How to Set Up a Company in Abu Dhabi #LatestUpdate 2023

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is a thriving hub of business and commerce, offering a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors alike. With its strategic location, robust economy, and business-friendly environment, it’s no wonder that many are looking to set up their companies here. In this blog, we’ll guide you on how to set up a company in Abu Dhabi, highlighting the benefits, business license options, and more. 

How to Start a Company in Abu Dhabi  

u003ca href=u0022 a company in Abu Dhabiu003c/au003e involves a series of steps that need to be followed to ensure a smooth and successful setup. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start a company in Abu Dhabi: 

u003cstrongu003e1. Decide on the Business Typeu003c/strongu003e:

The first step is to decide whether you want to set up a mainland or free zone business. This decision will depend on the nature of your business, your target market, and the level of flexibility you require in terms of business operations and ownership. 

u003cstrongu003e2. Choose a Legal Structureu003c/strongu003e:

The legal structure of your business could be a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), a branch office, or a representative office, among others. The choice of legal structure will depend on your business activities, the number of owners or shareholders, and your management preferences. 

u003cstrongu003e3. Select a Trade Nameu003c/strongu003e:

The trade name should reflect the nature of the business and must be unique. It should not violate the public morals or the public order of the country and must be followed by the legal form of the company, such as LLC or FZE. 

u003cstrongu003e4. Apply for a Business Licenseu003c/strongu003e:

The type of business license you need depends on the nature of your business activities. There are three main types of business licenses in Abu Dhabi: commercial, professional, and industrial. The Department of Economic Development (DED) in Abu Dhabi is responsible for issuing these licenses. 

u003cstrongu003e5. Register Your Businessu003c/strongu003e:

Once you’ve chosen a trade name and obtained a business license, you can register your business. This involves submitting the necessary documents to your business setup advisor for approval from DED. The documents required may vary depending on the legal structure of your business. 

u003cstrongu003e6. Open a Corporate Bank Accountu003c/strongu003e:

Once your business is registered, you can open a corporate bank account in any of the banks in Abu Dhabi. You’ll need to provide your business registration documents, and some banks may require a minimum deposit. 

u003cstrongu003e7. Obtain Necessary Permits and Certificatesu003c/strongu003e:

Depending on your business activities, you may need additional permits or certificates. For example, if you’re opening a restaurant, you’ll need to obtain a food safety certificate. 

u003cstrongu003e8. Hire Employeesu003c/strongu003e:

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to register with the Ministry of Labour and the General Authority for Pension and Social Security. 

Remember, the process can vary slightly depending on whether you’re setting up a mainland company or a free zone company. It’s always a good idea to consult with a business setup consultant or a legal advisor to understand the process better and ensure you meet all the requirements. 

Different Business Types in Abu Dhabi 

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), offers a wide array of business types to entrepreneurs and investors. These business types are primarily categorized into mainland businesses and free zone businesses. Let’s delve deeper into these categories: 

Mainland Businesses:

These are companies that operate within the UAE’s local market. Mainland businesses can engage in commercial activities across the UAE without any restrictions. They can trade freely with other UAE companies, the GCC countries, and the wider world.  

Free Zone Businesses:

Free zone businesses are companies established within a designated free zone area. These zones are self-contained jurisdictions set up to boost foreign investment.  

There are several free zones in Abu Dhabi, each catering to specific business sectors. These include: 

  • Khalifa Economic Zone Abu Dhabi (KEZAD): This free zone is ideal for manufacturing and logistics companies. It offers state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure, making KEZAD the perfect choice for businesses looking to establish a strong presence in the Middle East. 
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM): ADGM is an international financial centre for local, regional, and international institutions. It offers a range of benefits including a robust legal framework and a strategic location. 
  • Masdar City Free Zone: This is a green free zone focused on fostering renewable energy and sustainable technologies. 
  • Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ): ADAFZ offers comprehensive warehousing and logistics solutions. It’s an ideal choice for businesses in aviation, aerospace, and logistics. 
  • Twofour54: This is a media and entertainment-free zone offering benefits to businesses in the media, film, TV, and music industries. 

