Getting a residence permit in UAE through company registration

6 minutes to read

Obtaining a residence permit in the UAE through company registration is an attractive option for entrepreneurs and business owners. This article will cover why the UAE is a favorable destination, the types of companies you can register, and the step-by-step process for both company registration and obtaining a residence permit, including key differences in visa options.

Why choose the UAE for company registration and residence?

First of all, the UAE is strategically located at the center at the crossroads of the world’s largest markets and trading routes. This key position facilitates international business dealings across the globe, with immediate access to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The UAE’s economy is also robust and on a healthy upward trajectory. At $508 billion, it has the 28th largest GDP in the world, growing at a rate of 7.4% as of July 2023. It also has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world at $53,758.

This is despite the UAE being a relatively small country with a population of just over 9 million.

Secondly, the UAE offers a business-friendly environment with a favorable tax regime. All business profits below AED 375,000 are non-taxable, with only a flat rate of 9% for profits above this amount. Plus, there are many economic free zones within the country that offer additional tax exemptions, even to qualifying international or foreign-owned businesses.

Last but not least, the Emirates is known for its vibrant expat community and high quality of life. It ranks 24th on the Quality of Life Index, with exceptional levels of purchasing power and safety.

Types of Businesses You Can Register in the UAE

As a country with a relatively open attitude toward foreign-owned businesses and investment, there are multiple options for prospective residents of the UAE.

Free Zone Companies.

Free Zone Companies allow for 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and streamlined business setup processes. Popular Free Zones include Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), which offer world-class infrastructure and various incentives to attract international businesses​.

Different free zones are typically associated with specific industries. For example, JAFZA is known for logistics, electronics & electrical, automotive, food and agriculture, e-commerce, and petrochemicals, while DMCC is known for precious commodities, energy, steel and metals, and agricultural commodities.

Mainland Companies.

Mainland Companies enable businesses to trade directly within the UAE market and take advantage of government contracts. These companies sometimes require a local sponsor but provide broader market access and operational flexibility​. Some industries are also closed to foreign business registration, such as utilities, transport, telecommunication, and defense and military.

Offshore Companies.

Offshore Companies are designed for international business operations, asset protection, and tax optimization without requiring a physical presence in the UAE. They offer benefits such as confidentiality and easy setup. However, this type of business registration typically does not qualify for residence permits for owners or employees.

Step-by-Step Guide to Company Registration in the UAE.

The UAE offers one of the easiest and most streamlined processes for registering a foreign-owned business than any other country. In-person registration can take as little as 4 days through the Department of Economic Development. Online registration via the Basher portal can take as little as 15 minutes.

Still, it’s vital that you fully understand the process and what’s required of you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Below is a breakdown of the most important steps, and we’ll indicate where it applies to registering a company in the mainland or economic free zone.

  • Determine the Nature of Your Business

Remember that not all business types are allowed in the mainland and that all free zones have their own restrictions. Mainland businesses typically fall under 6 main categories, including:

  1. Occupational
  2. Tourism
  3. Industrial
  4. Commercial
  5. Agricultural
  6. Professional

However, in total, there are over 2,000 official economic activities recognized in the UAE.

  1. Determine Your Company’s Legal Structure

The UAE recognizes a diverse variety of company structures, including Sole establishment, Civil company, Holding company, etc. In free zones, however, there are only 3 legal forms of businesses.

  1. Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ LLC).
  2. Free Zone Company (FZ Co.).
  3. Free Zone Establishment (FZE).
  1. Register Your Business Name

Called a “Trade name” in the UAE, this is the official name of your company. The name must be available for use and follow UAE stipulations, such as being compatible with your industry and shouldn’t contain inappropriate words. All trade names must be approved by the Department of Economic Development and the Ministry of Economy.

  1. Apply for “Initial Approval” (Mainland only)

This confirms that the UAE government has no objection to your business. However, it does not give you the right to start your business activities yet.

  1. Create LSA or MOA (Mainland only)

A local service agreement (LSA) is required for sole proprietorships, and a Memorandum of Association) for a partnership-based company.

  1. Choose Your Business Location

Any type of business that wishes to operate in the UAE must have a physical location. The exact requirements and options depend on whether the company is a mainland company or operates within a free zone. However, all mainland companies must have their locations approved by the Department of Economic Development.

  1. Apply for Additional Government Approval (Mainland)

Some industries or business types require additional government approval. This may be obtained from the relevant authority, such as the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Economy, etc.

  1. Apply for Initial Approval (Free Zone)

The typical documents required for this stage are the completed application form, a business plan, a copy of the existing trade license, passport copies, and the identification of the appointed manager, etc.

  1. Registration and Payment of Fees

This stage may work slightly differently, depending on whether you’re registering a mainland or free zone company. It involves submitting all documentation, paying the required fees, and collecting additional licenses (if applicable).

How to Obtain a Residence Permit Through Company Registration

Once your company is fully registered and licensed, you have the option to apply for a residence permit. First, let’s discuss the different residence permits available to company owners:

  • Investor visa: This is the standard visa for investors, allowing successful applicants to reside in the UAE for 2 years. You need to own a company with a minimum capital of AED 10,000 or its equivalent in company shares.
  • Green visa: This visa gives investors establishing or participating in commercial activities in the UAE residence for up to 5 years. Investors need to have an approved investment of at least AED 1 million or an equivalent in multiple investments.

How to Apply for a Residence Permit:

  1. Apply for an Entry Permit: Submit an application to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) or Free Zone Authority, including your company’s trade license.
  • Timeframe: 1-2 weeks.
  • Cost: AED 1,000 – 4,000
  1. Enter the UAE using the entry permit if you are outside the country.
  2. Medical Examination: Undergo a medical test at a government-approved health center.
  • Timeframe: 1 day
  • Cost: AED 400 – 1000.
  1. Emirates ID Application: Apply for an Emirates ID at the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA). You’ll need to submit biometric data and provide your company registration proof.
  • Timeframe: 1-2 weeks.
  • Cost: AED 370.
  1. Residency Visa Stamping: Submit your passport, medical test results, Emirates ID application, and company documents to the GDRFA or Free Zone Authority for residency visa stamping.
  • Timeframe: 1week


There you have it. Registering a company in a foreign country may seem daunting. But, the UAE has gone out of its way to make the process as simple as possible. You can complete registering a company within minutes or days, with residence itself only a few weeks away.

However, if you’re still unsure, it’s best to engage professional assistance to minimize delays and frustrations. YouReg offers turnkey solutions to help you legally establish a business in the UAE with minimal fuss. Our knowledgeable experts will guide you every step of the way; from securing your business name to the receipt of certification, for an affordable one-time fee. Book a free call right now and get a free consultation on all your questions.



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