Mainland VS Free Zone VS Offshore

Mainland vs. Free Zone vs. Offshore: Which is Right for Your Business in Dubai and the UAE?

Introduction

Starting a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a lucrative opportunity, but it’s vital to understand the different jurisdictions—Mainland, Free Zone, and Offshore. Each jurisdiction has its own unique set of advantages and challenges, making it essential for entrepreneurs to choose wisely for their UAE company setup. 

This article provides an in-depth analysis of these three business setups, equipping you with the knowledge to choose the most appropriate one for your venture.

Mainland Company in UAE

A mainland company is established outside the free zones in the UAE’s main trading area. It’s governed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) and can freely operate within the local UAE market and outside the country.

Mainland company formation is ideal for those who want unrestricted access to the UAE market and have partnerships with local businesses or government bodies. Examples of successful mainland companies include large B2C businesses in industries such as retail, construction, and hospitality.

Expat ownership in mainland companies is limited to 49%, requiring a local sponsor for the remaining 51%. This makes mainland companies an ideal choice for businesses that prioritize local trading or aim to secure government contracts. Mainland companies also require a mandatory minimum physical office space of 200 sq. ft.

 Other considerations include specific visa and capital requirements, as well as adherence to auditing regulations laid down by government authorities.

Mainland companies are ideal for those who want unrestricted access to the UAE market and have partnerships with local businesses or government bodies. Examples of successful mainland companies include large B2C businesses in industries such as retail, construction, and hospitality.

MAINLAND VS FREE ZONE VS OFFSHORE

Free Zone Company in UAE

A Free Zone company, on the other hand, is licensed by a specific Free Zone Authority and is allowed to operate only within its designated Free Zone. There are several free zones in the UAE, each catering to specific business industries.

A significant advantage of setting up a Free Zone company is the allowance for 100% foreign ownership, eliminating the need for a local sponsor. Additionally, there is no mandatory physical office space requirement—virtual offices are permitted. This makes free zones a hotbed for startups and SMEs that cater to a specific niche.

Free zones also offer benefits like tax exemptions, the absence of customs duty, and ease of international business. They are particularly popular among e-commerce businesses, consultancy services, and tech startups.

One of the popular free zones in the UAE is Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), which is known for its focus on commodities trading. It provides a wide range of services and incentives to businesses, including the issuance of Free Zone licenses and the establishment of Free Zone companies.

Another prominent free zone is the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), which is the world’s largest free zone and a leading business hub in the Middle East. JAFZA offers a strategic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a wide range of business facilities and services.

Free Zone Company in UAE

Offshore Company in UAE

An Offshore company in the UAE is typically established in another jurisdiction whereas its parent located in another country. Such companies cannot have a physical office in the UAE, and conversion from a Free Zone offshore to onshore is not possible.

Offshore companies are primarily used for international business and investment operations and are not allowed to trade within the UAE. They have a special status and are governed by separate regulations. They offer significant benefits including 100% foreign ownership, freedom from taxation, robust privacy protection, and ease of international operations.

The Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) International Corporate Centre (RAK-ICC) is a prominent jurisdiction for offshore company formation in the UAE. It offers attractive features such as zero taxes, confidentiality, and flexibility in business operations.

Offshore Company in UAE

Comparison

Factors

Mainland

Free Zone

Offshore

Ownership

Expat 49%

Expat 100%

Expat 100%

Office Space

Mandatory

Virtual Allowed

Not Allowed

Business Scope

Anywhere

Within Free Zone

Outside UAE

Audit

Yes

Yes

No

Visas

Yes

Yes

No

Capital Requirement

Yes

Yes

No

Privacy/Secrecy

No

Yes

Yes

Govt Authorities

DED

Free Zone Authority

RAK ICC

    

Benefits of Each Jurisdiction

Each jurisdiction has unique benefits.

Mainland Company Benefits:

Mainland companies offer unrestricted access to the UAE market and government contracts. They can also take up any legal commercial activity and have unlimited visa options.

 Mainland businesses have the advantage of being able to trade directly with customers in the local market, making them suitable for businesses targeting a broad customer base in the UAE.

