What are the types of companies in the UAE?


The UAE Free Economic Zones have been attracting foreign investors for many years already and remain the most popular choice to open a company in the United Arab Emirates to this day. There are more than 40 Free Zones in the UAE and each one of them has different variations of legal requirements and allowed activities, therefore, it might be quite difficult to decide which one will suit your business model and long-term vision best.

Free zone companies are perfect for international traders, e-commerce companies, advertising and marketing agencies, IT services and digital businesses in general. Free zone companies are allowed to provide services and supply goods both internationally and to local UAE customers (with certain exemptions).

A free zone company is considered a UAE tax resident company by default, meaning that treaties for the avoidance of double taxation apply for these companies. However, if a free zone company wishes to obtain a tax residency certificate , additional requirements apply.

Each free zone has its own specifics in terms of activities which are allowed to be carried out (this aspect is very important when/if the founder tries to apply for a visa), reputation of that particular free zone (relevant when opening a bank account), audit requirements, and even the company establishment procedures.

If the client has an investor or an employee visa issued by a free zone, he can live anywhere in the UAE, disregarding in which emirate the issuing free zone is based. For example, if the visa is issued by a free zone in Ajman, the visa holder can live not only in Ajman, but also in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or any other emirate.

The UAE has numerous Free Zones across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Quwain. Contact us to find out which one is the best fit for you free of charge - depending on your business plan, budget and projected activities, Nomad Law will find the most suitable free zone to incorporate your company.


A mainland company is an onshore company registered under the government authority of the respective emirate - each emirate has its own economic department, which issues business licenses to mainland companies incorporated in it. Because of this, mainland companies are in a better position when opening local bank accounts in comparison to the companies incorporated in free zones.

For years, mainland companies were obliged to have local shareholders (at least 50% of the shares had to be owned by UAE citizens). This requirement is no longer applied, however, for certain activities, it is still required to have a local agent (an individual which is a UAE citizen). In addition to that, each mainland company must have a physical office; the visa quotes for the founders and employees (non-citizens and non-residents of the UAE), as well as the business license fees depend on the square meters of the company’s office.

Mainland companies are authorized to trade in the UAE local markets as well as outside of the UAE. If the client wishes to provide goods or services locally, a mainland company is the only option.

From 2023, mainland companies in the UAE are subject to the newly introduced 9% corporate income tax.

If you are interested in establishing a mainland company in the UAE or would like to book a consultation and discuss whether this is the correct type of company for your business, contact us and we will provide you with the initial guidance free of charge.


The most important factor which makes an offshore company different from the free zone and mainland companies is the fact that offshore companies, by default, are not considered tax resident companies.

Offshore companies are purposed only for activities outside of the UAE; it is also usual for these companies to be managed from other jurisdictions, and since they are non-resident companies, the vast majority of benefits derived from treaties the UAE has signed for the avoidance of double taxation do not apply to offshore companies.

In comparison to the mainland and even the free zone companies, local banks in the UAE are not very keen to open accounts for offshore companies.

Two principal jurisdictions offering the possibility to incorporate offshore companies in the UAE are the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) and the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA). If you would like to request a quote, discuss your case, or would like to get assistance in choosing the best place for your UAE company to be incorporated, contact Nomad Law and get the first consultation free of charge.

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