Freezones in UAE, Where Foreigners Can Start Business

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve caught the UAE business bug, just like I did.

And why not? With the promise of 100% ownership and oodles of other benefits, UAE Freezones are a foreign entrepreneur’s dream come true.

So, let’s unwrap this gift and delve into the diverse range of Freezones where you can pitch your entrepreneurial tent!

I’ve had my share of adventure starting a business in UAE, so most of this is from my experience.

Freezones in UAE to Start Businesses

Dubai has most of the freezones.

1. Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)

Ideal for: Aviation, freight & logistics, IT, and more.
Highlights: Proximity to the Dubai International Airport provides unparalleled global access. DAFZA offers a range of office and warehouse facilities, along with full repatriation of profits and 24-hour customs services.

For Foreigners: Comprehensive business setup services, including company registration and visa processing. The fast-track customs process aids in quick import/export activities.

2. Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)

Ideal for: Everything from trade and commodities to consulting and retail.
Highlights: Situated in the heart of Dubai, with access to the world’s busiest ports. The DMCC offers a bustling business community and has been consistently voted as the top global Freezone.

For Foreigners: DMCC provides a straightforward business setup, with licensing within 24 hours and a vast network of double taxation treaties.

3. Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)

Ideal for: Tech businesses, startups, and design.
Highlights: A 7.2km² tech park, offering both residential and commercial properties, dedicated to fostering innovation.

For Foreigners: State-of-the-art infrastructure, data centers, and entrepreneurial support. DSO is a hub for tech innovation and offers incubation programs.

Sharjah: The Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Sharjah is next in line with plenty of options.

4. Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone)

Ideal for: Manufacturing, trading, and media.
Highlights: Strategic location linking major trading routes and a hub for cargo transport.

For Foreigners: Quick licensing services, wide availability of pre-built warehouses, and an on-site labour accommodation.


Ras Al Khaimah: The Emerging Star

Aggressive and upcoming, RAK freezones are kinda like a threat to Dubai and Sharjah.

5. Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)

Ideal for: Diverse sectors from education and media to manufacturing and trading.
Highlights: Flexibility in choosing office spaces, warehouses, or land plots.

For Foreigners: RAKEZ offers cost-effective solutions and multiple business setup packages to suit various needs. There’s also an e-channel portal for seamless visa processing.


Abu Dhabi: The Heart of the UAE

6. Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)

Ideal for: Financial services, banking, and legal consultancies.
Highlights: Located on Al Maryah Island, ADGM boasts a world-class regulatory framework.

For Foreigners: 100% foreign ownership, no restrictions on capital repatriation, and easy access to the Middle East and North Africa markets.


Ajman: The Entry Point

Ajman freezone, which I personally prefer – has a lot of options for beginners.

7. Ajman Free Zone (AFZ)

Ideal for: E-commerce, media, and manufacturing.
Highlights: Strategically located at the entrance of the Arabian Gulf.

For Foreigners: AFZ offers competitive pricing, especially attractive for startups. Their e-commerce license comes with a pre-built online platform.


Fujairah: The Gateway to the World

Next up is Fuhairah.

8. Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ)

Ideal for: Oil industry, shipping, and logistics.
Highlights: Located next to Fujairah port and airport, allowing swift access to shipping routes.

For Foreigners: Investment incentives, multiple license types, and simplified administrative procedures.


Umm Al Quwain: The Hidden Gem

Not so popular but if you dig deep, you’ll find some good deals at Umm Al Quwain freezone.

9. Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQ FTZ)

Ideal for: SMEs, trading, and consultancies.
Highlights: An emerging hub with simplified processes and lower setup costs.

For Foreigners: UAQ FTZ offers cost-effective licenses, flexible office solutions, and zero currency restrictions.

