Free Zones in UAE | Business Setup in UAE


There are several free zones in UAE situated in all the emirates. Dubai hosts a maximum number of free zones, followed by Abu Dhabi. These free zones are therefore, the specialized areas, and companies operating from here exercise exclusive benefits that mainland companies in the UAE don’t have. Looking at the opportunities as well as types of free zones in UAE, investors are often puzzled as to how to start a business in UAE Free zone.

Every free zone has its authority, which conducts the licensing, renewals, decides the costs, and also manages the functioning and maintenance of its respective free zones.

Moreover, they have their regulatory framework according to which the free zone functions.

While setting up a company, out of several UAE Free Zones, it is indeed necessary to select the best free zone in UAE for you.

Different free zones cater to different business requirements as well as focus on a particular business field. The regulations also differ, and the free zone, which lets your business run with ease, is the best match for you.

Let’s look at some of the best free zones, facilities offered, business activities supported, and benefits, in addition to step-by-step procedures to start a business.

How to Start a Business in UAE Free Zone


To begin with, the primary objective of the free zone is to attract foreign direct investment and lower the dependence of the country on particular sectors. They allow investors to significantly conduct business setup in UAE in different fields. Moreover, to make the business run efficiently, free zones in UAE comes with unique facilities and a strong framework.

Free zones in UAE are mainly categorized into the following three parts:
1. Firstly, Airport free zones,
2. Secondly, seaport free zones, and
3. Thirdly, Mainland free zones.
Each of them is in particular designated with specific one or more business fields and only provides licenses related to those fields. In addition to the above, these licenses are issued by an independent free zone authority. The free zone authority also assists with business setup in UAE. However, to make sure that the company formation process remains smooth, it is suggested to have the support of a firm which is well-aware of local rules and regulations.

Legal Structures

Setting up a business in UAE

Free zones in UAE offer various types of company formations in UAE. However, different business setups have their benefits depending upon the field in which you wish to start your business. These setups vary as per the following ownership, tax benefits, licensing, costs, and utilization.

1)    Free Zone Establishment (FZE)

Free Zone establishment offers 100% foreign ownership as well as no need to have a local sponsor. For business setup in UAE, you also need to provide a certificate of incorporation and trade license.

Further, the company is a limited liability company, which means the liability of investors only extends up to their shares in the free zone establishment entity. A free zone establishment company can also be converted into Free Zone Company. One must note that the FZE UAE can’t be publicly listed.

2)    Free Zone Company (FZCo)

All the free zones in UAE offer Free Zone Company (FZCo) formation, where there can be multiple stakeholders. Thereafter, the companies are offered exclusive benefits making it one of the most favourable structures.

The company is required to have two directors as well as a company secretary to get started with the company. The free zone establishments are allowed to import as well as export goods across the borders. However, these companies are not allowed to sell their goods in the local UAE market directly.

3)    Public Listed Company (PLC)

A public listed company in Dubai is a limited liability company which provides relaxation to the investors when it comes to liability. The liability remains limited to one’s holding in the share capital, therefore personal assets remain safe.

The public listed companies functioning in free zones in UAE need to list their shares in the stock exchange. Moreover, it provides a free path for funding to the company. There could be a minimum capital threshold for starting the company, which varies from free zone to free zone. For instance, Dubai free zones may have a different limit in comparison to Sharjah free zones, or it may even differ amongst different free zones in any emirate. For example, specific guidelines to run a PLC company may not be the same in JAFZA and AFZA.

4)    Branch of a Company

There can be multiple instances when a company needs to start its branch office. They may choose to start the branch office in the UAE mainland or UAE free zones. Opening a branch of a company in free zones in UAE has its specific benefits. Furthermore, you can open different types of branches based on the requirement and parent company.

Foreign Company Branch

In this case, the parent company has 100% ownership of the branch. This office will act as headquarter for the region. When a company requires importing goods, it needs to do it through a local trading company.

UAE Company Branch

Free Zones in UAE allow you to have an extension of the parent company located in the UAE mainland. It, therefore, lets the company undertake more activities through free zone trading licenses.  

Free Zone Company Branch

You can set up a free zone company branch when you already own a company in any of the free zones. It allows expanding the company’s reach to other free zones in Dubai.  Moreover, this company can be started by getting a license from the Department Of Economic Development Dubai.

Free Zone Selection

The Most Popular Free Zones

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)


RAKEZ is one of the most prominent free zones in UAE located in Ras Al Khaimah Emirate. Its strategic location connects the companies to the southern part of Europe, other Middle-East countries, North Africa, as well as Asia.

Furthermore, the RAKEZ houses more than thirteen thousand companies from more than fifty different sectors having investors as well as employees from more than a hundred countries.

Ajman Free Zone Authority (AFZA)


AFZA established in 1988 is one of the oldest as well as important free zones in the UAE. The Ajman port is the main feature of AFZA, which significantly allows serving eastern as well as western trade markets.

Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority Dubai (JAFZA Dubai)


JAFZA holds 50% of the total export share of Dubai. JAFZA Dubai was established in the year 1985. It has therefore become the home of some top businesses all across the world.

Further, Jebel Ali Port is known as of the largest ports in the world. It, therefore, eases the import and export of the companies that establish their business in JAFZA.

Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC)


DWTC was established in the year 2015 and currently hosts more than 350 companies from 40+ industries. It also provides 2M+ Sq Ft. of premium office space.

Moreover, DWTC is strategically located in Dubai and provides a highly conducive business environment for businesses to operate locally and expand globally. It also provides office spaces on lease to businesses that require a state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Dubai South Free Zone

Dubai South

This Dubai South Free Zone is also next to JAFZA, which allows the companies to have access to Jebel Ali Sea Port. The location provides easy transport to the international airport having cargo facilities for exporting anywhere in the world.

Dubai Multi Commodities Center Dubai (DMCC Dubai)


The companies that wish to enjoy the world-class infrastructure and excellent road network should set up business in DMCC. Dubai Multi Commodities Center is one of the best free zones in UAE in terms of facilities, owning a flexible legal framework.

It was established in the year 2002, and since then, it has grown to a very good extend, becoming home to top free zone companies in Dubai.

Dubai Internet City (DIC)

Dubai Internet City

Dubai Internet City is the free zone in UAE, because it holds the vision of the country. Companies in Dubai Internet City make it the world’s leading technology hub where start-ups grow to come up as leading brands. It was established in 1999 in Dubai, owning the perfect gateway to the international market.

The ecosystem of Dubai Internet City is significantly unique amongst the free zones in UAE. It is favourable for the development of the IT industry as well as the communication industry.

Benefits of setting up a company in UAE Free Zones

Advantages of a Business Setup in UAE

The free zones in UAE own several benefits over mainland company formation. Free zone company formation policies, as well as legal framework, are designed to keep the foreign investors in mind. The free zone authorities have made the general rules which favour the investors and the UAE government at the same time. Following, are the general rules:

  1. The companies need not pay corporate tax.
  2. The investors get an investor visa, as well as employees of the company get resident visas in UAE.
  3. There is no need to have a local sponsor for owning a company in any of the free zones in UAE. They provide 100% foreign ownership for all the companies.
  4. The import and export policies are simplified, and trading can be done for most of the items with the General Trading License.
  5. Neither the company owner nor the employees need to pay general income tax to the UAE government.
  6. The free zones in UAE provide 100% capital as well as profit repatriation.
  7. Lastly, the free zones in UAE are built, keeping in mind the requirements of sectors which it entertains. For example spaces, warehouses, furnished and unfurnished offices, etc., available to cater to every business’s needs.

Complete list of Free Zones in UAE

Let’s help you choose the right one

There are certainly a number of free zones which are in function. There are a few more that are under construction. We have divided all the free zones according to different emirates as well as listed them below.

Abu Dhabi Free Zones

  • Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ)
  • ADPC – Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KPIZ)
  • Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones
  • Masdar City Free Zone
  • Industrial City of Abu Dhabi
  • Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM)

Dubai Free Zones

  • Dubai Academic City
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone
  • Dubai Car and Automotive City Free Zone (DUCAMZ)
  • Dubai Healthcare City
  • Dubai Industrial City (DIC)
  • Dubai International Academic City
  • Dubai International Financial Centre
  • Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park (DuBiotech)
  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre
  • Dubai Techno Park
  • Economic Zones World
  • Dubai Design District
  • Dubai Logistics City
  • Dubai Media City
  • Dubai Internet City (DIC)
  • Dubai Outsource Zone
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority
  • Dubai Studio City
  • Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
  • Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone
  • Dubai Knowledge Village
  • International Media Production Zone
  • Jebel Ali Free Zone
  • Dubai South or DWC
  • Dubai Science Park

Sharjah Free Zones

  • Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone
  • Hamriyah Free Zone Sharjah
  • The U.S.A. Regional Trade Center (USARTC) Free Zone
  • Sharjah Media City Free Zone (Shams)
  • Sharjah Airport International Free Zone

Ajman Free Zones

  • Ajman Free Zone
  • Ajman Media City Free Zone

Ras Al Khaimah Free Zones

  • Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)
  • Ras Al Khaimah Media Free Zone
  • Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority
  • RAK Maritime City Free Zone Authority (RMCFZA)
  • Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone

Free Zones in Fujairah

  • Fujairah Free Zone
  • International Free Zone Authority (IFZA)
  • Fujairah Creative City

Free Zones in Umm Al Quwain

  • Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQFTZ)


Company Incorporation in UAE

1. How much time does it take for business setup in any of the free zones?

The business set up in UAE free zones differs from free zone to free zone. In certain cases, you may even start your company within two to three days just after you receive the license from the free zone authority. In some cases, there is a requirement of getting approval from external authority based on your business activities, which may take some time.

2. What are the types of licenses you get in UAE Free Zones?

Every free zone has a specific category of licenses. It certainly depends upon the business sector that free zone is targeting. In particular, some of the common licenses are trading license, service licenses, and industrial license. However, not necessarily all of them offer these licenses.

Contact Us

Start a Company in UAE Free Zones


N  R Doshi and Partners has done company formation in various free zones in UAE. We have an experienced team of professions who first advise the suitable free zone, which can fulfil your business needs in the most inexpensive way. Then we assist the investors regarding the license, permissions, tenancy contract, visas, as well as bank account opening.

However, whether you need to start a company in JAFZA, AFZA, DWTC, DIT, or any free zone in Dubai or any other emirate, we are the best business setup consultants in Dubai.

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