Free Zones

Dubai is home to more than 20 free zones, which were set up by the government to encourage foreign companies to set up in the emirate by offering tax exemptions, 100% foreign ownership (elsewhere you need an equal partnership with an Emirati sponsor) and other incentives. Each free zone is designed around one or more industries such as finance, avisation and media.

Free Zone Authority 
Each free zone is governed by an independent Free Zone Authority (FZA), which provides the infrastructure, ancillary services and the regulatory framework to support free zone business set ups. The FZA will process your residence visa directly through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), without having to get employment approval from the Ministry of Labour. This speeds up the process significantly, and residence visas can sometimes be granted in a matter of hours. 

​Free zone residence visa 
Once the GDRFA has stamped the residence visa in your passport, the free zone will issue your free zone ID (the same as a labour card) which is valid for one to three years – this also acts as your security pass for entry to the free zone. A big advantage of working in a free zone is the lack of red tape encountered if you move jobs to another free zone company. This is because the free zone itself is actually your sponsor, so when you switch jobs to another employer you won’t be switching sponsors. 

The validity of a free zone residence visa will depend on how long the labour card is valid for (either one, two or three years, depending on the zone).
 
Dubai free zones
The emirate's free zones are aimed at specific types of business or industry.
 

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