How to get a business license in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s prominence as a commercial hub in the UAE keeps on growing. According to news reports, there was a 21.5% rise in business licences issued there last year – showing just how dynamic the emirate is for startups, investors and entrepreneurs. 

If you would like to start a business in Abu Dhabi, you must apply for a business licence as part of the process. It is a legal requirement to have an Abu Dhabi business licence if you want to begin any kind of commercial activity there.

In this blog you will learn about all the steps involved in business setup in Abu Dhabi, including:

  • Benefits of starting a business in Abu Dhabi
  • Steps to get a business licence in Abu Dhabi
  • How much does a business licence cost in Abu Dhabi?
  • Types of business licence in Abu Dhabi
  • Working with Setup in Abu Dhabi

Benefits of starting a business in Abu Dhabi

Starting a business in Abu Dhabi provides multiple benefits for entrepreneurs. Here are some of the key reasons you should consider launching your business in this dynamic emirate:

Booming market
The economy of Abu Dhabi has grown almost fivefold in the past 20 years. This rapid growth means that you will have access to a large market of consumers and business customers for your products or services.

Geographical location
Abu Dhabi is at the crossroads of global trade, with easy access to the GCC region, Middle East, South and Central Asia, Africa and Europe. From your base in Abu Dhabi, you will quickly be able to reach billions of consumers and countless corporate clients.

Low tax emirate
Abu Dhabi has low rates of income tax and corporation tax, which means that you get to keep more of your business’s profits to re-invest and grow further.

Hub for key industries
Although Dubai may be better known as the United Arab Emirates’ biggest commercial hub, Abu Dhabi has the edge on the city in specific industries such as steel & aluminium manufacturing, glass production, plastics, automotive and pharmaceuticals. If you work in one of these industries (or supply to them), you will be able to access these markets more easily if you are based in Abu Dhabi. 

Excellent infrastructure
Abu Dhabi has world-class infrastructure to help get your business off the ground, including seaports, airports, road networks, warehouses and internet/telecommunications. 

Steps to get a business licence in Abu Dhabi

Getting a business licence in Abu Dhabi is normally relatively straightforward – so long as you follow the five steps detailed below.

  1. Choose a company name
    The first step in business setup in Abu Dhabi is to choose a name for your company. Your company’s name must comply with various rules and requirements around business naming in the United Arab Emirates. One of the requirements is that your company’s name must describe what your business does clearly. It should avoid any potentially offensive terms, as well as titles that could be misleading or that sound similar to other existing businesses.
  1. Apply for an Abu Dhabi business licence
    Entrepreneurs and investors have two types of business licence to choose between – a mainland Abu Dhabi licence or a free zone licence. At Setup in Abu Dhabi, we can advise you on the best type of licence for your business.
    With free zone licences you get the benefit of paying 0% income tax, quick and easy office setup, and 100% foreign ownership of your business. On the other hand, mainland licence setup in Abu Dhabi gives you direct access to the local market and may be essential in certain industries.
  1. Submit all the documents
    You’ll need to submit a variety of business documents as part of the business setup process, including:
  • An application form with your registration from the Department of Economic Development, or the free zone authority
  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your business plan
  • A copy of your business name approval certificate
  • Your local sponsor’s passport copy (if necessary)
  • An Emirates ID copy
  • Your memorandum of association
  • Your tenancy contract for office lease
  • Copies of employee visas
  1. Business licence will be issued
    So long as all your documents and paperwork are filed correctly, your business licence will typically be issued in just a few days. At Setup in Abu Dhabi our specialists can advise you on all the documents required for your particular business type and make sure they are filled in correctly, so you get your business licence issued first time around.
  1. Start processing visas
    The final step in getting an Abu Dhabi business licence is to apply for employee visas. If any of your staff are expatriates, they will need a visa to work for your company. Contact Setup in Abu Dhabi about applying for visas as part of your Abu Dhabi business licence application.

How much does a business licence cost in Abu Dhabi?

An Abu Dhabi business licence typically costs between AED 10,000 and AED 30,000 depending on the complexity of your business application, the number of visas you are applying for, and the location of your business (free zone or mainland). Generally speaking, it is cheaper to go with a free zone licence in Abu Dhabi, but in some cases it will be more practical to apply for a mainland licence.

Types of business licence in Abu Dhabi
There are a wide range of business licences available to apply for in Abu Dhabi. Below are some of the most common kinds of business licence that entrepreneurs choose in the emirate:

Commercial licence: Commercial licences are among the most common business licences in the UAE. They allow companies in Abu Dhabi to participate in a wide range of commercial activities including general trading, construction, healthcare, real estate, transportation, and much more.

Professional licence: An Abu Dhabi professional licence is essential for anyone working in artisanal or craft industries such as carpentry, steel works, or various types of design.

Occupational licence: This type of Abu Dhabi business licence is appropriate for all professional services such as management consultancy, law firms, audit, education and more.

Tourism licence: If you would like to start a tourism business in Abu Dhabi, then a tourism licence is essential. It’s a requirement for businesses that would like to start tourist restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, tours, and so on.

Industrial licence: Industrial licences are essential for any business in Abu Dhabi that wishes to manufacture any kind of product.

Agricultural licence: Agricultural licences are issued to any business in Abu Dhabi working in agriculture, livestock, or fisheries.

Working with Setup in Abu Dhabi
At Setup in Abu Dhabi, we have helped over 44,000 companies apply for licences to start their businesses in Abu Dhabi and beyond since 2010. We have worked with entrepreneurs, startups and foreign companies who need support with company formation in Abu Dhabi. We understand all the required paperwork and can advise you on the best free zones or mainland locations to launch your business. 

What is more, we can provide you with several other services that will make running your Abu Dhabi business a success:

  • Dedicated business setup manager
  • Tax preparation
  • Legal advice
  • HR management
  • Opportunities for business networking

Contact Setup in Abu Dhabi today and start on your journey to building a successful business in Abu Dhabi.
Prices offered by free zones are subject to change without notice. Please get in touch with
Setup in Abu Dhabi for an updated price based on the current promotions and availability.

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