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Company Setup in Abu Dhabi, UAE

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Abu Dhabi offers vast opportunities for entrepreneurs with its growing economy and business-friendly environment. As the capital of the UAE, the emirate is well-positioned to access markets across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. This guide provides a simple step-by-step process to register your company in Abu Dhabi.

Choosing the Right Business Activity

The first step is to identify an allowed business sector for Abu Dhabi. There are generally two types – regulated and non-regulated. Regulated sectors like healthcare, education require additional approvals. Some top opportunities include:

Oil & Gas – Abu Dhabi has vast oil reserves and supports industries in energy, petrochemicals.

Infrastructure – Megaprojects in real estate, transport, renewable energy drive demand for construction firms.

Tourism – With attractions like Ferrari World, infrastructure is being developed around business and leisure travel.

Research your area of interest to understand market potential and compliance needs. This will help decide the best legal structure for your company.

Deciding on Free Zone or Mainland Registration

Companies can set up within Abu Dhabi’s commercial free zones like Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) or on the mainland.

Free zones offer benefits like 100% foreign ownership, no corporate tax but activities may be limited. The mainland allows all activities but foreign ownership is capped at 49%.

Free zones typically offer a faster setup timeline of 2-4 weeks whereas mainland registration through the Department of Economic Development takes 4-6 weeks. Consider your long term plans and discuss options with experts to pick the right fit.

Obtaining Licences and Permits

To formally register the company, submit documents like passports and memorandum of association to the chosen free zone authority or mainland regulator.

Key requirements include:

Valid trade license for the selected activity
Chamber of Commerce attestations
Ownership details and share certificates
Proof of capital invested

With complete paperwork, approvals are provided within the timelines mentioned. Licensed service providers can prepare all documents to simplify this step.

Setting Up Office Premises

Popular free zones like ADGM, twofour54 and DIFC house internationally-recognized business hubs with plug-and-play offices on flexible leases. Alternatively, scout suitable commercial districts on the mainland.

Key steps involve:

Viewing available spaces and finalizing the layout and size needed
Signing lease agreements and paying deposits
Obtaining utilities connections for power, water and internet
Furnishing and fitting out the office

Consider options close to target markets and transport links for convenience. Approved suppliers can help with the entire process.

Hiring and Permits for Employees

The Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation regulates the employment framework in Abu Dhabi.

To hire expat staff, companies must:

Apply for skilled workforce permits listing required roles
Ensure compliance on salaries, benefits, holidays as mandated
Maintain passport and medical insurance validity at all times
Sponsor visas and residency throughout employment

Free zones may have additional requirements for positions involving UAE nationals. Stay updated on evolving labor policies.

Ongoing Compliance Requirements

As a registered business, companies must fulfilling continuing obligations including:

Filing annual returns disclosing Financials and operations
Renewing trade licenses and CR numbers on time
Paying all municipality fees regularly
Maintaining statutory books as per accounting standards
Reporting changes in ownership or controlled activities

Engage qualified consultants for compliance, accounting and overall secretarial support to ensure lawful operations.


To sum up, Abu Dhabi offers a dynamic environment for startups and enterprises across industries. With the right guidance from experts, the company setup process is straightforward. Horizon Consultancy handles registrations expediently while simplifying ongoing regulatory responsibilities post-incorporation.


How long does the complete process take?

Free zone registration usually completes within 2-4 weeks. Mainland may take 4-6 weeks subject to documentation quality.

Which industries are most successful?

Top sectors driving growth include oil & gas, infrastructure, real estate, healthcare and tourism due to incentives and market opportunities.

What costs are involved?

Initial spends cover license fees from AED10,000-30,000. Additionally budget for deposits, rentals, legal and compliance support during establishment.

What are the legal company structures available in Abu Dhabi?

Free Zone Company, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Branch of a foreign company, Sole Proprietorship

What documents do I need to register a company?

Trade license, Memorandum of Association, Articles of Association, Lease agreement, Utility bills, Passport copies of owners/partners

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Pranav Modi

Mr. Pranav Modi, CA is supported by 12+ years of Consulting, Auditing and Accounting practice across diverse sectors.

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