narrow majority of shares.
As a rule, corporate sponsors do not get involved in the day-to-day running of the company, allowing business owners to continue to have full management of their staff, clients, and service offering
We’ll do all the heavy lifting—that’s what makes us the premier business setup consultants in Dubai and the UAE. Masar Al Ameen is a one-stop-shop for company formation. We manage the process from start to finish, meaning you don’t have to meet with countless government authorities to get your business up and running.
In-depth proactive contracts
Side agreements are often a difficult part of the process. Luckily, this is another area in which corporate sponsorship may be advantageous. Many corporate sponsors offer detailed contracts drafted by first-tier legal counsel, so that the rights of business owners and their shareholders are fully protected.
Masar Al Ameen provides a premier corporate nominee to act as your 51% local sponsor in Dubai. Our main objective is to give you 100% financial and operational control, whilst protecting your shareholder rights in your LLC company. The agreements and documents used are drafted by first-tier legal counsel, and they have been tried and tested for nearly 10 years and adapted over time to remain cutting edge.We believe our corporate nominee is the best available product in the market. Our sponsorship services will provide you with all the documentation to protect your business and secure the financial rights of your company.
Operating since 2009, our team of 100 employees provides the combined resources necessary to deliver ongoing support in company formation, licence renewal, visa services and much more. We are truly a one-stop shop for company formation and our clients appreciate having a dedicated relationship manager to assist with all their corporate services needs.
In addition to LLC companies we are able to assist you in establishing any of the below entities in the UAE mainland:
- Representative Office
- Sole Establishment
- Civil Company
Choose the right Mainland License
Our experts will assist you in choosing the most appropriate and cost-effective mainland license for your business, whether it is commercial, industrial, or professional.
All mainland commercial activities in the UAE require a license in one of these categories as a minimum.
To conduct business in the UAE’s mainland and free zone jurisdictions, entrepreneurs and corporations must first get a trade license. A trade license assures your customers that you are a respectable company that follows all local rules and regulations.
When starting a new business in the UAE, you need to acquire the right trade license to ensure that your company is set up properly for the long-term. The type of business, company structure and jurisdiction where you will operate can affect the license you need to acquire and the requirements applicable to you.
Below are the three types of trade licenses that you need to consider as you start a mainland business in Dubai:
Forms of Mainland Trade License
Professional Trade License
Before enterprises and entrepreneurs can be authorized to provide professional services to clients, the UAE government needs them to get a professional license from the Department of Economic Development (DED).
Professional licensing certifies that a person or business is qualified to provide services in a specific field. In order to receive these licenses, the individual must typically demonstrate particular abilities or training.
To open a business in Dubai, all experts, specialists, craftsmen, and artisans must first get a professional trade license.
A professional license can be used to construct a variety of business formations, including: A Limited Liability Company (LLC) in which a local sponsor owns 51% of the company; and a Civil Company and a Sole Establishment in which the foreign investor(s) possess 100% of the company.
However a UAE national must be designated as a local service agent (LSA) to complete the legal processes while forming a Civil Company or a Sole Establishment.
Commercial Trade License
A company dealing with buying and selling of goods and commodities, or any kind of trade activities, requires a commercial trade license to operate in the UAE. This license can be used to form a limited liability company (LLC) or set up a sole establishment, and it can be used for both specialised trading and general trading activities in the UAE.
There are different types of commercial trade licenses in the UAE. You must apply for the correct type of commercial trade license that will permit you to carry out trading activities specific to your business.
Broadcast and communications companies, rental transportation services, retail companies, construction companies, healthcare businesses, real estate businesses, and other general trading entities also need to apply for a commercial trade license.
Industrial Trade License
Businesses wishing to engage in industrial or manufacturing-related activities in the UAE must first get an industrial trade license, which allows them to engage in activities such as processing natural materials or combining natural resources into their end products.
The DED issues this license, however depending on the industrial activity, additional permissions from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, and other agencies may be required.
Requirements to get UAE Trade License
To obtain a trade license in the United Arab Emirates, one must first meet the following legal requirements:
- Determine whether your business is professional, commercial, or industrial;
- Decide on the type of business you want to run;
- Determine the company entity’s legal structure;
- Choose a trade name for your company;
Get experienced assistance in launching your new business in Dubai.
It’s challenging to keep track of all the licenses and permits that pertain to your company. As a result, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a company setup expert to ensure that you meet all of your venture’s licensing and regulatory needs.
Masar Al Ameen, the UAE’s top corporate service provider, can assist you in obtaining the appropriate trade license for your business, ensuring that you are well-positioned for future growth and success. Masar Al Ameen also offers value-added business support services to assist your business get off to a good start and grow in a competitive market.
Do you require assistance in selecting a trade license for your company? Please contact us as soon as possible so that our team can assist you.
UAE Mainland Visas
UAE Visa Requirements
Whether you need employment visas for your team or residence visas for your family members, we will ensure all your UAE visa requirements are met – expediently.
- Employees of private enterprises can receive fresh employment entrance permits if they apply for residence visa status within 30 days of their arrival in the UAE.
- The employment visa will be valid for three years if your company is registered in a free zone.
- The visa will be valid for two years if your company is registered onshore.
- It is also the employer’s job to ensure that all travel arrangements for the new employee are made, including the “permission to board” that some airlines may demand.
Family Residency Visas
You must first apply for an entrance residence visa if your family members live outside the UAE. You have up to 30 days after they arrive to apply for a residence stamp.
Your monthly wage must be at least AED 4,000. (or AED 3,000 plus accommodation). If you want to sponsor your parents for a residency visa, you must earn at least AED 20,000 per month (or AED 19,000 plus a two-bedroom accommodation).
- Typed application form.
- For government employees, a salary certificate or an authenticated work contract is required (other employees).
- For long-term residents, three months’ worth of bank statements are required. The most recent month may be submitted by new residents, but they must provide a bank letter confirming pay transfer.
- Tenancy contract attestation, Emirates ID card, and labor card
- For spouse sponsorship, a marriage certificate that has been attested by UAE authorities (for UAE marriages) or in your home country.
- Passports (original) and copies of both sponsor and family member(s).
- A medical check-up report from an authorised hospital or clinic for your spouse or children above the age of 15.
- Three passport photos per family member.
- Please keep in mind that your family member’s residency visa will expire if he or she leaves the UAE for more than six months. If a Muslim expatriate marries more than one woman, he is only eligible for one residency visa.
Launching Mainland Business Activities
Setting up a company on the mainland allows you to choose from over 3,000 different business activities. Allow us to assist you with your mainland business establishment.
Mainland Business Activities
A mainland company license allows you to participate in tens of thousands of different commercial activities. If your business idea falls under two distinct licenses, activities can be bundled together. Special approval from the relevant government department is required for specific activities, and Masar Al Ameen will take you through the process from start to finish.
Popular Mainland Activities
|Gym||Gyms, gymnasiums, and health clubs can be organized as professional licenses or limited liability companies (LLCs).|
|Hospitality||Food and beverage establishments such as cafes, bars, and restaurants are covered under hospitality permits.|
|Import-Export||These licenses allow you to trade directly with mainland customers without the use of distributors.|
|Retail||Retail licenses cover anything from clothes businesses to book stores in malls and other venues.|
|Event and Entertainment||Event management and planning licenses are available for both private and public events.|
|Manufacturing||Manufacturing licenses cover the production of items in the UAE for local and international distribution.|
|Healthcare||The Dubai Health Authority requires special clearance for healthcare licenses.|