Each of these business types has its advantages and is suited to different kinds of business activities. The choice between a mainland and a free zone business will depend on the nature of the business, its target market, and its specific needs. 

Business License Options in Abu Dhabi 

In Abu Dhabi, the type of business license you need depends on the nature of your business activities. The Department of Economic Development (DED) in Abu Dhabi is responsible for issuing these licenses. Here are the main types of business licenses available in Abu Dhabi: 

1. Commercial License:

This license is required for businesses engaged in buying or selling goods. For example, trading companies, retail stores, and logistics firms would require a commercial license. 

2. Professional License:

This license is for service providers, professionals, artisans, and craftsmen. It covers activities such as consulting services, medical services, repair services, educational services, and more. 

3. Industrial License:

This license is needed for businesses that will engage in manufacturing or any industrial activity. This includes businesses involved in the production, fabrication, or packaging of products. 

Each of these licenses has its own set of requirements and procedures. The cost of the license can vary depending on the type of license, the nature of the business, and the location. It’s important to note that some business activities may require additional approvals from other government departments. 

In addition to these, free zones in Abu Dhabi offer their own set of licenses. The type of license and the process to obtain it can vary from one free zone to another. 

Benefits of starting a company in Abu Dhabi  

Starting a company in Abu Dhabi comes with a plethora of benefits. The emirate’s strategic location, robust economy, and business-friendly environment make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Here are some of the key benefits of starting a company in Abu Dhabi: 

1. Social Security:

The UAE provides a robust social security system for its citizens, ensuring a safe and secure environment for businesses. This includes pensions for retirees, disability benefits, and child allowances, among others. 

2. GDP Growth:

Abu Dhabi boasts a strong economy with steady GDP growth. As the capital of the UAE and the second-largest emirate, it is home to some of the world’s largest oil companies, contributing significantly to the country’s GDP. 

3. Ease of Doing Business:

The UAE ranks high in ease of doing business, thanks to its streamlined procedures and business-friendly policies. The government is committed to reducing bureaucracy and making it easier for companies to set up and operate. 

4. Free Zones:

Abu Dhabi’s free zones offer numerous benefits. These zones also provide state-of-the-art infrastructure, world-class facilities, and a conducive business environment. 

5. Strategic Location:

Abu Dhabi’s strategic location provides easy access to global markets. Its world-class ports and airports offer excellent connectivity to the rest of the world. 

6. Major Financial and Business Centre:

Abu Dhabi is a major financial and business centre in the region. It is home to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, numerous multinational corporations, and a vibrant startup ecosystem. 

7. Dual Licensing Benefit:

Abu Dhabi offers a dual licensing system that allows free zone companies to also operate in the mainland. This provides businesses with greater flexibility and access to a larger market. 

8. Stable Political Environment:

The UAE is known for its political stability, which provides a secure environment for businesses to operate. 

9. Access to Talent:

Abu Dhabi has a diverse and highly skilled workforce, providing businesses with easy access to talent. 

10. Quality of Life:

Abu Dhabi offers a high standard of living with excellent infrastructure, healthcare, education, and recreational options. This makes it an attractive place for expatriates and contributes to a stable and committed workforce. 

In conclusion, setting up a company in Abu Dhabi can provide businesses with a strategic advantage, offering a conducive environment for growth and success. 

Recommended freezones in Abu Dhabi 

Abu Dhabi offers several free zones that cater to different sectors and industries. Among these, Khalifa Economic Zone Abu Dhabi (KEZAD) earlier known as KIZAD and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) are two of the most prominent ones. 

Khalifa Economic Zone Abu Dhabi (KEZAD) 

Earlier known as KIZAD now KEZAD is one of the top freezones in the Middle East. It is strategically located with access to both sea and airports, making it an ideal location for logistics and manufacturing businesses and more. 

KEZAD offers a wide range of benefits to businesses, including 100% foreign ownership, zero import or re-export duties, no restrictions on capital repatriation, and competitive lease prices. It also provides world-class infrastructure and integrated transport links, with easy access to markets across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. 

