Dubai businessman
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Dubai: Researching and finding out which free zone suits the profile of your company can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are doing it on your own.

To make the process easier, the Free Zone Gateway website – – managed by the Dubai Free Zone Council (DFZC), helps entrepreneurs and investors get linked with the right free zone and provides detailed information on each free zone in Dubai and their facilities.


According to the website, the goal of the platform is to provide a fair representation of the various free zones’ offerings. The service is free of cost. Here's how to use the platform.

What is a free zone?
A free zone is a ‘special economic zone’, where companies can operate and receive considerable tax and fee exemptions. Companies within free zones are governed by authorities designated for the specific zone.

How to use the Free Zone Gateway platform and get matched with the right free zone in Dubai

There are 25 free zones that have partnered with the DFZC council. Through Free Zone Gateway, you can find the specific free zone for your business according to your criteria.

For example, if you want to start an eCommerce firm, but also want to be located near an airport, you can set that as your criteria on the site, and the platform will recommend Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA) or Dubai CommerCity. Both of these free zones offer an eCommerce licence and are located near Dubai International Airport.

Here is detailed look on how to use the platform

First visit the site: and use the filters provided to find a free zone that matches the profile of your business.

Step 1: Select a business sector

For this you will have to select the industry your company specialises in:

• Aviation
• Commodities
• Construction
• eCommerce
• Education
• Energy
• Fashion And Design
• Finance And Banking
• Food And Agriculture
• Healthcare
• Hospitality And Tourism
• Humanitarian
• Industrial
• Technology
• Logistics
• Media
• Outsourcing Services
• Real Estate
• Trade

Step 2: Choose your licence type

Next, choose the licence type. A business licence is an approved document that legally allows an individual to start practising a business activity within that business sector.

Aviation – This licence allows you to carry out specified services related to aviation.
Commercial – This licence enables you to deal with business activities related to trading activities.
eCommerce – With this licence you can trade products and services online.
Freelance – A freelance permit allows individual professionals to work independently in a free zone.
General trade – With this licence, you can trade in general activities, including import, export, re-export, storage and distribution.
Industrial – This licence enables you to conduct light manufacturing in dedicated facilities within the Free Zone. Light manufacturing mostly relates to the packaging and assembly of products.
Logistics – This licence allows you to carry out specified logistics services, for example, storage, transportation, distribution, sorting, freight forwarding and clearing activities, order management, inventory management.
Non-profit – This licence is specifically for businesses dealing with humanitarian aid and charity.
Service - This licence is suitable for service-oriented businesses. For example, the rendering of services in all sectors such as professional, legal, financial, media, technology, education, energy and healthcare.
Trade - This licence allows you to participate in trade operations such as importing, exporting, re-exporting, distributing, and storing specific items.

Step 3: Select the type of amenities and facilities you want for your business

If you want start a company located near a sea port, or airport or are looking to set up your business in an area where there are warehousing facilities, you can also set that as your criteria.

Step 4: Get matched with the right free zone

Once you have filtered down your search, the platform will match you with the right free zone for your business. Depending on your filters, you can get multiple free zones recommended.

Once you have zeroed down on the right free zone for your business idea, you would then need to start the process of setting up the business. For an in-depth guide on how to start a business in a free zone in the UAE, click here.

Setting up a business in mainland Dubai

Mainland companies are different from free zone companies in many ways. Firstly, they are licensed by the economic department of an emirate, while free zone companies are licensed by the specific free zone authority. For example, if you want to set up a mainland company in Dubai, you would need to apply for a business licence from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

There are also certain limitations when it comes to the scope of business operations you can conduct within a free zone. To know more about the difference between a mainland company and a free zone company, click here.

If you want to know how you can set up a mainland business in Dubai entirely online, click here.

With recent amendments to the Commercial Companies Law - UAE Federal Decree Law no. 32 of 2021 - expatriates are also allowed to own 100 per cent of business in the mainland. However, there are some businesses and sectors that are excluded from this provision of 100 per cent foreign ownership. To know more, click here.

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