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Everything You Need to Know about Business Licensing in Dubai


If you’ve made the transformative decision to bring your business to Dubai, the first step is to ensure that you’re acquiring the correct business license to suit your needs. Compulsory for engaging in commercial activities, a business license is the key that will unlock your path to profitability. 


Today, we’re going to outline everything that you need to know about business licensing in Dubai to help you make informed decisions as to the best path that your business can take—from procedures to licensing structures, we have you covered. 


No. Business licenses are mandatory for all entities that wish to operate across Dubai. From mainland companies to free zone enterprises, business licenses facilitate economic regulation by the relevant authorities and hold companies accountable for all of the activities that they choose to undertake. That’s why, regardless of your chosen industry, activities or location, you must have your license before you can partake in business activities. 


There are two ways that businesses can obtain a license. Dubai’s Department of Economic Development is the body tasked with setting the city’s economic platform, developing policies and acting as a support structure for businesses in the region. Supplying business licenses falls under this broad domain, with one caveat—the DED only acts in this capacity for local businesses looking to open in mainland Dubai.


Foreign-owned businesses looking to establish themselves in a free zone will not turn to Dubai’s DED. Instead, they will be granted licenses by the private authorities that govern their respective free zones, such as the Dubai Internet City or the Dubai International Financial Centre. 


There is a wide range of economic activity happening in both mainland Dubai as well as its free zones, so there is typically some complexity that accompanies business license applications. Unfortunately, this isn’t a question that can easily be answered, as business licenses in Dubai are industry and activity-specific. This means that an accounting firm will require a different license than a manufacturing firm. We’ve covered the various types of general licenses that can be acquired in another article. 


Additionally, there exists specific free zone licenses that can only be acquired if your business operates in the respective free zone. Therefore, it’s important that you reach out to the relevant authorities to enquire about your available options. 


Once you’ve settled on the exact type of business license that you require given your industry and economic activities, you’ll need to undergo the somewhat lengthy process of actually acquiring it. 


First off, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation. This includes copies of passports and visas for relevant business partners, tenancy agreements as well as No Objection Certificates, if applicable. 


With all of the necessary documentation in hand, you’ll need to work out the legal structure of your organisation, as well as its trade name, if so desired. 


Finally, before you can even submit your formal application, you’ll need approvals from the relevant economic authorities, such as Dubai’s Department of Economic Development. These approvals will need to be submitted alongside your application and other materials.




If your application is successful and your requested license is issued, congratulations! You’re officially licensed to do business in your chosen industry. However, that’s not the end of the process entirely. All business licenses in Dubai need to be renewed annually, which requires another set of documentation to be submitted to the authorities. Keep in mind that there is a deadline for filing for a business license renewal, so make sure that you submit your application on time to avoid paying unnecessary fees.



It’s understandable to overwhelmed—with many regulations that can vary depending on where, precisely, your business is located, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what it is that your business needs to do in order to get off on the right foot with its new venture. Remember that you’re never forced to go it alone. There are plenty of specialists in Dubai that are extensively experienced with everything that pertains to licensing and incorporation. For all of the questions that linger, we’re here to help.


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