The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). (Image is for illustration purposes only.) Image Credit: File photo

Dubai: On Tuesday Dubai announced the launch of the region's first 'Virtual Company Licence’.

The Virtual Company Licence will enable freelancers and business people worldwide to have access to a regulated e-commerce platform and easily work with Dubai-based companies while also exploring new markets and investment opportunities digitally.

Gulf News explains why, what, how and who is eligible for this virtual company licence.

Why Dubai?

Dubai believes that a business idea should not limited to where you live or work. The Dubai Virtual Commercial City offers the opportunity to register and manage a business online without the need to be a resident of Dubai or the UAE. You can access and operate your business from anywhere in the world.

Registering your virtual company and managing your Virtual Company Licence are the first services offered under the Dubai Virtual Commercial City program.

What is it?

A Virtual Company Licence will allow investors worldwide to do business in Dubai digitally without requiring residence and in accordance with the highest international legal standards.

This means that Virtual Company Licence owners can manage all their business-related activities, including document signing and submission digitally, and the signatures are legally binding in the UAE.

What are the benefits to having a Virtual Commercial Licence?

The Virtual Commercial Licence simplifies the work and life of entrepreneurs and freelancers through the provision of:

• Low costs and administrative burdens to start and grow your company

• Online access to your company

• Access to business opportunities in Dubai

• Access to new customers, markets and investment opportunities

• Participation in virtual companies’ directory

Who is the licence for?

The Virtual Company Licence, a joint initiative of Dubai Economy, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs (GDRFA), Smart Dubai, and the Supreme Legislation Committee, focuses on three main sectors:

Creative industries

Technology industries

Service industries

The initiative, which offers vast opportunities for investors around the world to work digitally in Dubai without having to be in Dubai, will enhance confidence among businesses and investors while also opening new horizons for business competitiveness and growth in Dubai and the UAE.

Can I have a virtual licence for my UAE based company?

No. This is only applicable to non-residents of the UAE. 

You have to be a verified non-resident

The programme allows only verified non-resident individuals to register a company, and the owners of such companies have to be the nationals or tax residents of countries that have implemented the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and share tax information about their citizens and residents.

What are the eligible countries?

The official website has a heat map showing the eligible and non-eligible countries across the globe. India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, North Americas, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Brazil, Argentina, Chile are some of the countries on the eligible list. Yemen, Oman, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Venezuela, Algeria, Egypt are on the non-eligible list according to the map online.

Freelancers can work with Dubai from abroad

The Virtual Company Licence will enable freelancers and business people worldwide to have access to a regulated e-commerce platform and easily work with Dubai-based companies while also exploring new markets and investment opportunities digitally.

How to apply:

Dubai Economy will start receiving applications for the Virtual Company Licence from businessmen and investors in 101 countries through the website www.vccdubai.ae or through the offices of VFS Global across 11 locations worldwide.

Here are the steps:

1. Fill in the online company registration form

2. Background check, which will take from 1-30 days

3. Identification and validation visit

4. Payment and your Virtual Company Licence

How much does it cost?

Upon successful identification and passport validation at VFS Global, you will receive an email that instructs you to pay for your Virtual Company Licence.

The fee is calculated based on the licence validity term that you selected in the online company registration form.

Your company startup fees for sole proprietorship legal type are an equivalent Dh200 for company name and Dh650 per year for virtual company licence.

Virtual Commercial City’s payment gateway is ePay, provided by Dubai Government’s Smart Dubai.

What are the allowed business activities for virtual companies?

Service activities related to printing and advertising:

Books Binding

Typesetting Services

Color Separation Services

Design & Artwork Services

Greeting Cards Production & Distribution Services

Promotional Gifts Preparing

Computer programming, consultancy and related activities:

Computer Systems & Communication Equipment Software Design

Electronic Chips Programming


Social Media Applications Development & Management

Cyber Security Architecture

Public Networking Services

Cyber Risk Management Services

Auditing, Reviewing and Testing Cyber Risks

Managed Cyber Security Services Provider

Marketing Services Via Social Media

Creative Design:

Fashion Design

Jewelry Design

Design Services (interior design, garden design)

Calligraphers & Painters

Product Design

How do I qualify for a Virtual Company Licence?

The establishment of a virtual company in Dubai is suitable for legitimate business interests only.

• Virtual companies are registered in Dubai to individuals who do not reside in the UAE.

• The owners of virtual companies must be the nationals or tax residents of approved countries.

• Virtual companies can conduct location-independent business activities globally in pre-defined sectors.

• Virtual companies remain subject to corporate, individual income and social taxation in the country of incorporation and/or residence, depending on the location of economic activities and international tax agreements.

• Virtual companies operate in a transparent manner including a full public registry of the names of the owners, which will be shared with the tax authorities of relevant jurisdictions upon request.

• A Virtual Company Licence does not automatically guarantee physical access to the UAE be it in the form of a business or visitor or resident visa to any of the company’s partners, directors or employees. However, Dubai Government authorities are working on a simplified visa process for the holders of Virtual Company License.

• A Virtual Company Licence does not automatically guarantee a business bank account in the UAE. Bank account opening will be at the discretion of commercial banks. However, one of their services is facilitating access to account opening processes.

• All applicants for a Virtual Company Licence are subject to background checks by Dubai Government authorities.

• Virtual companies that have the legal form of a sole proprietorship are not subject to local ownership, director, auditor, or qualified business service provider requirement.

• Tax registration with UAE’s Federal Tax Authority is required if the company’s revenue within the UAE exceeds USD 100,000 per year. Tax registration is the obligation of the virtual companies. Value added tax (VAT) in the UAE is 5 per cent, there is no income taxes on non-financial entities.

• Dubai Government has instituted measures against money laundering and tax evasion in line with international agreements and conventions that the UAE is party to.