A Guide to Dubai’s Top Free Zones
Free zones are without a doubt one of the biggest selling points that Dubai offers to global businesses. Doing more than simply incentivising investment and growth in the region, Dubai’s free zones also offer a substantial boon to businesses interested in leveraging the benefits associated with a free zone company by enabling foreign-owned companies to bring their business to the market while retaining full ownership rights.
While free zones are undoubtedly what drive the greatest amount of interest and investment in the city, there is plenty of confusion among foreign-owned businesses pertaining to the intricacies of each respective region—many of them differ when it comes to the types of companies they attract and what activities are permitted to be carried out.
With dozens of free zones available to enterprising businesses, making the right choice for yours can be difficult. Thankfully, this guide to the various free zones of the region will ensure that your decision will ultimately prove to be the correct one.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCE CENTRE
The Dubai International Financial Centre—DIFC for short—is one of the most well-known free zones, for good reason! Its position as the leading economic hub of the region has not only incentivised a great deal of investment but has also resulted in the adoption of a unique set of economic rules and regulations that govern finance in the free zone.
Given its strategic proximity to the rest of the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia, businesses with a heavy emphasis on financial administration are well advised to pursue a future in the Dubai International Financial Centre.
DUBAI AIRPORT FREE ZONE
Established in 1996, the DAFZA has since been one of Dubai’s chief economic drivers. Located adjacent to the Dubai International Airport, this free zone offers a variety of services to both branches of existing companies as well as FZCO companies, enabling businesses to register for trade, service, general trade or industrial licenses.
With a strong technological and logistics infrastructure, the Dubai Airport Free Zone, with its relatively minimalistic trade laws, continues to be a popular choice for businesses who primarily deal with sale of physical goods.
DUBAI SILICON OASIS
Dubai Silicon Oasis is a free zone focused uniquely on high-tech development and innovation, with many companies occupying the tech park working in the fields of renewable energy or telecommunications.
One advantage that this free zone offers is the ability to acquire special licenses such as the Business Operations Permit and Entrepreneurial Business License, thereby expanding the scope of activity that can be carried out in this region of the city.
JEBEL ALI FREE ZONE
One of the oldest free zones Dubai has to offer, this well-established industrial hub is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, making it a premier target of extensive foreign investment.
Offering an impressive array of pre-built facilities to businesses, the Jebel Ali Free Zone is high on the list of destinations for foreign-owned businesses who regularly require logistical or warehousing support.
THE INTERNET CITY
Appropriately named for the major industries that call the region home, Dubai’s Internet City is a hub for information technology services and development, with an emphasis on fintech. Aspiring to continue to grow for decades to come, the DIC offers companies coming to the region an extremely lengthy period of lax ownership laws, incentivising many of the global giants to make their way over.
In fact, many of the world’s leading tech companies such as Microsoft and Google have set up shop in Dubai’s equivalent of Silicon Valley.
The decision to bring your business to one of Dubai’s many free zones can be one of the most profitable ones you can make, but if you’re not careful, the wrong selection can set you back if you find yourself requiring services and support that aren’t offered in your chosen region.
The five free zones listed in this article are by far some of the most prominent ones, but they’re by no means the only options! With dozens of free zones to choose from, Dubai has proven itself to be able to accommodate businesses of all sizes and in all industries.
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