If you are thinking about doing business in the UAE for the first time, then this article is for you. We’ll be sharing with you some general information which will hopefully help to give you some useful knowledge about the country.

And then we will look at some of the routes that you can take to enter the UAE market, all of which may be of interest to foreign investors, entrepreneurs, and business people who are thinking about doing business in the UAE.

This article is aimed at those who do not have an existing familiarity with the country or its business landscape but are perhaps interested in exploring opportunities for doing business within the country.

The UAE is undoubtedly a popular place for business and trade and the country attracts foreign investors and business people from all over the world.

Things You Need To Know Before Doing Business In UAE

So let’s begin with a short introduction to the country itself.

7 Emirates of Dubai

The UAE was officially established on the second of December 1971. The country is a constitutional Federation made up of seven emirates, namely Abu Dhabi, Dubai Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.

What’s An Emirate

An emirate is similar to our understanding of a territorial state. By definition, it is typically a geographical or political territory that comes under the jurisdiction of a ruler, often known as an Emir.

Seven emirates of the UAE are formally united together under the overarching leadership of the Federal Supreme Council and Council of Ministers.

Legislative Authority In UAE

Certain legislative and executive authority is reserved exclusively for the federal government. And this way you may consider it to be a bit similar to the federal state structure of the United States of America and other similar countries where you have individual geographical or territorial states,

which can govern a designated territorial area within a country, however, are ultimately united under the jurisdiction of an overarching federal authority or government.

Arabic As The Offical Language

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the seat of the federal government. Arabic is the official state language however, pretty much everyone speaks English, and it serves as a common language amongst the country’s population. As a result, a lot of business and trade is conducted in English.

However, across the mainland, official documents used within a state or government-related context will typically be in Arabic. And whenever documents are to be translated, priority is given to the Arabic version.

UAE’S Currency

The nation’s currency is called the UAE Dirham. And it is pegged to the US dollar business.

Working Days In UAE

Working days typically run from Sunday to Thursday as part of the five-day working week. Friday and Saturday become part of the weekend. Some businesses work six days a week with Friday being a day of rest in all cases. Public holidays are based on a lunar calendar and will normally be officially declared a day or two before they are anticipated based on a sighting.

Strategic Location For Business Endeavors

The country is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is commonly referred to as the GCC. The UAE enjoys an enviable and strategic geographical location on the world map. The country sits in the middle of the major western and eastern world economies.

UAE Has Become A Business Powerhouse

Over the last 40-plus years, the country has undergone an incredible transformation from being a sparsely populated basic and regional trading hub and the Middle East and Gulf region to a highly developed modern-day nation. A regional powerhouse, and a global business hub with world-class infrastructure.

The Discovery of Oil

The discovery of oil in the early 1960s helped pave the way for the rapid development of the relatively new country and enabled it to attract investment from all around the world and subsequently led to a wide diversification of its economy.

Development of A Robust Economy

While the country’s economy was originally centered around this oil and gas industry, it grew vis-a-vis implementation of effective policies and strategies over the years to allow it to diversify and develop a robust economy across many sectors including shipping, transport, construction, energy, financial services, and of course, tourism.

UAE; The Most Preferred Investment Hub In The Middle East

The UAE is probably the most preferred investment hub in the Middle East, largely due to the steady development of its economy, the stability of its government and state institutions, and its commitment to enhancing the business environment within the country.

Without a doubt, the country has a pro-business approach which has been underpinned by a clear focus on cultivating an attractive environment for business and trade.

The country’s huge economic growth and expansion over the last few decades, have positively contributed to an evolving social and economic landscape and brought about a modern-day burgeoning economy.

This has also led to a growing and diverse population in the country. The current estimated population is around nine and a half million people, of which around 80 to 90% are ex-pats.

The sheer diversity in the UAE is also immediately palpable. The country has become a destination of choice for people from all walks of life, including investors and businesses, looking to expand overseas, especially into the Middle East or Gulf region and beyond.

How To Do Business In UAE

Let’s now move on to looking at the commercial routes for entering the UAE market and doing business within the country. There are three main routes that can be taken.

Establishing A Physical Presence

The first and perhaps most common route is to establish a physical presence in the country. This can be achieved by setting up a business on the UAE mainland, setting up in one of the free zones, or by setting up an offshore company in one of the UAE offshore jurisdictions.

Options Available

Note that there are various different options for setting up a business on the UAE mainland, Now, whether you look at setting up on the mainland and a free zone or in an offshore jurisdiction, much will depend on the intended commercial activities of the business.

Consulting Legal Advisor

This is one main factor that will help to determine where in the UAE might be the most suitable place to establish the business. There are certain advantages and limitations within each of these routes.

And if this is something that you may want to learn more about, then a good idea is to consult a legal adviser who can help you to understand what exactly these advantages and limitations are. In return, help you to work out where would be best to establish your business.

Moreover, it is crucial to establish a physical presence in the country, your business entity must be registered and licensed by a relevant licensing authority.

Setting Up A Commercial Agency Arrangement

If you would like to conduct business within the UAE, but do not necessarily want to go down the path of establishing a physical presence in the country, then you can look at setting up a commercial agency arrangement.

What this means is appointing a commercial agent to carry out business activities on your behalf under the UAE laws.

Again, there are certain advantages and limitations of commercial agency arrangements, which should be considered before they are entered into.

Taking Assistance From Professional Translation Services

Some of the main advantages include a foreign business being able to tap into the experience and expertise of the local market and using this to gain a foothold. However, in order to do that effectively, you would need the assistance of a professional translation services company.

Commercial Agent

In the market and also certain restricted business activities can be conducted through a commercial agent, which perhaps would otherwise not be possible for the foreign business to do. One of the main drawbacks can be around terminating the arrangement. And practice is not always straightforward and can operate to the detriment of the principal while favoring the possession of the agent.

Commercial Agency Agreement Registration

Another important point, a commercial agency agreement must be registered. It’s worth reiterating that before entering into a commercial agency agreement, getting some advice on it is highly advisable. Sometimes these arrangements are entered into without the registration element. It is likely to cause problems, therefore should be avoided entirely.


And now moving on to the third highlighted route, freelancing. Setting up a separate business entity or a company is not feasible either because of the costs. Or because the business itself is small scale and essentially revolves around a person themselves, then freelancing is an option.

Freelancer Permit

Through an appropriate freelancer, permit, or license. There are a number of reasons that offer an option of a freelancer permit or license, which also include the ability to add a residence visa on top.

This can be a fast and cost-effective way for an individual to set up a small business in the UAE. And be able to lawfully live and work in the country.

A usual requirement for a freelancer permit or license is that educational qualification is normally required, such as a university degree and the business activity normally needs to relate to that qualification.

Freelancing is becoming more and more popular. And there are some particularly good options available in the market if this happens to suit your business circumstances.

So these are the three main commercial routes that you can take to enter the UAE market and begin doing business within the country.


In this article, we discussed the strategy required to set up a business in UAE.

UAE is a booming market. And one of the most attractive business destinations. But in order to effectively penetrate the market, you need to have adequate information about the ins and out of the market.

Understanding the language and the local audience is crucial. And proper assistance from consultant agencies along with translation services from professional localization agencies is very important.


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