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UAE FREE ZONES

LAST UPDATED: 05/07/2020

Business setup in UAE free zones is one of the most demanded types of services. No wonder - UAE has proven its commitment to global corporate and compliance standards. It makes this country stand out of the list of purely “offshore” jurisdictions. 

Company setup in UAE is one of the “must haves” of international entrepreneurs, doing cross-country businesses.

Most important facts you need to know about freezone business setup in UAE:

  • You own 100% of the company without local partner or agent
  • Your free zone company is compliant with economic substance requirements
  • No limitations on transferring funds out of UAE
  • Financial audit is not required in most free zones
  • Corporate account in one of UAE government banks
  • UAE residency for company owners and employees
  • No personal presence for setup or renewal

UAE free zones offer packages suitable for any businesses: from the cheapest company formation in UAE up to prestigious world renown free zones for business setup in Dubai.

UAQ FTZ - Umm Al Quwain Free Zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established2014
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-2 visas with flexi desk, multiple visas with office
Time-frame1 day

Umm Al Quwain Free Zone perfectly suits start-ups or businesses moving to UAE for the first time to test local market.

Many of you might not have heard about the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain - it is located between Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah and is rather small and quiet but quickly developing place. Just keep in mind that you can run the business regardless of the place of your company incorporation, since you don’t need to visit the Free Zone. It just remains the legal place of your company registration. The bank account will be opened in a Dubai branch of any bank of your choice.

It is easy to setup a company in Umm Al Quwain. You will be asked to provide only a few personal documents: passport copy, photo and a utility bill.

+ PROS

  • Fast setup - 1 day
  • Company registration without personal presence

- CONS

  • Flexi desk packages only up to 3 visas
  • Security approval required for high risk nationalities

RAKEZ - Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (ex. RAK Free Zone)

KEY FEATURES:

Established2000
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-4 visas with flexi desk, multiple visas with office
Time-framePre-approval in 1 week, 2 days company formation

RAKEZ stands for Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, which was found after consolidation of 2 Free Zones - Rak Free Trade Zone and RAK Investment Authority, which made the Zone really huge. It is one of the most popular Free Zones - even people who have not heard much of UAE Free Zones, know about it.

RAKEZ is one of a few Free Zones which always has customizable warehouses and plots of industrial land for development. You can also build or rent ready-made staff and labor accommodation. It is located not far from RAK airport and has a sea port in close proximity.

RAKEZ has a huge variety of business activities and you can be sure that you will find what you need. Incorporation of a company starts with obligatory security approval for all nationalities, which may take from a few days to a few weeks sometimes. Once it’s done, the company is registered within about a week. 

+ PROS

  • High chances to get 1 resident visa package for "high risk nationalities" (Bangladesh, Lebanon, Egypt and others)
  • Reasonable price of executive offices with location in RAK and flexi-desks in Abu Dhabi
  • No E-channel Deposit for packages with flexi facility

- CONS

  • Personal visit of PoA is required for company setup
  • Longer setup process in comparison with similar Free Zones
  • Annual audit is required

Fujairah Creative City

KEY FEATURES:

Established2005
Licenses typesConsultancy
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices
Visas1-15 visas with flexi desk
Time-frameCompany setup in 2-3 days

Creative City Free Zone is located in the most remote Emirate of Fujairah, but regardless of the location, it has some valuable benefits which would make you consider it as an option of business setup.

As you could gather from it’s name, Creative City is s hub of professional services companies. It does not have any trading activities at all, but the choice of professional and consultancy business activities is quite impressive: it starts with media and consultancy and ends up with personal training and intellectual rights protection.

A company can be registered remotely - your visit to the Free Zone is not required. In fact, we have never seen any company owners who would go to Creative City by themselves. The setup is done within a week.

+ PROS

  • Wide range of professional and service business activities
  • Up to 15 resident visas without office rent
  • Remote business setup and visa processing

- CONS

  • No trading activities
  • Shareholder needs to visit Fujairah to get driver's license or visas for dependents
  • Higher visa costs in comparison with similar Free Zones

Ajman Free Zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established1988
Licenses typesFreelance, Trading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-2 visas with flexi desk, 5 visas with office
Time-frame1 day

Ajman Free Zone. AFZA is quite a well-known zone, which has some unique features that are not available elsewhere. 

The most attractive offer from AFZA is a so-called multiple installment payment plan for the company registration. It means that you can get your company registered by paying only part of the government fees for it - you can opt for 2, 3 or 6 installments. It is really convenient for those who are looking for a low budget startup. AFZA is the only Free Zone which has such payment plan.

+ PROS

  • Fast registration – License in one day
  • Chamber of commerce membership upon company setup
  • Multiple installments plan: pay for AFZA license in 2, 3 or 6 installments

- CONS

  • Professional service license in AFZA can have only 1 business activity
  • High deposits in immigration in case a woman is sponsoring dependents
  • Maximum 2 visas per license with flexi desk

Ajman Media City

KEY FEATURES:

Established2015
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices
Visas1-5 visas with flexi desk
Setup time2-3 days

Ajman Media City is the newest UAE Free Zone. It has entered the market in 2018 with an offer that beats many other similar free zones: it has the cheapest zero visa package, offers up to 5 resident visas with a small dedicated office of 12 sq meters and multiple business activities in the license.

