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  • Writer's pictureFrank & Frank

The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Your Business in Dubai Mainland 

Dubai, a bustling metropolis in the United Arab Emirates, has rapidly evolved into a global business hub, attracting entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. Its strategic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and business-friendly policies make it an ideal destination for setting up a company. While there are various options for establishing a business in Dubai, one of the most popular choices is setting up in Dubai Mainland. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the process of setting up your business in Dubai Mainland, covering everything from legal requirements to key considerations.


Understanding Dubai Mainland

Dubai Mainland refers to the geographical area of Dubai that is not located within one of its many free zones. Unlike free zones, which offer specific incentives and limitations, setting up a business in Dubai Mainland provides a broader scope of opportunities and access to the local market.

Advantages of Setting Up in Dubai Mainland:

  • Access to the Local Market: Dubai Mainland businesses can operate anywhere in the city and engage with local customers without restrictions.

  • No Currency Restrictions: Mainland businesses can transact in any currency and have no restrictions on fund transfers.

  • No Limitations on Activities: You can engage in a wide range of activities without restrictions, making it suitable for various industries.

  • Tax Benefits: While there is a corporate tax rate, it's relatively low compared to many other countries, and there is no personal income tax.

  • Strategic Location: Dubai's strategic location offers easy access to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia.


Steps to Setting Up Your Business in Dubai Mainland

1. Choose Your Business Activity

The first step is to decide what type of business you want to start. Dubai Mainland allows various business activities, but you must choose one that is compatible with your trade license.

2. Find a Local Sponsor

In Dubai Mainland, it's mandatory to have a local sponsor who holds 51% of the shares in your company. The local sponsor can be an individual or a corporate entity. You'll need to draft a legal sponsorship agreement to clarify the roles and responsibilities of both parties. While the local sponsor owns the majority of shares, you maintain full operational control of your business.

3. Reserve Your Business Name

Before you proceed further, you need to ensure that your chosen business name is available and compliant with Dubai's naming conventions. The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) handles business name registration.

4. Choose Your Business Structure

Selecting the right legal structure for your business is crucial. You can opt for a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a company with limited liability. The choice depends on factors such as the number of partners and the nature of your business.

5. Apply for Initial Approvals

After determining your business structure, you must apply for initial approvals from relevant government authorities, including the DED, the Ministry of Economy, and other relevant agencies. The specific approvals you need depend on your business activity and structure.

6. Prepare the Memorandum of Association (MOA)

The MOA is a crucial legal document that outlines the scope, objectives, and ownership structure of your business. It must be drafted in accordance with UAE laws and signed by all partners and the local sponsor. Seek legal advice to ensure compliance.

7. Lease Office Space

You'll need a physical office space to operate your business in Dubai Mainland. The DED typically requires a minimum office space, which varies based on your business activity.

8. Obtain a Trade License

Once you have all the necessary approvals, signed MOA, and leased office space, you can apply for your trade license from the DED. This license allows you to legally conduct business in Dubai Mainland.

9. Register for VAT

Value Added Tax (VAT) is applicable in the UAE. If your business is eligible for VAT, you must register with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) and comply with VAT regulations.

10. Open a Corporate Bank Account

To facilitate financial transactions, it's essential to open a corporate bank account in Dubai. Most banks in Dubai offer a wide range of banking services tailored to businesses.

11. Visa and Labor Approvals

If you plan to hire employees, you'll need to obtain labor approvals and sponsor their visas. The process may vary depending on the employees' nationalities and job roles.


Key Considerations

1. Cultural Sensitivity

Dubai has a diverse population with a mix of cultures and traditions. It's essential to be culturally sensitive and respectful in your business dealings.

2. Legal Requirements

Ensure that you comply with all legal requirements, including labor laws, business regulations, and taxation.

3. Local Partnerships

Having a local sponsor is mandatory for Mainland businesses. Choose your sponsor wisely, as they will have a significant stake in your company.

4. Real Estate

Finding the right office space can be challenging, so start your search early. The location of your office can impact your business's visibility and accessibility.

5. Business Support

Consider seeking the assistance of a local business consultant or legal expert to navigate the complexities of setting up a business in Dubai Mainland.



Setting up your business in Dubai Mainland offers numerous advantages, including access to a thriving market, tax benefits, and a strategic location. While the process may involve several steps and legal requirements, careful planning and compliance can lead to a successful venture in this vibrant business hub. Dubai's cosmopolitan environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and dynamic economy make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors looking to establish a presence in the Middle East. With the right guidance and resources, your business in Dubai Mainland can thrive and contribute to the city's ever-expanding economy.


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