business set up in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is known for having a steady economy that is conducive for a variety of businesses. The possibilities for growth in this capital are endless, as it has strong domestic and international ventures that are backed by strong support by the government, world-class infrastructures, and a positive fiscal outlook. If you’ve been thinking about setting up your business in Abu Dhabi, you have come to the right place. Here are some easy tips and steps to get you started:


1. Determining your type of business and activities

The first and most important step is to get your initial approval and licenses in order. But before you can do that, you need to specify the type of economic activity or activities you wish to undertake, because fees, requirements, and conditions differ per type of activity. You may refer to the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi’s “International Standard Industrial Classification” of all economic activities (ISIC4) issued by the United Nations.


2. Find an Emirati partner if you’re a foreign business owner

A sole proprietorship can only be done by locals, so most businesses work with local partners/ investors and arrange necessary agreements on liability and their extent of involvement in the company. Most common business entities apply as Limited Liability Company or LLC.


3. Register the trade name and obtain the initial approval

According to the nature of your business, you will need to determine the legal form that applies to it. The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development’s business center has e-services that can help you with this (check out the website: Aside from the type of business, the location is also considered as to what type of documents or certifications that will be required.


4. Registration of Trade Name

After the first two steps, a trade name must be chosen for the facility to distinguish it from other businesses, and it must appropriately suit the nature of the activity and its legal form.


5. Obtain the Initial Approval

The Initial approval is a certificate allows you to proceed ahead with the rest of the official procedures to start your business. After this step, you need to get the approval of concerned authorities depending on the nature of the business. There are different requirements for very specialized sectors such as health, electronics, transport, etc. and there are different licenses for each.

6. The Documents required to issue the initial approval

  • Obtaining the approved trade name.
  • Obtaining the approval of the Department of Naturalization and Residence for foreign investors.
  • Copies of valid passports.
  • Copies of valid Emirates ID.
  • Payment of prescribed fees
  • Collecting the Initial approval certificate.


7. Types of Licenses

The DED specifies types of licenses as follows:


Commercial License – Issued to owners of companies or establishments for practicing business activities. (e.h. general trading, construction, real estate, transportation, clinics, hospitals, etc.)

Agricultural License – Issued to the owners of agricultural farms, animal production or sea products.

Professional License – Issued to artisans who personally practice a profession or craft for his own account, relying on his physical effort, or aided by some tools and equipment. (e.g. carpentry,  typing, steel works… etc.)

Occupational License – Issued to professionals who rely on their abilities, mental and intellectual capabilities, talents and scientific capacities. (e.g. consulting offices, law firms, the audit office


8. Get an address/ office lease

You need to arrange for an office lease and get the necessary documentation or contract of tenancy for it.


9. Register the Company with Labor and Immigration

This is necessary for your hiring process. Once you are able to accomplish the requirements from the government entities, you may apply for employment visas. Access the e-services of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, as these will help you navigate the type of license, registration, and further information you may need: