UAE expatriates are allowed full foreign ownership of over 1,000 business activities in Sharjah, but are exempted from seven industries. Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: If you are an expatriate interested in setting up a business with 100 per cent foreign ownership in mainland Sharjah, you have over 1,000 business activities to choose from.

Since 2021, Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD), the authority in charge of licensing and registration of corporate entities in mainland Sharjah, has implemented the full foreign ownership policy. This change came about following the introduction of the Commercial Companies Law in 2020, by the UAE government.

If you want to know how you can find these business activities, follow these steps.

What is the Commercial Companies Law?
According to the UAE’s Ministry of Economy (MOE), investors of all nationalities can establish and fully own companies in the UAE.

Previously, based on the Commercial Companies law of 2015, foreign shareholders were limited to owning a maximum of 49 per cent shares in a Limited Liability Company (LLC) operating as an onshore UAE business.

However, the UAE government amended the law in June 2021 by issuing Federal Law by Decree No. (26) of 2020 Amending Certain Provisions of Federal Law No. (2) of 2015 on Commercial Companies, and annulling the requirement for some commercial companies to have a major Emirati shareholder or agent.


Which activities in Sharjah allow full foreign ownership?

According to SEDD, the activities available for foreign ownership are over 1,200 activities.

7 Business activities exempted from foreign ownership in Sharjah

According to SEDD, a foreigner, whether a natural or legal person, can own 100 per cent of commercial and industrial activities in the emirate, except for these industries:

1. Security, defence and military activities.
2. Services related to fisheries.
3. Banks, exchange houses, finance and insurance companies.
4. Printing of banknotes.
5. Telecommunication as well as radio and television broadcasting stations.
6. Hajj and Umrah services.
7. Holy Quran centres.

How to find business activities

If you are interested in setting up a business, you can search all the business activities allowed for foreign through a platform started by the UAE’s Ministry of Possibilities - ‘Basher’. The business set up platform -, enables investors to establish their businesses in the UAE within 15 minutes. This platform is connected with federal and local government entities, which provide commercial licence services.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Visit
2. Next, go the ‘Explore Opportunities’, and select ‘Business Tools’. From the menu select ‘Business Activity Search’.
3. Next, select the emirate.
4. Enter your nationality.
5. Select the legal type of the business.
6. You will then be able to view all the business activities you are eligible for.

If the type of business you wish to start is part of the approved list of business activities, you can then start the process of setting up your business. The total cost and the exact procedure – including the types of approvals you would need from government departments – varies, depending on the type of business you wish to set up. For a complete guide on what you need to do to set up a business in the UAE, as well as an estimate on how much it will cost you, click here .