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A mainland company is a company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) in the relevant Emirate of the United Arab Emirates. Mainland companies offer a broad scope of trade, 100% ownership and location flexibility.
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What is a Mainland Licence And What Does it Include ?
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The first thing you have to decide is what kind of company you would like to open, to figure out which industry you will trade in. There are many permitted business structures listed by the Department of Economic Development (DED). Some of these includes hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture and trading. Unlike free zone companies that are limited from certain activities based on their location, mainland businesses are free to trade in any of the listed activities.
Once you have decided your business structure, the next step is to decide where you want to operate. Companies in the UAE mainland incur no restrictions on where they can set up. The right location will depend on many factors such as business structure and budgeting. Should your company rely on imports and exports, then setting up near one of the UAE’s ports makes best sense. Another advantage of setting up a mainland business in Dubai is the ease of opening branch offices. This means businesses are not limited to one location and can build a large local presence over time.
From a legal standpoint, there are different types of businesses that can be set up by foreign entrepreneurs in the UAE mainland. The most common mainland business structure is a Limited Liability Company (LLC). An LLC is an independent legal entity owned by two or more shareholders. A company who want to trade under a industrial or commercial licence must form an LLC to set up a company in the UAE mainland. This would require a local sponsor. Setting up a professional service company does not require a foreign sponsor and can be 100% foreign owned.
Earlier foreign entrepreneurs could only manage mainland company formation in Dubai by associating with either a local sponsor or service agent. If operating under a commercial or industrial licence as an LLC then a local sponsor is required. Your local sponsor can either be a UAE national or a UAE based business. In both cases, the local sponsor will own 51% of the company.
Choosing a name for your business in Dubai can have a significant impact on your success. The wrong name can result in you failing to connect with customers and even worse it can result in insurmountable business and legal problems. In Dubai there are several considerations to keep in mind. Offensive language, religious references or inferences to other organisations are all forbidden. Only full personal names can be included in your company name. To know all the guidelines on choosing a name for your company, check our blog post about naming your business in Dubai.
Now it is time to apply for a mainland trade licence with the DED. Several documents are required as part of a trade license application. These include a licence application, memorandum of sponsor arrangements and ownership percentage among all partners and shareholder visas, just to name a few.
Once you got a business trading licence, it is time to obtain an office space. In the UAE mainland, serviced offices are usually owned and maintained by a third party and involve everything you need to move in right away. Phone, desks, internet access and reception services are usual included. Your lease payment would usually cover rent, use of office equipment and utility bills. The opposite solution typically requires a full fit-out and decoration, with bills on top of rent costs. A middle solution is possible as well, with office spaces pre-fitted, where the company owner simply provides their own equipment and pays bills separately.
There is no limit regarding visa applications for company owners in the UAE mainland. But the number of applications should match with the amount of office space required. Normally the rule is 100 square feet office space per visa, but there are circumstances where this may not be the case. As the owner of a UAE mainland company, you will also be able to sponsor dependents. Such as family members and domestic staff. Foreign entrepreneurs who establish a business on the UAE mainland are also entitled to an investment visa which gives them and their families the right to live and work in the UAE for up to three years.
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