Starting a business as a foreigner or expat in the UAE: The Complete Guide

starting a business in UAE- business insurance- insurance broker- Gargash Insurance 05 Sep, 2023

Starting a business in the UAE as a foreigner can be a lucrative opportunity. Learn about the requirements, procedures, and benefits of setting up a business as a foreigner in UAE.

Can foreigners and expats start businesses in the UAE?


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a global hub for business and innovation, attracting entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. If you're a foreigner or an expat with dreams of starting your own business, the UAE offers a dynamic environment filled with opportunities.

This blog delves into the details of how foreigners and expats can initiate and succeed in their business ventures within the UAE.

Quick Read Section

  • Foreigners and expats can legally establish businesses in the UAE, as mainland companies, free zone enterprises, and offshore companies.
  • Different types of business licenses are offered in Dubai, such as commercial, industrial, and professional licenses, each catering to specific business activities.
  • Essential documents required for foreigners and expats to be legally eligible to start a business in the UAE include valid passports, proof of residential addresses, application forms, business plans, bank statements, and more, which may vary based on the emirate and type of business operations.
  • Starting a business in the UAE offers benefits like global connectivity, tax advantages, world-class infrastructure, cultural diversity, dynamic economy, skilled & diverse workforce, exceptional infrastructure etc.


UAE is well-known for its strong economy, political stability, advantageous location, and business-friendly legislation which provides many benefits to foreign investors. Modern infrastructure, effective logistics, and one of the highest living standards in the region are some of the qualities that make it an ideal place to launch a business.

Read the full article to learn more about the documents and legal requirements to start a business in the UAE and the advantages you can enjoy.


Can a foreigner start a business in UAE?

One of the most common questions foreigners and expats have is whether they can legally establish businesses in the UAE. The answer is a resounding "yes." The UAE government has taken significant steps to encourage foreign investment and entrepreneurship. To start a business in the UAE, you can choose from several business structures, including mainland companies, free zone enterprises, and offshore companies. Each structure has its advantages, such as full ownership in free zones and tax benefits for offshore entities.



What are the various types of business licenses available in UAE for foreigners to start a business?

The most popular forms of trade licenses in Dubai are commercial, industrial, and professional.

Each license category's acceptable company types are self-evident and dependent on the nature of your industry. In most circumstances, you'll need a commercial license, for example, if you're engaging in a commercial activity like buying and selling goods or services.

Once you know what kind of license you need, you can submit your application. Although many circumstances now allow for 100% foreign ownership of mainland enterprises, it is typically wiser for expat entrepreneurs to launch their business in a free zone, where 100% foreign ownership is ensured.

Free zone businesses benefit from several additional advantages, including the freedom to repatriate all capital and profits, and a total lack of currency limitations.

Mainland and Freezone businesses can also take advantage of UAE’s 9% tax policy which is lower than the global average for corporate businesses around the world.


What are the documents needed for foreigners and expats to start a business in UAE?

The following documents are typically required for foreigners who wish to establish a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE):

  • A passport that is valid for at least six months for the shareholders and business owners.
  • Documentation proving the shareholder's and business owners' residential addresses.
  • An application form that has been filled out and signed by the appropriate authority.
  • Business plan outlining the company's aims and financial projections.
  • A letter or statement from a bank attesting to the shareholders' and owners' good standing.
  • A letter of approval from the applicant's present employer, if appropriate.
  • Power of Attorney (POA), if applicable, for the company's legal representative or agent.
  • Investor or shareholder agreement, if appropriate.
  • Lease or tenancy agreement for the business's office space.
  • Documentation of the business's initial finance or capital.
  • Additional licenses or permits can be needed depending on the type of business operation.


It is crucial to keep in mind that the specific documentation requirements may change depending on the emirate in question and the type of business being conducted.


What are the advantages of beginning a business as a foreigner in the UAE?

Starting a business in UAE has its own set of perks and benefits such as:

  • Global Connectivity: The UAE's strategic location between Europe, Asia, and Africa offers unparalleled access to global markets.
  • Tax Advantages: Free zones in the UAE often provide tax exemptions and full repatriation of profits, making it an attractive proposition for entrepreneurs.
  • Infrastructure and Resources: The UAE's world-class infrastructure, advanced technology, and business support services contribute to the ease of doing business.
  • Cultural Diversity: The UAE's cosmopolitan environment welcomes people from various cultural backgrounds, fostering a unique atmosphere for business collaboration.
  • Dynamic economy: Not only in the Gulf but also globally, the UAE boasts one of the most open economies. It has continually maintained strong rates of economic growth for many years. The first step in starting a business in the United Arab Emirates is to concentrate on an area with a robust economy.
  • Exceptional workforce: UAE houses many skilled and even unskilled workers from all over the globe. As a foreign entrepreneur / business owner it will be easy to find committed, affordable, and dedicated employees to assist you operate your business.
  • Exemplary infrastructure: The UAE government has made sure that foreign entrepreneurs/ business owners have access to the best infrastructure and amenities as part of its commitment to being an investor-friendly government. This nation offers unparalleled choices to foreign entrepreneurs/ business owners aiming to build their business, by offering a wide choice of business parks, corporate spaces, healthcare facilities, and other amenities.


Insurance Essentials for Foreigners and Expats Establishing a Business in the UAE

When taking the exciting leap into the UAE's vibrant business scene as a foreign entrepreneur or expat, it's crucial to have a safety net in place. Insurance plays a pivotal role in safeguarding your business from unexpected challenges. From liability coverage that shields you from legal claims to property insurance guarding your physical assets, and even health coverage for your employees, the right insurance package can ensure your business remains resilient.

With the UAE's unique opportunities also come unique risks, making insurance an integral part of your business strategy. By securing the right coverage, you're not only complying with legal requirements but also ensuring a stable and thriving future for your venture in this dynamic market.

Insurance brokers like Gargash Insurance bring a wealth of knowledge about the local insurance market, and regulations, and a deep understanding of the diverse coverage options available. From tailoring insurance plans that align with your business needs to negotiating competitive premiums, our insurance brokers provide personalized guidance that saves time and money.

Our role extends beyond mere transactions; ensuring you're well-informed about the risks your business might face and how to effectively mitigate them. With our insurance brokers by your side, you can focus on growing your business while having the peace of mind that you're protected by a comprehensive insurance plan.




The UAE's commitment to fostering a welcoming environment for foreign entrepreneurs and expats is evident in its progressive policies and thriving business ecosystem. Numerous initiatives have been launched by the government to promote entrepreneurship and attract foreign investment. Free zones and mainland companies are just two examples of the numerous business structures that allow non-citizens to completely control and manage businesses.

As a foreigner or an expat, you have the chance to contribute to this vibrant landscape by realizing your entrepreneurial dreams. With the right information and guidance, foreigners and expats can successfully start and run a business in the UAE.

Contact us today for all your business insurance needs!


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