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Five More Frequently Asked Questions about Moving Your Business to Dubai

Whether or not to move your business is one of the biggest decisions that you can make—regardless of whether you proceed to go through with it or not, the decision can only be made when you’ve collected all of the information most relevant to you. 

When it comes to Dubai, however, that’s easier said than done!

With Dubai’s different business free zones, regulations and processes to familiarise yourself with, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out everything that you need to prior to a move. 

Thankfully, that’s what we’re here for!

In a previous article, we explored some of the questions most common to businesses in your situation, and today we’ll take a look at five more.

Ready? Let’s dive right in. 

1: SHOULD I ESTABLISH A MAINLAND OR FREE ZONE BUSINESS?

While this will typically vary depending the nature of your business and intended goals, the vast majority of businesses looking to make their way to Dubai are interested primarily in setting up a free zone business. 

 A mainland—or onshore—setup is run by the DED, the Department of Economic Development and grants access to the entirety of the UAE market. 

 A free zone business, in contrast, is only licensed and regulated in the free zone in which it resides, and is restricted from carrying out business activities with mainland companies. 

 If your intent is to reside in Dubai and work with foreign businesses, finding a home in one of its many free zones will typically afford you the greatest benefits. 

2: HOW LONG SHOULD I EXPECT TO WAIT WHEN SETTING UP A FREE ZONE BUSINESS?

Unfortunately, the varying degrees of business complexity will mean that the answer to this question frequently changes. For most free zone enterprises, a few days could be all that you need to wait to get incorporated. 

 However, the process could become significantly lengthier if your business needs to obtain approvals for machinery, become certified for safety standards, etc. 

 If you’re going through a registered partner who’s well-versed in all of the ins and outs of business incorporation in Dubai, you can expect to have the entire process sorted in a month or so, since all of the documentation will have been taken care of and submitted in the proper fashion. 

3: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FREE ZONE AND MAINLAND VISA?

While you may not have to worry about this question as a business owner, it’s going to become important for any employees or family members. 

 By acquiring a mainland visa, the Departments of Labour and Immigration will ensure that files are fully registered for the acquisition of a work permit that enables the holder to work across the UAE mainland. 

 A free zone visa, in contrast, offers the holder less liberty in that they’re only permitted to work in the free zone that has granted them the visa.

4: ARE THERE OFFICE RESTRICTIONS ON FREE ZONE ENTERPRISES?

In order to get your free zone license approved, it’s mandatory to have a commercial lease agreement in place. However, that doesn’t mean you have to rent a large, unmanageable office space!

 For smaller consultancy firms, it’s possible to make an agreement to rent a virtual office space until you scale up your number of employees. This makes it easy for even small businesses to get started without overwhelming start-up costs. 

5: HOW DOES VAT WORK IN THE UAE?

The United Arab Emirates have instituted VAT relatively recently, and some businesses looking to make the region their home are still confused about the specifics. 

VAT is not mandatory across all businesses in the UAE. However, it becomes mandatory if the annual turnover of your business exceeds 375,000 AED. In this case, ensuring registration will be incredibly important.

It is also possible for businesses to volunteer for the VAT system on a voluntary basis, as long as their business exceeds 175,000 AED in turnover every year. 

In either case, registration for VAT is a simple process that can be done entirely online, so make sure that your business is enrolled promptly if you expect to be eligible. 

There you have it! Another five of our most frequently asked questions addressed in today’s article. We understand that bringing a new business to Dubai can be daunting—for any additional questions, you can always reach out to our team for targeted support. Who knows! Maybe your question will be addressed in our next instalment of the series.  

Stay tuned to our blog to find out. 

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