Dubai: If you are thinking of launching a business in Abu Dhabi – you can complete the process online.
From finding out the type of establishment you can create, to uploading the necessary documents and getting approvals, the process has been digitised through Tamm, the official digital platform for all Abu Dhabi government services.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can get a business licence in the Emirate.
How to start a business in Abu Dhabi
You can complete the process from selecting your business activity to reserving your trade name all online via this link here:
Step 1: Find the legal form type for your business
Visit the business set up portal on tamm.abudhabi to start the process: https://www.tamm.abudhabi/journeys/start-your-business/plan/wiki/legal-form
You will first be required to determine the ‘legal form type’ of your company, which refers to the type of legal entity that your company would be.
According to tamm.abudhabi these are the three possible legal types you can select from:
Establishment – A facility owned by one person only, licenced to practise select economic activities, which vary according to the owner’s nationality. The financial liability of this establishment type lies with the owner, who could be an Emirati, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) national, or expatriate. An Emirati, or a company wholly owned by Emiratis, will be required to act as a local sponsor in case of foreign ownership.
Sole proprietorship LLC – A facility that allows a single member to own 100 per cent of the business and registered as a separate entity from its owner. It is no longer attached to and identified with the owner for tax and liability purposes. Only Emirati and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals are eligible for this legal form.
Limited Liability Company LLC – A facility established by contract between 2 and up to 50 people. All LLC owners liability is limited to their ownership stake in the company. Share of Emiratis in the firm capital is required to be a minimum of 51 per cent.
Step 2: Find your business activity
After determining the legal form of your business, you would then need to select the business activity. It is essential to register your business activity because the licence fee and legal requirements vary according to the nature of business activity. You can find the business activities allowed in the Emirate, by visiting the ‘Business Activities Information’ service provided by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), here: https://www.adbc.gov.ae/BussinessActivityInfo/BussinessActivity.aspx?culture=en
Step 3: Reserve your trade name
After selecting the activity and legal form of the business, a trade name which distinguishes the business from others and conforms to the nature of the activity and legal form should be selected.
If you want to find out if the name you had in mind for your business is already taken, you can visit this service by TAMM, to search existing Trade Names in Abu Dhabi: https://www.tamm.abudhabi/services/business/ded/tradename-search/home?lang=en
Once you have finalised the name for your business, follow these steps:
Enter the name you wish to reserve for your business, and you will be presented with recommended names in English and Arabic. These are pre-approved by the economic department and any additional manual approvals required to reserve these names are waived off. In case you do not want to follow the recommended names, use the customise option to make edits to your economic name in English and Arabic. The name will be subject to manual review and approval.
Submit application - After selecting and customising the economic name, submit the application.
It will be reviewed by the Department of Economic Development (DED), if required, and upon approval, you can proceed to pay.
After payment, the application will be reviewed by the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) for initial approval, after which, the economic name certificate will be available for download.
You will be notified of the status of your application as it moves through the different stages of approval.
The trade name reservation takes up to two days, according to tamm.abudhabi.
- Economic name reservation (regular name) - Dh200 for three months
- Economic name reservation (exceptional name) - Dh1,200 for three months
- Security check by Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) - Dh15
Step 4: Obtaining Initial Approval
After obtaining the trade name certificate, the investor can start the procedures for issuing the initial approval. The initial approval is the certificate that enables an investor to proceed with the formalities of issuing a business licence, and to approach the relevant authorities for getting their approval for practising the required business activity. For foreign investors, obtaining the approval of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Abu Dhabi is compulsory.
At this stage, the investor can also rent the site of his business. He can visit the Commercial Protection Division at ADDED and the relevant authorities to see if the proposed site meets the conditions and specifications and whether it is suitable for the activity type.
Step 5: Obtaining Approvals from Concerned Authorities
After obtaining the initial approval, the investor would need to visit any relevant authority to obtain an approval, if needed, and fulfill the legal requirements. This may include the Department of Transport, municipality or civil defence. These approvals can also be issued electronically. However, some business activities require only the approval of ADDED
Step 6: Issuing Business Licence
Based on selected activities, a lease contract number may be mandatory. You can enter it while completing the online process, or, if it is optional, you can opt to add it at a later stage as a licence amendment. However, in that case, you will be charged an additional fee.
Upload documents: Based on the legal form and selected activities, you will be asked to upload certain documents. If the legal form is an establishment owned by a non-GCC national, a local sponsor contract will be required. If the legal form is a Sole Proprietorship LLC or a Limited Liability Company, a Memorandum of Association (MOA) will be required.
Once all the details are added, submit the application.
In certain cases, based on your selected activities, you may have to pay a certain amount along with application. Your application will be reviewed by ADDED and upon approval, you will need to make the required payment, after which, the economic licence will be issued and available for download. You will be notified of the status of your application as it moves through the different stages of approval.
- Memorandum of Association (only for LLC and Sole Proprietorship LLC)
- Other documents required based on selected activities
- Notarised local sponsor contract (only for foreign-owned establishment)
Activity fee - Depends on the activities selected
- Signboard fee – Dh200
- Commercial board fee - Dh100
- Civil Defence fee - Dh500
- ICA approval fee - Dh100
- Economic licence fee - Dh100
- Establishment card - Dh350
- Service fee – 25 per cent of total activities cost
You may need to pay additional fees for approvals, depending on your business activity.