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How to Start a Business in Abu Dhabi?

The United Arab Emirates shares a significant portion of the global GDP for being the 2nd huge economy among the golf countries. By setting up a business setup in Abu Dhabi you can leverage the perks of one of the most prime locations of the UAE with overwhelming exposure to local and global markets as well as UAE’s skyrocketing economy. 

Abu Dhabi is emerging as the new land of opportunities for young entrepreneurs and overseas investors who are gearing up for company formation in Abu Dhabi. From a business-friendly ecosystem, for new and small businesses to hassle-free operational freedom for enterprise-grade organizations, Abu Dhabi is the center of attraction among oversee investors, enterprises, and entrepreneurs. Abu Dhabi’s rapidly scaling and industry-aligned Mainland and Free Zone jurisdictions have turned this UAE state into the most heated business avenue for SMBs and enterprise-grade companies.

After the recent amendment in the UAE’s corporate and business laws, business setup in Abu Dhabi Mainland is equally beneficial and seamless as company formation in Abu Dhabi Freezones.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the remarkable benefits of creating a business setup in Abu Dhabi along with all the liabilities and processes you need to fulfill company formation in Abu Dhabi.

Why Start a Business in Abu Dhabi?

Company formation in Abu Dhabi

If you set up a business in Abu Dhabi, you will get covered with various benefits and support at each step of your journey that leads to company formation in Abu Dhabi. Such as the availability of Mainland and various Free Zone jurisdictions, different legal forms of business allowed, the sophisticated banking system of UAE, zero personal and income tax, accounting consultancy, HR and outsourcing, as well as legal guidance to get your office space and desired investment, etc.

Business setup in Abu Dhabi offers a range of remarkable privileges for local and foreign investors who want to create a business setup in Abu Dhabi. Some of the privileges to set up a business in Abu Dhabi include:

  • 100% business ownership for foreign investors
  • Budget-friendly business operation costs
  • Dedicated support and consultancy at each step of company formation in Abu Dhabi including:
    • Getting relevant permits
    • Obtaining trade licenses
    • Trade name, business activities, and office space approvals
    • Clearance from relevant regulatory authorities
    • Visa approval, etc.
  • Benefits and security of sharing space in the jurisdiction of UAE’s 60% GDP contributor amounting to over USD 250 billion
  • Being a business owner in the country that ranks 7th among the world’s highest GDP per capita country rankings
  • Declared number 1 for ease of doing business in the GCC with over 80% of the globe within a reach of only 8 hours flight
  • Declared the world’s safest and crime-free city
  • World’s most state-of-the-art and hassle-free banking system
  • Zero percent corporate or personal tax
  • Zero percent tax on imports/exports for Free Zone businesses

Benefits of Starting a Business in Abu Dhabi

Apart from the aforementioned perks and privileges, some additional benefits and prime reasons that urge everyone to create a business setup in Abu Dhabi include:

  • Availability of multiple business activities to choose from
  • Trade license with multiple annual renewal options
  • A lease agreement that covers buying and renting of shared, dedicated, furnished, and non-furnished office spaces
  • Online and quick approval of Memorandum of Association

List of Free Zones in Abu Dhabi

While creating a Business setup in Abu Dhabi, you can choose from the following list of Free Zones in Abu Dhabi:

  • The Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ) – This economic zone is based near Abu Dhabi International Airport. ADAFZ was set up by Skycity, a subordinate development authority of ADAC (Abu Dhabi Airports Company). Its prime location in the UAE’s capital is one of the main reasons behind its popularity as one of the most preferred Free Zones in the UAE.
  • Masdar City Free Zone – This is another remarkable project in the list of Free Zone in Abu Dhabi. The Free Zone focuses on dedicated support and vision to grow economic activities centric around initiatives to encourage renewable energy resources and carbon footprint reduction.
  • Twofour54 Free Zone – This highly liberated and least regulated media-free zone has a highly supportive infrastructure for publishing and advertising businesses. The companies linked with media and arts find this Abu Dhabi Free Zone as the hotspot for their various business activities.
  • KIZAD or KEZAD – Khalifa Economic Zone Abu Dhabi (Formerly known as Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi) offers top-notch facilities for four-dimensional communication that includes sea, air, road, and railways. This remarkable support is best for industrial and enterprise-scale businesses that want to leverage quick access to international and local markets.
  • Abu Dhabi Industrial City (ADIC) – Also known as the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, is an industrial Free Zone that offers a dedicated infrastructure to support manufacturing, development, engineering, and AEC industries.
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) – ADGM is considered the UAE’s international financial hub that attracts most overseas investors due to its dynamic facilities and framework.
  • Higher Corporation For Specialized Economic Zones (ZONESCORP) – This Abu Dhabi’s free zone harbors over 500 of the world’s enterprise-scale organizations. Introduced in 2004, this remarkable Free Zone was introduced with a vision to fuel the industrial and construction development in the city. ZoneCorp Free Zone shares instant road access to one of the top UAE ports namely:
    • Mussaffah Port
    • Sheikh Zayed Port
    • Khalifa Port
    • And the next to none, Jebel Ali Port
  • Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone (KPIZ) – KPIZ, famously called Khalifa Port, is another remarkable jurisdiction in the list of free zones in Abu Dhabi. The objective of KPIZ was to upscale trade and business activities in the UAE by attracting local and foreign investment. The regulatory body of Abu Dhabi Port authorizes and regulates business activities in this free zone.
business setup in abu dhabi

How to Setup a Business in Abu Dhabi?

