Free zone companies

A company can be established in one of the over 40 free zones in the UAE, with some of the most popular ones being:

Free Zone





Features of free zone companies

  1. Free zone companies are permitted to conduct their activities within the free zone where they are established and outside the UAE, but they are generally not allowed to operate in the UAE mainland, with some exceptions
  2. As a general rule, an office may only be located in the free zone where the company is established. However, some free zones may permit the rental of a "virtual" office, which typically involves renting a workspace in an open space
  3. A number of free zones have a limited list of available activities due to the specialization of the free zone (e.g. logistics, IT, etc.)
  4. All corporate documents are drafted in English (without the need for translation into Arabic)
  5. Participation of a free zone is required for certain corporate actions, though interactions with notaries and government agencies are typically not required
  6. Free zones compete with each other for customers and, as a consequence, implement various incentives, reduce fees, pursue flexible regulation


What legislation applies to free zone companies?

The law of the free zone, specific UAE federal laws and certain laws of the Emirate in which the company is incorporated are applicable. Additionally, English law is applied in a number of free zones.

What are the main steps in establishing a free zone company?

  • reservation of the proposed company name
  • filling out the application form on the website of the respective free zone
  • verification of the identity of shareholders and managers (KYC)
  • background checks of the shareholders and managers by free zone authorities
  • obtaining approval from the free zone authorities and issuance of constituent documents

Are there any requirements regarding a free zone company minimum share capital?

The minimum share capital requirement varies depending on the specific free zone, ranging from 1 to 500,000 AED (approximately 0,27 to 136,131 USD). Certain free zones may require a UAE bank statement demonstrating a minimum share capital deposit as proof of payment.

What is a free zone company establishment timeline?

On average, the establishment of a company takes around 2 weeks. However, the timeframe can be extended depending on the complexity of the free zone compliance procedure.

How many visas are granted when setting up a free zone company?

Most free zones typically allocate 3 visa quotas without requiring the rental of a physical office. However, if a larger number of visa quotas is required, you would need to rent a physical office space in the respective free zone. The number of available visa quotas usually depends on the size of the rented office space.

Do the shareholders and managers of the company have to be UAE citizens or residents?

There are no citizenship and residency requirements for shareholders and managers.

What data about a free zone company is available in the public registry and/or disclosed to the free zone authorities?

Only ADGM and DIFC have a public company register where information on company members is published. In DMCC, participants are not disclosed, but information about managers, types of activities, and company address is available. In other free zones, information about companies, their participants, and managers is not disclosed to third parties.
However, any free zone company must disclose its ultimate beneficiaries to the relevant free zone authorities both during the establishment stage and when renewing the commercial license. This information is not disclosed to third parties.

What are the requirements for a free zone company office?

With certain exceptions, the office must be located in the free zone where the company is established. Depending on the number of visa quotas required, free zones apply requirements regarding the size of the rented office space.

Is personal presence of shareholders and/or managers required to set up a free zone company?

No, personal presence is not required.

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