The zone is divided into areas dedicated to different industries such as aluminium, steel, automotive, pharmaceuticals, food, and packaging among others. This allows businesses to benefit from synergies with other companies in the same industry. 

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) 

ADGM is an international financial centre located on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. It offers a range of benefits to businesses, including a robust legal framework based on English common law, a business-friendly regime, and a strategic location. 

ADGM is home to a wide range of financial and non-financial businesses, including banks, asset managers, insurance companies, professional service providers, family businesses, and tech startups. It offers three types of licenses: commercial, financial, and retail. 

One of the unique features of ADGM is its regulatory framework, which is designed to facilitate ease of doing business while ensuring high standards of business practice and consumer protection. It also offers a range of services to businesses, including dispute resolution, registration, and licensing services. 

Both KEZAD and ADGM offer unique benefits and cater to different types of businesses. The choice between the two would depend on the specific needs and objectives of your business. 

Types of Companies that Can be Registered in Abu Dhabi 

Abu Dhabi offers a diverse range of company types to cater to the varied needs of investors and entrepreneurs. Depending on the nature of the business, target market, and ownership preferences, businesses can choose from the following types of companies available for registration in Abu Dhabi: 

1. Sole Proprietorship

  • Owned by a single individual. 
  • The owner has unlimited liability. 
  • Suitable for small businesses and professionals. 

2. Civil Company

  • Formed between professionals in fields like medicine, engineering, law, and accounting. 
  • Partners have joint responsibility. 

3. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  • The most common form of business setup in Abu Dhabi. 
  • Requires a local sponsor who holds 51% of the shares, while the foreign investor holds the remaining 49%. 
  • The liability of shareholders is limited to their shares in the company’s capital. 

4. Joint Venture

  • A contractual agreement between a foreign investor and a local partner. 
  • The local partner must own 51% of the company. 
  • The profit and loss distribution can be mutually agreed upon, not necessarily 51%-49%. 

5. Public Joint Stock Company (PJSC)

  • Suitable for large projects and operations. 
  • Shares can be offered to the public. 
  • Requires a minimum of 10 founding members. 

6. Private Joint Stock Company

  • Similar to PJSC but shares cannot be offered to the public. 
  • Requires a minimum of three shareholders. 

7. Branch Office

  • A foreign company can establish a branch office in Abu Dhabi. 
  • The branch office can carry out activities like its parent company. 
  • Requires a local service agent. 

8. Representative Office

  • Allows foreign companies to promote their business and understand the market. 
  • Cannot carry out direct business activities. 
  • Requires a local service agent. 

9. Free Zone Company

  • Established within the designated free zones in Abu Dhabi. 
  • Offers benefits like 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and full repatriation of profits. 
  • Types include Free Zone Establishment (FZE) for a single shareholder and Free Zone Company (FZC) for multiple shareholders. 

10. Offshore Company

  • Allows businesses to operate outside the UAE while maintaining a legal presence in Abu Dhabi. 
  • Offers benefits like 100% foreign ownership and tax exemptions. 

Each of these company types has its own set of regulations, benefits, and considerations. 

How Adam Global can help you to set up the company in Abu Dhabi  

Setting up a company in Abu Dhabi, while exciting, can be a complex process with various legal and administrative procedures to navigate. This is where Adam Global can step in and provide invaluable assistance. Here’s how Adam Global can help you set up your company in Abu Dhabi: 

1. Business Consultation  

2. Licensing and Registration 

3. Legal and Compliance Advice 

4. Free Zone and Mainland Setup 

5. Bank Account Setup 

6. Post-Setup Support 

7. Networking Opportunities 

In essence, we can provide a one-stop solution for your business setup in Abu Dhabi, ensuring a smooth and successful launch of your venture in this dynamic emirate.    



Setting up a company in Abu Dhabi can be a rewarding venture, given the emirate’s robust economy, strategic location, and business-friendly environment. Whether you choose to establish a mainland company or a free zone business, the process can be streamlined with the right guidance and support. Adam Global, with its expertise and experience, can make your business setup in Abu Dhabi a seamless and successful endeavour. 

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