You need to go through each of the following steps for company formation in Abu Dhabi.

Step 01 – Choose your business activity

The foremost and vital step to creating a business setup in Abu Dhabi is to choose your business activity. In Abu Dhabi, you have the liberty to add more than one business activity under the umbrella of a single business.

The legal structure of your company formation and the type of your trade license in Abu Dhabi is also determined by the the nature of business activities you are going to choose. The legal form of your business further changes the requirements you need to fulfill in the following process. For example, you need additional regulatory approvals for a construction and estate business compared to opening a media or publishing business.

Step 02 – Decide & register your business name

Your trade name is the primary key that differentiates your company from other businesses in Abu Dhabi Mainland or Freezone jurisdictions. You need to opt for a business name that aligns with your business activities and industry. You can apply online for a trade name registration with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development.

Below are some key factors that you must remember before applying for your trade name registration with DED:

  • Your trade name is followed by the acronym of your business’s legal form like LLC or GCC.
  • Your trade name must not collide with the religious, ethical, and moral norms of the UAE.
  • It must be unique and not contain words or names from any regulatory or public bodies.
  • It’s free from reflecting any religious or sectarian inclinations.

Step 03 – Get initial approval

Getting initial approval for your business setup in Abu Dhabi means the UAE government and Abu Dhabi state laws now legally recognize your company formation in Abu Dhabi. This initial approval doesn’t mean you can jump to start your business activities right now but it’s an indicator for moving towards the finishing steps.

To create a business setup in Abu Dhabi, entrepreneurs and foreign investors are required to get clearance from the UAE’s foreign ministry.

Step 04 – Finalize an office location

To get your trade license and start your business activities in Abu Dhabi, you need to opt for physical office space in the geographic limits and legislative limits of Abu Dhabi as indicated by DED. you have the option to either buy or rent a shared, dedicated, furnished, or non-furnished office space and fully-featured inventory locations to set up your warehouse.

Note: The size of your office space determines the number of employee visas you can apply for under the same trade license.

Step 05 – Get additional government approvals

Some business activities and trade licenses require you to get additional approvals from the relevant authorities. The regulatory entities may include:

  • UAE’s Ministry of Interior
  • UAE’s Ministry of Justice
  • TDRA – Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority
  • UAE’s Ministry of Economy
  • Abu Dhabi’s Local Health Departments
  • Supreme Petroleum Council, etc

Step 06 – Get your Trade License

After completing the hefty process involving a lot of documentation and approvals, the final step is to apply for your trade license on Abu Dhabi Economic Development Department’s online portal. Once you get your hands on your Trade license you can start your business activities in Abu Dhabi. To work and operate without any problem in the UAE, it is recommended to always follow the legislative framework of the UAE and refrain from getting into any prohibited activities. Once you get your trade license, you can open a business bank account and start your business.


How Airzone Can Help You Start a Business in Abu Dhabi?

Airzone is known for providing a great knowledge engine and a gateway to all the concerned resources necessary to create a business setup in Abu Dhabi and other states of the Emirates.

We can also help you find the right and trusted business consultancy and company formation service providers in Abu Dhabi and other UAE states. Our trusted partners and consultancy services providers have a proven record of serving SMBs and enterprise-grade foreign entities to create their business setups in UAE’s free zones and mainland areas.

If you want to make your Abu Dhabi business setup journey seamless and hassle-free, feel free to connect with Airzone.


Abu Dhabi is contributing to 60% of the UAE’s economy with a perfect geostrategic location, modern seaports, one of the world’s biggest airports, high-end communication infrastructure, and a business-friendly and secure ecosystem.

If you want to make your debut in the UAE market, Abu Dhabi is the perfect destination to start your business setup. There is no reason not to establish a business in Abu Dhabi and begin taking advantage of Abu Dhabi’s lucrative landscape to expand your enterprise.

So that’s it. This wraps up our guide on business setup in Abu Dhabi. If you want to learn more about how to set up a business in UAE, we suggest you read our detailed guide. We also have comprehensive articles on various free zones in the UAE if you need more information about that. 

FAQs About Business Setup in Abu Dhabi

What types of Abu Dhabi business licenses are available for new companies?

Some of the license types are as follows:

  • Tourism License
  • Occupational License
  • Commercial License
  • Industrial License
  • Professional License

What is the cost of starting a business in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi’s DED has waived the fee for trade licenses by up to 90%. You can expect an investment of AED 9000 to 31000 based on your business activities and type of trade license to create a business setup in Abu Dhabi. 

How to launch a small business in Abu Dhabi?

You need to follow the following key steps to launch your small business in Abu Dhabi.

  • Step#1 – Choose your business activity
  • Step#2 – Decide and register your business name
  • Step#3 – Get initial approval
  • Step#4 – Finalize an office location
  • Step#5 – Get additional government approvals
  • Step#6 – Get your trade license