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What are the Common Business Licenses Required by the Entrepreneurs and Companies in Dubai?


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UAE has emerged as one of the most attractive business destinations in the world and provides access to billions of consumers in West Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. It has high per capita income and offers world-class infrastructural amenities, well developed legal framework, zero corporate taxation, full repatriation of profits and friendly visa policies to its growing business and trading communities. The government has announced many immediate and long term initiatives such as Vision 2021 to promote business, investment and trade in the country. UAE however mandates that entrepreneurs and companies obtain necessary trade licences to carry out businesses in the emirate legally.

Considered as the business hub in UAE, Dubai is at the top of all seven emirates in attracting startups for new Dubai company formation and ranks amongst the top cities in the world in Consumer Confidence Index (CCI). The Department of Economic Development (DED) issues all business licenses in Dubai.

Why do you need Business Licenses in Dubai?

Licenses issued by the DED assure the customers that the business is legitimate and comply with all the applicable local laws.

Any new business in Dubai requires an appropriate license that ensures proper business establishment for the long term. Business types, company structure and jurisdiction dictate the type of license you should go for and the rules and regulations applicable to your business.

What are the decisions to be taken for obtaining a Business License in Dubai?

Obtaining a business license in Dubai is simple and before you apply for a business license, you need to decide on the following

  • Type of business
  • Name of your business
  • Business activities
  • The legal structure of the business
  • Office Space Requirement
  • Investment Requirement

What are the Most Common Business Licenses in Dubai?

Following are the main five types of business licenses that are issued by the DED, Dubai.

01. Industrial trade licence

Businesses engaged in industrial or manufacturing-based activities need an industrial trade licence to operate. This licence is issued by the DED and often need additional approvals from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and other government authorities based on the scope of the business activities.

02. Professional trade licence

Business entities or individuals willing to provide professional services to their clients need to obtain a professional license from the DED for getting authorised for their services.

A professional license ensures that the business or individual is credible and qualified enough to provide services in a certain field or profession. Displaying certain training and skills are mandatory for such licenses. Every specialist, consultant, craftsman and artisan needs a professional trade licence for a business set up in Dubai.

A professional license allows many different business structures to be established in Dubai such as a Limited Liability Company, a Civil Company, a sole establishment fully owned by a foreign investor etc.

03. Commercial trade licence

A company engaged in sell and purchase of goods and commodities, or any other kind of trading activity needs a commercial trade licence to operate in Dubai and the UAE. A limited liability company (LLC) or sole establishment can be formed with this license and besides normal training activities, specialised trading can also be carried out with this license.

Various types of commercial trade licences are available in Dubai that will enable you to carry out trading activities specific to your business. Applying for the right type of license is critical.

Retail, construction, public transports, real estate, communication & broadcast and healthcare businesses must also possess a commercial trade licence to operate in Dubai.

04. Tourism Trade License

Dubai is ideal for setting up a tourism business as millions of global tourists and travellers flock to this city every year lured by its beautiful beaches and splendid architecture.

Businesses such as hotels, restaurants, car rentals and travel agents require a valid Tourism License for running their businesses in Dubai and need to get their businesses registered with the DED and department of Tourism and commerce. Some licenses are on offer in the city and can be applied for by investors interested in doing tourism business.

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) issues the tourism and travel license in Dubai and based on the services rendered, three types of licenses are issued namely ‘Inbound tour operator license’ for handling tourists within the city,
‘Outbound tourist license’ enabling businesses to sell tourist packages outside of Dubai-UAE and ‘Travel agent license’ allows businesses to carry out ticket, car, hotel booking services etc. for the clients.

The business owner needs to provide proof of no criminal record and must obtain NOC from the Civil Aviation Authority. The bank guarantee requirement has also long been abolished by DTCM for promoting the tourism business in Dubai.

05. Freelance Trade Permit

Recently all the emirates including Dubai are witnessing a revolutionising trend as more and more businesses and individuals are considering freelancing as a cost-effective alternative to conventional employment. Earlier freelancing was not a viable and preferred career choice due to visa regulations, tight licensing and high cost.

The policy reforms rolled out by the UAE government has made freelancing legal and the government is issuing visas for allowing people to work as freelancers.

The huge benefits of freelancing enabling sourcing of cost-effective, flexible, easily accessible, high-quality talents have been widely recognized by businesses in Dubai and freelancers are increasingly becoming an attractive option as both time and cost of hiring permanent staff are eliminated. You need a residence visa and work permit to work as a freelancer in Dubai and the requirements for residents and non-residents vary.

For UAE residents sponsored by the spouse or parent, a freelancer permit is only required to start working. If you are Full-time working professionals in Dubai and UAE, you can become a freelancer by acquiring a permit.

A freelance permit needs proof of your relevant skillset and seeking permission from your employer is also mandatory if you are looking at freelancing as a side job.

As non-residents, you must apply for a freelancer visa and a residency permit to enable you to work in Dubai as a freelancer.

How can IMC help you?

IMC, founded in 1979 is a cross border corporate advisory and services firm with a strong presence in Dubai and has a team of experienced professionals believing in the “Customer First” philosophy. We can provide you with unmatched and affordable support services for obtaining the most appropriate license for your business.

What is the frequency and process of Renewals for Dubai Business Licenses?

The business licenses in Dubai need to be renewed every year and require authorization letters from concerned government authorities before application of renewal. While a drug manufacturer needs authorization from the Health Ministry, a public transport provider needs authorization from the Road and Transport Ministry. Once authorization is obtained, you need to submit all required documents along with tenancy documents valid for more than three months from the date of application.


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