BlogDoing Business in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranks first among nations with the highest level of foreign direct investment in the Middle East and Africa. There are seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain and Ajman. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain, and Ajman. Each has its laws and regulations, which makes doing business in the UAE challenging. However, it’s becoming increasingly attractive as a jurisdiction for firms to establish themselves.

This guide to global expansion will help outline what your business can expect as it explores opportunities in the UAE.

  • Top 4 reasons to do business in the UAE
  • Top 3 challenges of expanding to the UAE
  • FAQs for expansion in the UAE

In 2004, the United States and the United Arab Emirates signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to establish a formal forum for dialogue on trade liberalization and economic reform. In 2019, the United Arab Emirates was the 18th largest export market for the United States, and the surplus in U.S. goods trade with the UAE was $15.6 billion, an increase of 7.8% ($1.1 billion) over 2018. In addition, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index Report 2019, the UAE scored 75.0 making it the most competitive economy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Country Guide - Everything You Need to Know About Doing Business in the United Arab Emirates

Top 4 reasons to do business in the UAE

  1. Strategic location

Located strategically between Europe, Asia, and Africa, the UAE is considered a central trading hub for shipments from the east to the west and vice versa. Its central location and access to the Arabian Gulf make it a perfect spot for trade. It also provides easy access to the Middle East markets.

Because of its position, the UAE is an ideal location for many companies.  India and China are the major trading partners and primary sources of raw materials and the European Union, a significant export market. Moreover, an income tax-free regime, steady growth, extensive needs, and investor-friendly processes make it an appealing proposition for most investors.


  1. Incentives for Businesses

Apart from providing facilities to large investors, the government of Dubai supports small and medium-sized businesses by offering incentives for specific business types. For example, the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development was launched in 2007 by the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the UAE to foster local investment and entrepreneurship and support and nurture small and medium-sized investments in the Emirate.

Businesses that are already setup can obtain guidance on the type, method, and category of business licensing, and access discounted rates for office spaces. Dubai SME also runs a Government Procurement program. All Dubai government departments allocate at least 5 percent of their annual purchase budgets for buying from UAE citizens who own and operate small and medium-sized businesses. By doing so, small, and medium-size companies enhance their capacity to compete with larger companies and market their products and services to government departments.


  1. Business-friendly Policies

To create a distinct and open economy, the UAE government empowers young individuals to generate contemporary solutions for crucial challenges in business, science, government, and other industries. This focus on innovation, coupled with the UAE’s business-friendly policies, has contributed to the UAE’s booming tech system and productive startup culture, which also offers an exciting environment for investors. In addition to providing zero taxes and 100% foreign ownership, the country’s free trade zones attract foreign investors.


  1. Access to Talent

Because of the progressive labor laws, the UAE attracts talented employees from across the globe. Moreover, since the taxes are low and wages are high, it is favourable for employers and employees alike. Therefore, it may surprise you that only 0.5% of the total workforce is Emirati.

Top 3 Challenges of Expanding to the UAE

  1. VAT Applicability

VAT is an indirect tax on all commodities and essential services, with fundamental food essentials, education, and healthcare items as exceptions. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) implemented VAT in January 2018. VAT is a 5% rate that applies to goods and services and simplifies taxation for businesses. Therefore, one of the most imperative facets of doing business in the UAE is getting used to the VAT system. Furthermore, companies that do not comply with the tax system or delay their registration may face fines.


  1. Real Estate

A company’s business license is associated with its registered address. And it is often difficult for small businesses to enter the market because of the requirement that they operate from a physical office. The UAE offers investors more than 40 multidisciplinary free zones, in which expatriates and foreign investors can have full ownership of companies. These zones are characterised by their highly efficient infrastructure, and distinct services that facilitate smooth workflows, saving businesses considerable time and effort.

The right local partner can help businesses setup in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.


  1. Employee Management

As part of doing business in the UAE, it is vital to manage the local workforce efficiently as per UAE laws and compliances. Employee management can be highly challenging due to cultural differences, language barriers, and administrative approaches. Payroll management and taxation may also be challenging due to UAE laws.

FAQs for Expansion in the UAE

What are the different types of employment?

  • Permanent Employment – The United Arab Emirates labor code permits the conclusion of a permanent employment contract in specific situations.
  • Fixed-Term Contracts – The United Arab Emirates’ labor law includes provisions for limited-term employment agreements that designate the start and end dates of the employment period. A fixed-term contract can last up to two years (can be renewed by mutual agreement).
  • Temporary Employment – The United Arab Emirates’ labor law includes temporary employment in federal entities. The contract consists of total daily working hours on workdays and is valid for up to three months, with the alternative to renew for similar periods.

What are the retirement requirements for employees?

In the Emirati social welfare system, employers, government, and employees are all responsible for contributing to social security.

What are the United Arab Emirates’ tax rates?

  • Corporate Tax Rate: The UAE does not have a corporate tax rate.
  • Value Added Tax (VAT): The standard VAT rate in the UAE is 5% and applies to most goods and services.

What are the data privacy requirements?

The Personal Data Protection Law regulates the collection and use of personal data.

Do I need a legal entity?

Establishing a legal entity is not the only way for companies to do businesses.  A company should explore their options to ensure when a legal entity is the best choice vs other options like a Global PEO Service.

As a Safeguard Global company, Global Upside can help companies expand into the United Arab Emirates by offering talent acquisition, human resources, accounting, payroll, tax, incorporation, and professional employer organizations (PEOs)/employers of record (EORs) services. In addition, we offer a single point of contact for establishing businesses, managing operations, and complying with Emirati laws and regulations.

We Can Help When Doing Business in the UAE

Are you looking for business services in the UAE? Global Upside, a Safeguard Global company, can help businesses expand into the UAE by offering talent acquisition, human resources, accounting, payroll, tax, incorporation, and professional employer organization (PEO)/employer of record (EOR) services. 

Our comprehensive solution offers a one-stop shop for establishing businesses, maximizing operations, and complying with UAE laws and regulations.