Free zone Company Benefits:

Complete ownership, tax exemptions, world-class infrastructure, and ease of setup are among the major advantages of a Free Zone company setup in UAE. 

Free zones provide a business-friendly environment, allowing companies to operate with minimum bureaucracy and benefit from various incentives offered by the respective free zone authorities.

Offshore Company Benefits:

Offshore companies enjoy 100% foreign ownership, zero tax rates, robust privacy protection, and ease of international business operations. They are commonly used for asset protection, tax optimization, international trading, and confidentiality. 

Offshore companies offer flexibility and can be an excellent choice for businesses with global operations or those seeking to hold assets in a secure and confidential manner.

Conclusion

How BizzFreedom Can Assist in Your Business Setup Journey

Whether you’re considering a Mainland, Free Zone, or Offshore setup, BizzFreedom offers comprehensive services to guide you through each step of your business setup journey in the UAE. Our team ensures that you make informed decisions that align with your business objectives.

We provide a wide range of services including Mainland Dubai company formation, Free Zone company formation, Offshore company formation, virtual office solutions, visa and permit services, business setup services, free VAT consultations, free bank account eligibility checks, and more. 

With our expertise and knowledge of the UAE business landscape, we strive to make your business setup process quick and hassle-free.

Choosing the right jurisdiction for your company setup in the UAE depends on your specific business requirements and objectives. Whether you decide on a Mainland, Free Zone, or Offshore setup, remember that BizzFreedom is here to assist you in making this crucial decision.

We provide a wide range of services including Mainland Dubai company formation, Free Zone company formation, Offshore company formation, virtual office solutions, visa and permit services, business setup services, free VAT consultations, free bank account eligibility checks, and more. With our expertise and knowledge of the UAE business landscape, we strive to make your business setup process quick and hassle-free.

Ready to start your business journey in the UAE? Start now with BizzFreedom! Be it Mainland, Free zone, or Offshore; we have got you covered.

  Call us now at +971 56 154 3241 or get a quote today! Don’t forget to join our Facebook page for updates and offers.

Facebook
+971 56 154 3241
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
RECENT POSTS
FOLLOW US ON

FAQ

Setting up a Mainland company in the UAE involves several steps, including choosing a business activity, finding a local sponsor, obtaining initial approval from relevant authorities, preparing legal documents, leasing office space, and obtaining the necessary licenses and permits. BizzFreedom can guide you through this process and ensure compliance with all regulations

Generally, a Free Zone company is restricted to operating within its designated Free Zone. However, some Free Zones offer flexi-desk or dual-license options that allow businesses to operate outside the Free Zone as well. It’s important to check with the specific Free Zone Authority for more information on their policies.

No, an Offshore company cannot have a physical office in the UAE as per the regulations. The purpose of an Offshore company is to conduct international business from an offshore jurisdiction while maintaining legal and financial benefits. However, an Offshore company can establish a presence through registered agents who provide administrative services.

Free zone companies can conduct business within the UAE, but they need to partner with a mainland company or appoint a local service agent to operate outside the free zone.

Mainland companies have the freedom to conduct business anywhere in the UAE, access to a larger customer base, and the ability to bid for government contracts. They also have the advantage of being closer to the local market and Dubai Municipality.

No, a free zone company cannot have any physical presence in the mainland. However, it can conduct business within the mainland through a local service agent or by partnering with a mainland company.

Mainland companies require a UAE national or a UAE-owned company as a sponsor or partner who holds at least 51% ownership in the company. However, there are exceptions depending on the type of business activity and the location of the company.

No, an offshore company is not allowed to conduct business within the UAE. Its main purpose is to hold assets, make investments, and act as a holding company outside the UAE.

This article has provided a comprehensive analysis of Mainland, Free Zone, and Offshore setups in the UAE. By understanding the benefits and considerations of each jurisdiction, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals and objectives. Remember, BizzFreedom is here to support you throughout your business setup journey in the UAE. Contact us today and let us help you transform your entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

Open chat
💬 Need help?
Welcome to BizzFreedom
Hello 👋
How can we help you?