Setting up a company

All companies setting up outside a free zone in Abu Dhabi must have a trade or business licence that determines which business activities you are permitted to practise. You must also have either:
sponsorship from a UAE national, who will have a 51% stake in your business (if setting up a limited liability company (LLC) or public/private shareholding company) or sponsorship from a local service agent (if setting up a branch company, sole proprietorship or civil business)
Trade licence 
There are three types of trade licence: commercial licences cover all kinds of trading activity; professional licences cover professions, services, craftsmen and artisans, and; industrial licences are for establishing industrial or manufacturing activities.
As part of the trade licence application, you will need to:
  • select your business activity (see below)
  • select your legal form
  • register your trade name
  • apply for an Initial Approval Certificate
  • rent/buy commercial premises
  • obtain special licensing approvals (if required)
  • Only then can you be granted a full trade licence. The next few pages cover these how-tos in detail.
Selecting a business activity
A business can have a maximum of 10 activities per trade licence. Visit for a full list of business activities, which fall into different groups. If your business activity is not listed, you will need to email Abu Dhabi Government  with a description of the activity. After reviewing your request, the DED may then create a new business activity for you, with a required code for the trade licence application. Some business activities require a special approval from government bodies other than the DED (see Obtaining special approval for a business activity).
...And then
Once you have a trade licence you will need to:
  • Register with the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI) (some small businesses and artisans exempt)
  • Apply for an establishment immigration card
  • Apply for an establishment labour card
  • Apply for immigration and individual labour cards

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