Also read: Who can start a business in UAE freezones


Cost Comparison of Freezones in UAE

FreezoneEstimated Starting Cost (in AED)Included in the Package
Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)50,000 – 70,000License, Office Space, Utilities
Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)40,000 – 60,000License, Flexi Desk
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)30,000 – 50,000License, Office Space
Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone)15,000 – 25,000License, Office Space
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)7,500 – 15,000License, Flexi Desk
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)30,000 – 55,000License, Office Space
Ajman Free Zone (AFZ)5,000 – 20,000License, Flexi Desk
Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ)15,000 – 30,000License, Warehouse Space
Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQ FTZ)6,000 – 12,000License, Flexi Office

Choosing the right Freezone is akin to selecting the perfect business partner.

Each Freezone offers a unique proposition, and the ideal one aligns with both your business needs and your entrepreneurial vision.

Always consider consulting with local experts or liaising directly with the Freezone authorities to make an informed decision.

Best of luck in your UAE business venture! ??

Here’s a table with the respective Freezones and their official websites:

FreezoneOfficial Website
Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)DAFZA
Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)DMCC
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)DSO
Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone)SAIF Zone
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)RAKEZ
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)ADGM
Ajman Free Zone (AFZ)AFZ
Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ)FFZ
Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQ FTZ)UAQ FTZ

FAQs

1. Why should I consider starting a business in a UAE Freezone?
UAE Freezones offer numerous advantages like 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and full repatriation of profits.

2. Can I have full ownership of my business in a Freezone?
Yes, Freezones in the UAE allow 100% foreign ownership.

3. How is a Freezone company different from a mainland company?
A Freezone company operates within its specific zone or internationally and enjoys certain tax benefits, whereas a mainland company can operate anywhere in the UAE but may require local sponsorship.

4. Do I need to reside in the UAE to have a Freezone business?
No, but some Freezones might require you to have a residency visa for certain administrative tasks like opening a bank account.

5. What types of licenses can I get in a Freezone?
It varies by Freezone but generally includes trading, service, industrial, and e-commerce licenses.

6. Are there restrictions on the type of business I can start in a Freezone?
Each Freezone has specific industries they cater to, so it’s crucial to choose one that aligns with your business type.

7. How long does the business setup process take in a Freezone?
Typically, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the Freezone and required documentation.

8. Is there a minimum capital requirement?
This varies among Freezones. Some might have a requirement, while others don’t.

9. Can I hire staff from abroad for my Freezone company?
Yes, Freezones usually offer support for visa facilitation for foreign employees.

10. Are there any customs duties in Freezones?
Goods stored within Freezones are exempted from customs duties. However, duties might apply if goods are moved to the mainland.

11. Can my Freezone company do business directly with the UAE market?
Direct trading inside the UAE requires a local distributor or agent. However, Freezone companies can work with local clients through third-party intermediaries.

12. Are Freezones only for big corporations?
No, Freezones cater to businesses of all sizes, including SMEs and solo entrepreneurs.

13. How secure is my investment in a UAE Freezone?
The UAE has a stable economy and political system, making it a safe investment destination. Moreover, many Freezones offer investment protection and dispute resolution mechanisms.

14. Can I transfer or sell my Freezone business?
Most Freezones allow business ownership transfer or selling, but it’s essential to check the specific policies.

15. Are annual audits mandatory for Freezone companies?
This depends on the Freezone. Some require annual audits, while others might not.

16. What happens if my business fails?
While no one hopes for this, closing a company in a Freezone is typically straightforward. Each Freezone has a specific liquidation process to follow.

17. Can I open a bank account for my Freezone company?
Yes, once your Freezone company is established, you can open a corporate bank account in the UAE.

18. Are there any currency restrictions within Freezones?
Generally, there are no currency restrictions within UAE Freezones.

19. Can I have multiple businesses or licenses under one Freezone company?
Many Freezones allow you to have multiple licenses and activities under a single company, but it’s best to check specifics with your chosen Freezone.

20. How are the working hours in Freezones?
While it might vary, most Freezones follow standard UAE working hours. However, businesses often have the flexibility to set their hours.

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