Welcome to ILS World

Dubai: A place to do business

Dubai is getting ready to host the influential World Expo in 2020 - this huge international event will boost the city's economy, tourism and leisure industries.
17th October, 2017

It will reinforce Dubai's position as a global hub of opportunity and put it in the business spotlight. Under the theme, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future the Emirate is the first in the Middle East to host the Expo. An estimated 25 million people will be drawn into the city during the six months of the event to find out what the UAE offers.

When considering the UAE as a base for a business, or as part of a wider structure, it is important to understand the corporate options available and which of the seven Emirates to be based from. Although there are a plethora of options, these can be bracketed into three distinct groups; offshore, free zone or a mainland company.

Offshore companies such as Ras al-Khaimah (RAK), Ajman and Jebal Ali are viable alternatives to the more traditional International Business Company (IBC). However, they are not permitted to conduct any business within the UAE, other than to engage banks and professional services to support their international operations. The one exemption is a Jebal Ali Offshore is the only corporate entity that may own property in Dubai. These companies are flexible, discreet and low cost options.

Free Zone

The UAE has 38 free zones with nine more under construction. The Free Zones have been designed and developed to support specific sectors. ILS World works closely with a number of them, the most popular being Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC); Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO); Fujairah Creative City Free Zone and Jebal Ali Free Zone (JAFZA).

Free Zone companies are also not permitted to conduct business within the mainland UAE, but offer considerable advantages for international operations. DIFC and DMCC are especially recognised as major financial and trading centres, while DSO is a burgeoning tech hub and JAFZA boasts the world's largest man-made port.
Although each have their own idiosyncrasies, often the attractions are no corporate taxes (or personal taxes for employees), no restrictions on foreign employment, state-of-the-art technology, leading-edge banking facilities, political stability, a huge range of licensable activities and of course the prestige of the location which also affords easy access to Europe, Asia and Africa.


Mainland companies are those permitted to conduct business within each Emirate. The first decision is to choose the Emirate and apply for an appropriate license. Licenses are given for professional and commercial businesses with a vast range of activities available.

The perceived disadvantage of a mainland company is that it requires a 51per cent local owner, but other options are available that mitigate this. For example, if the company is only directing business back to a parent, a Representative Office could apply, whereas if it were acting in its own right, but still in line with the activities of its parent, a Branch Office would be applicable, neither of which require a local owner and afford 100per cent foreign ownership.

Even in cases where a 51per cent local owner is required, we are in the unusual position of being able to offer a corporate shareholder rather than an individual from the UAE. The main benefit is mitigating concerns about coming into the market and selecting a local partner who may leave the UAE, change his mind, or at worst case, pass away during the course of the year leaving the company and its shareholders in legal limbo. With a corporate entity, the contractual terms remain in place, so it gives more stability to the arrangement than having an individual being the local partner.

Furthermore, the law permits the issuance of constitutional documents for an LLC to contain provisions designed to protect the interests of the foreign minority shareholder, including but not limited to the profits distribution, assets entitlement, appointment of directors/managers, powers of administration, and influence in decision making.

For further information on doing business in the UAE please contact Jason Bowers at jason.bowers@ils.world

Regional manger Dubai

Jason Bowers
Jason Bowers
Regional Manager Dubai
Contact Jason Bowers
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