Within a Free Zone

Free zones have their own set of rules and procedures for establishing a company, and are designed to encourage foreign investment. The rules and procedures for establishing companies differ from the rest of Abu Dhabi, particularly with regards to foreign ownership. If you set up a company within a free zone, full private foreign ownership is permitted, albeit with significant annual fees; both labour and immigration laws vary slightly as well. 

Advantages
The advantages of setting up a company in a free zone include:
  • Option of having 100% foreign ownership of the business.
  • Waiver of corporate tax for 15 years; this can be renewed for another 15 years upon expiry not withstanding any subsequent change to federal or local laws.
  • Import and export tax exemptions of up to 100%.
  • Personal income tax waiver.
  • Documentation is less and is mostly in English.
  • Repatriation of capital and profits up to 100%.
  • Assistance in recruiting labour assistance in sponsorship and housing and other support services.
Legal form
Companies can operate as the following:
  • A branch in a free zone (of an existing parent company overseas).
  • A free zone establishment (FZE) with a single shareholder.
  • A free zone company (FZCO) with two or more shareholders.
  • A limited liability company (LLC); setting up an LLC can be a slightly longer process and have a minimum capital requirement which varies from free zone to free zone, but is not required for a branch company.
  • A sole proprietorship.
Trade name
The process for registering a trade name is usually taken care of by the free zone authority – and each authority has different application processes.

Free zone ID
Employees working within a free zone will either be issued  a labour card or a free zone ID, valid for one to three years. The free zone authority will process all residence visas directly through the GDRFA, without having to get approval from the Ministry of Labour. This speeds up the process and visas can often be processed within hours. Once the GDRFA has stamped a residence visa, the free zone will then issue the labour card or free zone ID.

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