A Guide for UK Entrepreneurs to Successfully Establish Their Business in Dubai

A Guide for UK Entrepreneurs to Successfully Establish Their Business in Dubai


Dubai has launched an array of initiatives aimed at doubling its GDP in 2023. This is one of the many components of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s new 10-year plan for Dubai. Alongside this, further initiatives are also being implemented to boost the proportion of Emiratis working in the private sector and to improve worker protection overall.

According to World Bank projections, the non-oil sector is anticipated to have significant growth of 4.8 percent, driven by strong domestic demand, notably in the tourism, real estate, construction, transportation, and industrial sectors. Overall, the UAE’s GDP is expected to increase by 2.8 percent by the end of 2023.

This quick guide provides insights into the key considerations and steps to successfully establish your business setup in Dubai.

Understand the Local Business Landscape

Before diving into the Dubai market, it is crucial to conduct thorough research and gain a deep understanding of the local business landscape. According to a survey by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the top sectors attracting foreign investment in Dubai are real estate, construction, retail, and hospitality. This highlights the importance of analysing market dynamics and identifying the most promising sectors for your business.

Choose the Right Business Structure

Dubai offers several business structures, each with its own advantages and requirements. The most common business setup options for UK entrepreneurs are:

  1. Limited Liability Company (LLC): This structure allows foreign entrepreneurs to have a local partner (UAE national) holding a minimum of 51% ownership. It provides flexibility and operational control.
  2. Free Zone Company: Setting up in one of Dubai’s many free zones allows 100% foreign ownership. Free zones offer tax benefits, streamlined procedures, and infrastructure tailored to specific industries such as technology, finance, media, and healthcare.
  3. Branch Office: Entrepreneurs can establish a branch office of their existing company in Dubai, which can be advantageous for those seeking to expand their brand presence without the need for a local partner.

It is important to choose a business structure that aligns with your objectives, industry requirements, and long-term plans. To make this crucial decision, you can seek the assistance of professional business setup consultants in Dubai, they can guide you effectively keeping in mind your business activity, budget, and other crucial requirements.

According to the Dubai Department of Economic Development, more than 40% of foreign companies in Dubai choose the Limited Liability Company (LLC) structure, which allows them to have a local partner holding a minimum of 51% ownership, however, this varies on the business activity.

On the other hand, approximately 30% of foreign companies opt for the Free Zone Company structure, benefiting from 100% foreign ownership and tax advantages. These statistics emphasize the popularity and viability of these business structures among entrepreneurs.

Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Understanding and adhering to Dubai’s legal and regulatory framework is vital for a smooth business setup.

  1. Trade License: Obtain the appropriate trade license based on your business activity. The Department of Economic Development (DED) or the relevant free zone authority issues trade licenses.
  2. Commercial Space: Identify suitable office or retail space for your business. The location should align with your target market and be compliant with zoning regulations.
  3. Sponsorship and Visas: Engage a local sponsor or partner if setting up an LLC. Obtain the necessary visas for you and your employees through the relevant authorities, such as the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. You can also consult PRO services in Dubai for quick assistance in obtaining your visa in Dubai.
  4. Intellectual Property Protection: Safeguard your intellectual property rights by registering trademarks, copyrights, and patents with the relevant authorities.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2022 report, Dubai ranked 5th globally in the ease of starting a business category, showcasing its business-friendly environment.

Furthermore, the report highlighted that it takes an average of only 8.5 days to start a business in Dubai, significantly faster than the global average of 20.2 days. These statistics demonstrate the efficiency of the setup process in Dubai.

Local Partnerships

Building strong relationships with local partners, suppliers, and distributors is crucial for success in Dubai. Local partners can provide invaluable market insights, and contacts, and help navigate cultural nuances. Attend networking events, and trade fairs, and engage with local business organizations to expand your network and foster partnerships.

Cultural Considerations

Dubai is a multicultural city with diverse business practices and customs. Embrace cultural sensitivity by understanding local traditions, etiquette, and business norms. Developing cross-cultural communication skills and building trust and respect with your Emirati counterparts will enhance your business relationships.

Government Support and Incentives

The Dubai government offers various incentives and support programs to encourage entrepreneurship and foreign investment. According to Dubai SME, the government’s agency for supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, over 200 initiatives and programs are available to support entrepreneurs. These initiatives include access to funding, mentorship, and business development resources. Leveraging these opportunities can significantly benefit UK entrepreneurs and contribute to their success in Dubai.


Dubai presents an extraordinary opportunity for UK entrepreneurs seeking to establish their businesses in an international hub of innovation, growth, and diversity. With the right mindset, preparation, and a solid foundation, your business setup in Dubai can easily flourish. So, seize this opportunity, embrace the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Dubai, and set forth on your journey toward business excellence.


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