How to Start a Business in Dubai or the UAE as a Foreigner or Non-Resident

July 12, 2022
Start a Business in Dubai or the UAE as a foreigner

Companies from all over the world are shifting business to the UAE – and savvy entrepreneurs looking to start a successful business are following suit. If you’re considering making the move, this article will explore how to start a business in Dubai and the UAE as a foreigner or non-resident. We will discuss the following topics:

  • Why start your business in the UAE?
  • Types of business licenses in the UAE for foreigners
  • Do you really need a sponsor to start a business in the UAE?
  • Steps to starting a business in Dubai or the UAE as a foreigner or non-resident
  • Cost of starting a business in Dubai or the UAE
  • Why choose SPC Free Zone?

Why Start your Business in the UAE?

Dubai and the UAE have fast become one of the world’s most popular destinations for forward-thinking entrepreneurs and business owners. Why? As well as boasting one of the  fastest-growing and most diverse economies, the region is dedicated to stimulating entrepreneurship and driving business success. Dubai and the UAE offer a whole string of benefits, which we will explore below:

A stable currency

The United Arab Emirates dirham – AED – has been used as the region’s official currency since 1973 and is one of the world’s most stable currencies in terms of exchange rate stability. In fact, it has been pegged to the US dollar since 1997 at an exchange rate of 1 US dollar to 3.6725 AED.

Tax-efficient economy

Savvy entrepreneurs and business owners can maximise profits in the UAE thanks to one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world. Business owners pay low income tax, no VAT on residential property if they’re operating from a free zone.

Easy connectivity

Strategically located in the heart of the Middle East, business owners in the UAE can enjoy easy access to emerging markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. It’s a direct flight from 97 countries, with one-third of the global population less than a four-hour flight away and two-thirds less than an eight-hour flight away. It is also home to two of the world’s busiest airports – Dubai International and Dubai World Central.

World-class healthcare

The UAE boasts a highly advanced healthcare infrastructure, with leading medical institutions, healthcare capabilities and access for all. The government has invested enormous sums into the sector and the region now offers one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Communal harmony

Close to 90% of the UAE’s population comes from abroad, with an estimated 200 nationalities living alongside one another. As well as offering a greater variety of food and culture, this large expatriate population makes relocating much easier. Research highlights that people are happy here too, and there’s even a dedicated Minister of State for Happiness to make sure of it.

World-class amenities

The UAE is renowned for its frequently jaw-dropping infrastructure, which includes soaring skyscrapers, record-breaking public transport and first-rate public spaces. Business owners can benefit from a higher quality of life, without spending more on it.


The UAE frequently ranks as one of the safest destinations in the world in the Global Law and Order Report. Crime rates are low, penalties for breaking the law are severe and law enforcement is taken extremely seriously.

Open and free system

On the whole, the UAE is an open and tolerant society with a dynamic and robust legal framework that supports entrepreneurs. When combined with favourable economic policies, minimum government control and regulations that facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), it’s easy to see why the region frequently ranks as one of the top places in the world for ‘ease of doing business’.

UAE residence visa

Business owners can obtain a UAE residence visa in a number of different ways, including through company formation, 10-year golden visas, real estate residency, remote work and as a retiree. A bespoke company formation setup service, such as SPC Free Zone, can help speed up the process too.

Types of Business Licenses in the UAE for Foreigners

In order to operate a business in Dubai or the UAE, you will need to ensure you have the correct business license. There are four main types of business licenses for foreigners in Dubai and the UAE:

  • A professional license is required for a service business or skilled professional with a specific field of expertise, such as consultancy, law and project management.
  • An industrial license is required for businesses involved in the production or manufacturing of goods, such as textiles, equipment and the food industry.
  • A tourism license is required to operate a business in the tourism sector, such as tour operators and travel agents.

Do you really need a sponsor to start a business in the UAE?

No, non-residents and foreigners do not need a sponsor to launch a business for most activities. However, there are some restricted business activities that may require a local partner. If you’re unsure about whether your business fits into the latter category, get in touch with our friendly team at SPC Free Zone for more information.

Steps to Starting a Business in Dubai or the UAE as a Foreigner or Non-Resident

The good news is that the process for starting a business in Dubai or the UAE as a non-resident or foreigner is relatively straightforward, but you’ll need to make sure you have all of your documents in order to avoid any unnecessary holdups. For ease, we’ve broken the process down into three simple steps.

Step 1: Submit your application

Submit your application, which includes details of your company name and business activity (or activities). If you choose SPC Free Zone, once this is approved, you can receive your license in less than two hours.

Step 2: Authorise access to e-channel services

To help speed up the business setup process, you’ll need to sign up to an e-channel service. When this is set up, you will be able to apply for your entry permit. This is usually valid for up to 60 days.

Step 3: Activate your status change

Once you’ve received your entry permit, you can activate your status change. You’ll also need to undergo medical tests to acquire an Emirates ID card, which will enable you to open a bank account and get paid.

There’s no need to do it all alone though. Our friendly advisors can help you to navigate the process, from start to finish.

Related Article: Emirates ID Renewal Guide for Expats

Cost of Starting a Business in Dubai or the UAE

SPC Free Zone offers some of the most affordable business setup packages in the UAE, starting at just AED 6,875. However, you will need to take into consideration additional costs, such as medical tests, visa quotas, business activities and office space.

Get in touch with SPC Free Zone for an accurate and bespoke quote tailored to your requirements.

Why choose SPC Free Zone?

Conveniently located in the heart of Sharjah, just 15 minutes from Dubai International Airport, SPC Free Zone offers fast, flexible and affordable business setup in the UAE. With immigration services onsite, you can receive your UAE license in less than two hours. This includes e-commerce UAE licenses, too.

You can choose from more than 2000 business activities, add up to 20 visas under one license and opt for a dual license that offers both mainland and free zone on one license. What’s more, you’ll benefit from zero paid-up share capital, and 100% foreign ownership.

Ready to launch a lucrative business as a foreigner in Dubai and the UAE? Reach out to SPC Free Zone today to get started.

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