Free-trade zones (FTZs) in Dubai and the UAE (United Arab Emirates), are special economic zones set up to offer tax and customs duty benefits to foreign investors. They are a vital tool for the government to promote economic growth in UAE and, as such, have significant benefits to offer businesses willing to take up the offer.
IFZA is one of these special economic zones, offering support to facilitate the formation and significant financial incentives to do business in Dubai. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about setting up a business in IFZA and enjoy the benefits.
What is the International Free Zone Authority (IFZA)?
Established in 2015, IFZA is a free zone located in the Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It forms part of the Dubai Government’s initiative to attract foreign investment and promote economic growth. The free zone is designed to provide to a wide range of business sectors, including trading, consulting, e-commerce, and manufacturing, among others.
As such, IFZA offers a range of business setup solutions and services, including company formation, licensing, visa processing, and other related services, such as:
- Trade license issuance, and amendment
- IFZA document Attestation
- VIP Visa stamping
- Office (real estate) solutions
- Training & education services
- Health insurance
What are the Benefits of Setting Up a Business Under IFZA?
There are many advantages businesses will enjoy due to operating under the IFZA zone’s umbrella. These include:
- 100% foreign ownership allowed: IFZA allows for the formation of 100% foreign-owned businesses, so there is no need for a local partner or sponsor unlike certain jurisdictions who set minimal local ownership percentage as a condition for registering a business.Tax exemptions: Businesses registered under IFZA enjoy various tax exemptions, including 0% corporate and personal income tax and no value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services.
- Repatriation of profits and capital: Companies operating in IFZA can repatriate their wealth without any restrictions or additional taxes. The process is straightforward and fast, allowing flexible finance management.
- Easy company setup: Setting up a company under IFZA is relatively quick and easy, with simplified procedures and minimal paperwork. This enables businesses to start operations sooner and start generating revenue.
- Access to global markets: Dubai is strategically located as a central economic hub at the crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa. This gives businesses more direct access to a diverse market of 2 billion consumers with fewer constraints on international trading.
- Modern infrastructure and facilities: IFZA offers world-class infrastructure and facilities, including state-of-the-art office spaces, warehousing, logistics support, and high-speed internet connectivity.
- Proximity to major ports and airports: Due to its central location, Dubai has some of the busiest ports and airports in the world, making it an ideal location for businesses that rely on international trade and logistics.
What Type of Businesses Can Register in IFZA?
IFZA allows around 2,000 business activities, but core sectors center on services and professional, industrial, and commercial licenses. These are some of the examples of the types of companies that are popular under IFZA:
- Trading: Importing and exporting goods, including raw materials, finished products, and commodities.
- Consulting: Providing professional advice and services in legal, financial, accounting, and management.
- E-commerce: Online retail, online marketplace, and other e-commerce-related activities.
- Information Technology: Software development, website design, and other IT-related services.
- Logistics: This includes storage, transportation, and distribution of goods.
- Manufacturing: Producing goods, including food and beverages, consumer products, and industrial goods.
- Services: This includes various services, including education, healthcare, hospitality, and entertainment.
Companies under IFZA are established according to the FZCO (Free Zone Company) company formation.
Step-by-Step Process for Business Formation in IFZA
Relative to registering a business in other jurisdictions, the process under IFZA is easy with minimal document requirements and a fast approval process. While there may be special licensing and approval requirements for some business activities, the typical process is as follows:
Consultation and proposal. Initially, you can consult with service provider to establish your license requirements and initial approval. This process includes preparing a proposal detailing: Type of License, Business Activities, Visa package and Office solutions chosen.
Submit documentation. To proceed with the application, IFZA requires the following documents:
- License Application Form (including Ultimate Beneficial Ownership information)
- Passport Copy
- Digital Passport Photo
- Emirates ID and Visa copy for UAE residents
Processing. At this point, provider team will review your documents and send them to free-zone authority. IFZA will issue two E-legal forms that must be signed if the application is approved.
License approval and issuance. You will receive a soft copy email approval immediately. Also, you will an original copy from will be delivered to you at convenient time.
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How to Obtain UAE Residence Through IFZA Company
Another benefit of registering a business under IFZA is that it can simplify the process of obtaining UAE residence status:
- Obtain a valid IFZA trade license. The trade license will specify the type of business activity you are engaged in.
- Ensure you meet the visa eligibility criteria, such as having a valid passport, passing a medical examination, and not having any criminal records. You must also provide evidence of your financial ability to support yourself and your dependents.
- Apply for a residence visa by submitting the necessary documents, including your passport, trade license, and proof of address.
- After your residence visa is approved, you must obtain an Emirates ID from the Emirates Identity Authority, a mandatory identification card for all residents in the UAE.
After you have completed testing and obtained an Emirates ID, you can apply for a visa stamp on your passport. This will allow you to enter and exit the UAE and stay for the duration of your residence visa.
Processing a residence visa may take several weeks, and additional requirements may depend on your unique circumstances. It’s recommended to consult with a professional advisor or IFZA representative to understand the requirements and ensure a smooth application process.
There are few better gateways for companies to do business with the rest of the world than the UAE. Combined with the powerful incentives of setting up a business in the UAE’s FTZs, like IFZA, it provides the perfect condition for a new or existing business to flourish.
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