After company registration, it provides the fullest set of corporate documents in order to make Dubai bank account opening easier. Apart from traditional license, COI, MoA and lease agreement, it gives you an incumbency certificate, salary certificate and shares certificate.

This Free Zone offers not only media, but also trading, legal, marketing activities, as well as head office and holding company categories. Any license can have up to 5 business activities, but at least one of them should be related to media or advertising.

+ PROS

  • One of the most cost-efficient Free Zones
  • One of the best prices for 1 visa company

- CONS

  • Smaller activity list than in similar Free Zones
  • Having at least one media related activity in the license is a must

KIZAD - Khalifa Industrial Zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established2010
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-3 visas with flexi desk, multiple visas with office
Setup time1 day registration, 1 week pre-approval

KIZAD stands for Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. It is a state-of-the-art Free Zone located in Abu Dhabi next to Khalifa port – one of the most developed ports in the world.

As of now, it is the most affordable Abu Dhabi Free Zone.

KIZAD offers a vast list of activities with its focus on trading, industrial and logistic businesses. It has attractive tax conditions for manufacturers producing goods in the free zone and re-shipping them to other countries. You can claim tax exemption on raw materials as well. KIZAD also have service activities related to management, marketing, freight forwarding support and even travel agencies.

KIZAD is a great option for those who need their business to be registered in Abu Dhabi or plan to set up a manufacturing activity next to a port.

+ PROS

  • The most cost-efficient Free Zone in Abu Dhabi
  • Easy to open a bank account

- CONS

  • Actual capital of 26 000 AED is required to be on the bank account
  • Personal visit for registration is required

IFZA - International Free Zone Authority

KEY FEATURES:

Established2017
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices
Visas1-6 visas with flexi desk
Setup timeRegistration in 2 days

IFZA stands for International Free Zone Authority. It is a brand new Free Zone in the Emirate of Fujairah. IFZA is located in a modern facility, which combines shared desks, offices, conference rooms, hotel, warehouses and even residential apartments.

IFZA has one of the biggest activity lists including professional, industrial and commercial activities. All licenses are registered as LLCs.

IFZA is the only environmentally friendly UAE Free Zone. It focuses on sustainability and its initiatives include use of solar and wind energy, reducing the use of paper for its documents turnaround, buildings insulation and others.

+ PROS

  • Big variety of business activities
  • Up to 6 activities in one license

- CONS

  • Owners need to go to Fujairah for driving license or dependent visa processing
  • Longer setup than in similar Free Zones

SAIF - Sharjah Airport International Free Zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established1996
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-2 visas with flexi desk, multiple visas with office
Setup timeRegistration in one day

SAIF stands for Sharjah Airport Free Zone. It is located next to Sharjah international airport. It was formed in 1995 and hosts almost 7000 companies now. It has one of the fullest range of facilities - starting from flexi desks and offices, ending with warehouses and plots of land.

SAIF's business activity list is very broad and even has some hard to get service activities, such as "Investment of own funds". Activities also allow storage and consolidation of the products specified in your license, as well as manufacturing and assembling of your products.

+ PROS

  • Located next to Sharjah airport - easy logistics
  • Wide range of Industrial activities

- CONS

  • Annual audit is required
  • Passports of employees may have to be kept in the Free Zone

SHAMS - Sharjah Media City free zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established2017
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-2 visas with flexi desk, 5 visas with office
Setup timeRegistration in 3 days

SHAMS is located in Sharjah - the nearest Emirate to Dubai. It is known as the Media Free Zone, but you shouldn’t think that all business activities are related only to Media sector. In fact, activity list is very broad and includes trading, professional services, holding and other activities.

SHAMS allows the youngest age of the company shareholders - you can own a business starting from the age of 19. This is a great benefit not available in any other Free Zones. Company employees can be as young as 18 years old, which is also quite unusual in comparison to other Free Zones.

+ PROS

  • Flexible visa packages - from 0 to 6 visas
  • Rare business activities not available in other Free Zones
  • Low cost of the business registration and maintenance

- CONS

  • Downgrade of the package is not permitted
  • Women may have problems to sponsor dependents in Sharjah
  • No flexi desk facility with zero visa packages

Hamriyah Free Zone

KEY FEATURES:

Established1995
Licenses typesTrading, Consultancy, Industrial
FacilitiesFlexi-desks, Offices, Warehouses
Visas1-2 visas with flexi desk, multiple visas with office
Setup time1 day registration

Hamriyah Free Zone is governed by the Emirate of Sharjah and is the second largest Free Zone of UAE after JAFZA.

It has lots of oil and gas and manufacturing companies registered there, as well as its own sea port. Hamriyah is flexible in terms of the visas - you can open a company eligible from 0 up to 7 visas without office rent. Its zero visa package is the cheapest all over UAE.

Company setup is done within one day, but the presence of the shareholder is mandatory.

+ PROS

  • Big warehouses and plots of land are always available
  • Own sea port inside of the Free Zone

- CONS

  • Personal visit for company registration is required
  • Remote location from Dubai

Conclusion

UAE free zone business setup can help you to solve many corporate challenges of international business registration such as: 

  • Safety of your funds
  • Free movement of money
  • Quick international transfers
  • Company in a white listed sanctions free country
  • Stable rate of local currency
  • Good geographical position
  • Available workforce
     

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