Stock Business meeting setup
Stock Business meeting setup in UAE Image Credit: Shuttertstock

Dubai: Are you an aspiring entrepreneur but don’t know where to start? A new portal set up by the Dubai Economy and Tourism Department (DET) – ‘Invest in Dubai’ – allows users to not just learn about the business environment in Dubai, but also helps them set up their business completely online.

Here is all you need to know about how to use the platform to build your business from scratch.

I’m new to the business world, can I get some support?

The ‘Invest in Dubai’ website – – provides users with a list of incubators and accelerators that are registered with DET, which can help them develop their business ideas. According to Invest in Dubai, these are some of the platforms that provide support and assistance to start-ups:

  • Scale2Dubai – a global entrepreneurship programme by District 2020.
  • The Hamdan Innovation Incubator (HI2) – an incubator by Dubai SME, DET’s small and medium enterprise division.
  • Re-Urban Studio.
  • The Co-Dubai.
  • The Higher College of Technology-Dubai Men’s Campus.
  • Bedayat.
  • Business Incubator - Gems Modern Academy Schools.
  • British Centers for Business.
  • Amity University Dubai.
  • ALG Incubator.

The website also has a dedicated section providing information on how an entrepreneur can legally crowdfund in Dubai and how they can pursue strategic investments from ‘Invest in Dubai’ partners.

Can I own 100 per cent of my business?

The UAE recently amended its Commercial Companies Law allowing foreign investors and entrepreneurs to have 100 per cent ownership of organsiations set up in the country. However, the option for 100 per cent ownership is not available in every sector or for every business activity. If you are looking to start a business in the UAE that permits 100 per cent foreign ownership, the Invest in Dubai website provides users with the list of business activities where 100 per cent ownership is permitted and you can directly register the trade name and create the business without having to visit any government departments or service centres.

How to create a business with 100 per cent foreign ownership in Dubai

1. Create an account


Click on ‘Log in’.

You can either use your UAE Pass to sign up, or create an account by providing the following details:

• Full Name
• Mobile Number
• Email address
• Date of Birth
• Emirates ID number
• Emirates ID expiry Date
• Passport number
• Passport issue and expiry date
• Home address

The system will ask you to set up a password specifically for the Invest in Dubai account.

Next, you will be asked whether you wish to set up a business or just reserve a trade name. Select ‘I need to open a new business in Dubai’. If you wish to only reserve a trade name for the time being, you can select the second option.

2. Choose your business activity

To start the business set up process, you will first need to select the industry you want to set up a business in. The options are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Fishing
  3. Mining and Quarrying
  4. Accommodation and food service activities
  5. Manufacturing
  6. Contracting
  7. Trading and services
  8. Social and personal services
  9. Transport, storage and communication
  10. Extra Territorial Org and Bodies
  11. Real Estate, Renting
  12. Education
  13. Health and Social Work
  14. Electricity, Gas and Water
  15. Construction
  16. Financial Intermediation
  17. Classification

Select the industry you are interested in, you will then be presented with many business activities in the section. To find which one allows foreign ownership, go to ‘Refine Results’ on the right hand corner of the website and tick the box labelled ‘Show only foreign ownership.’

You will then be presented with business activities in the UAE that allow foreign ownership. For example, if you chose Real Estate and clicked ‘Show only foreign ownership’ – there will be four options:

• Buying and selling real estate
• Commercial complex
• Outlet Mall
• Shopping centre

Choose the activity and click on the blue tab labelled, ‘Start a business’.

3. Register for the business activity

You will then be directed to the next step, which is to register the business activity with DET. If you want to set up the business with partners, fill out ‘Initial Partner Details’ by providing the number of partners and their nationalities.

• Select the ‘business legal type’ – Select the type of legal entity that is most suitable for your business. Examples of legal type include Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC) or branch offices. If you are interested in 100 per cent ownership, this is only possible with the Limited Liability Company category.

There may be situations where you may not be able to select certain legal types. This is because they may not be available to you, based on your profile. For example, if you had selected ‘buying and selling real estate’ as your business activity, you will be presented with only one legal option - ‘Single Owner (LLC – SO)’. This category is applicable for Emiratis, GCC Nationals and foreigners.

• Choose the licence type

Similarly, you will also be presented with the type of licence you can apply for – mainland or free zone.

• Partner Details

If you have partners, enter their details. Make sure you have their identity information such as their address details, mobile number and email address, personal identification numbers (Emirates ID), passport number, Unified ID and their roles in the company, and the percentage of ownership share.

• Initial Approval

For some licences you may require an initial approval to proceed, as well as an ‘Initial approval certificate’ for the relevant authority like municipality or Dubai Civil Defence.

• Location

If you have already applied for an office location, enter location details such as the area in Dubai, building address and PO Box.

• Legal documents

According to ‘Invest in Dubai’ depending on the business activity and sector, you may need to provide legal documents like a Memorandum of Association between the partners or any other document as required for your business activity.

4. Create a Trade Name

You can either create or reserve an existing trade name. Once you enter the name in English, the system will reflect a transliterated version of the name in Arabic.

Trade Name Guidelines
Trade Name Guidelines Image Credit: Invest in Dubai

5. Fees and payment

Depending on the licence, legal type and activities you are eligible for, the fees will be calculated.

6. Receive your licence

Once you have completed the application process and made the fee payment, you will receive your final licence and other related documents in a digital format. All documents you receive will then be stored in the document locker on your online dashboard.