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Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch License

About the Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch License

Foreign branches are an extension of the overseas parent company. As they do not take on their own legal identity, they are only permitted to carry out activities in Abu Dhabi which are the same as their parent company. Activities restrictions make Foreign Branches suitable for services and manufacturing companies. Foreign branches are suitable for working with the federal government, Abu Dhabi government departments and organisations such as ADNOC and Mubadala.


✔️ Can work with Abu Dhabi government

✔️ Wholly-owned by the overseas parent company

✔️ Parent company assumes full liability

✔️ Trade name matches the parent company's name

✔️ Activities must match those of the parent company

✔️ Restricted activities

✔️ Local service agent not required

✔️ Abu Dhabi mainland license, operate throughout Abu Dhabi emirate

✔️ Additional registration needed with Ministry of Economy (MOE)

✔️ AED50,000 Bank Guarantee deposited with MOE

✔️ Unlimited number of visas

✔️ Corporate banking facilities

✔️ 12 months validity, renewable

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Who Can Apply For An Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch?

Who is this license suitable for?

✔️  Services and manufacturing companies

Who is eligible for this license?

✔️  Companies registered outside of the UAE (the proposed General Manager for the Abu Dhabi branch must have previously visited the UAE)

100% Foreign Ownership

No Local Service Agent

Mainland or Free Zone?

Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch Legal Structure & Ownership

The Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch license is a mainland license, issused by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), enabling the branch to work throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This is not a free zone license.

Legal Form

A Foreign Branch doesn't take on a separate legal identify from it's overseas parent company, it is considered part of the overseas parent company.


Abu Dhabi Foreign Branches are wholly-owned by the overseas parent company.

Share Capital

Not applicable.

Local Service Agent?

Local Service Agents are not required for new Foreign Branches.

General Manager Visa

If the individual appointed as the General Manager isn't a UAE citizen or resident, they will need to request their Unified Identification number (UID) at Immigration upon arrival into the UAE. This will be needed to commence the Foreign Branch application process.

Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch Visa

Abu Dhabi residence visas can be applied for upon issuance of the Foreign Branch economic license (trade license). Once the trade license has been issued, it will be necessary to apply for an Establishment Card, before starting the visa application process. Once employee visas have been issued, they can then apply sponsor their family members, providing they meet the requirements.

2 Months

Average time for License Issuance & MOE Registration

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Ministry of Economy Registration

Foreign Branches need to register with the Ministry of Economy (MOE). This is what you need to know:

  • Foreign branches can start operating upon issuance of their trade license, but the registration process is not fully complete until the registration certificate is issued from the MOE.

  • Registration with MOE must be completed within 30 days of the license being issued to avoid penalty fines which accrue at AED1,000 per month (up to AED10,000 per year).

  • Foreign branches need to deposit a AED50,000 bank guarantee with the MOE for the lifetime of the Abu Dhabi branch.

  • MOE registration needs to be renewed annually, for which an Arabic copy of the branch's audited annual results must be submitted.

Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch License Details

Company Registration

Once the documents are ready for the Foreign Branch license application, it takes 3-4 weeks on average for license issuance. (It will be longer if premises require a fit-out, or special approvals are needed.) Thereafter, Ministry of Economy (MOE) registration should be completed within 30 days to avoid late registration penalties accruing (this is subject to bank account opening, arranging bank guarantee).

Trade License Validity

The Foreign Branch license and MOE certificate are issued for 12 months.

Trade License Renewal

The Foreign Branch license and MOE certificate both need to be renewed annually. Delays in renewing will incur increasing fines for each month the license is not renewed and AED10,000 for each month the MOE certificate is not renewed.

Trade License Cancellation

When the Foreign Branch license is no longer required, it needs to be cancelled and removed from the official registry. Failure to cancel the license will result in fines accruing, as well as liabilities relating to non-filing of tax returns.

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Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch Visa Details


Type of Visa

Standard employment visa

Visa Validity

Two Years. To ensure it remains valid, the visa holder must not stay outside of the country for more than six months at a time.

Visa Renewal

The visa needs to be renewed every two years. Delays in renewing the visa will incur fines which increase on a daily basis until the visa is either renewed or cancelled.

Visa Cancellation

When the visa is no longer required, it needs to be cancelled, any fines paid, and removed from the immigration system.


Is the Visa Mandatory or Optional?

Applying for visas under the Abu Dhabi foreign branch license is optional.

Who is the sponsor of the visa?

The Abu Dhabi foreign branch sponsors the visas, which is why the license must be issued first. The license needs to be renewed and kept active all the time its is sponsoring visas.

Processing Time

Approx. 10-14 working days. However, during the process, it will be necessary for you to arrange your health insurance which may add extra days.

Visa Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all visa holders. It is your responsibility to arrange your health insurance cover. It must be arranged via an Abu Dhabi registered insurance provider or broker. It can only be applied for during the visa application process, which is the time when some of the documents required are created. Delays in arranging or renewing health insurance incurs fines issued by the Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD). Whilst the insurance and visa systems are now linked, occasionally we are still requested to provide a copy of the insurance card (not the certificate of insurance) as proof of an active policy.


Visa Medical

All visa applications, new and renewal, require the applicant to have a visa medical, which includes a blood test, screening for HIV, and an Xray, screening for Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Applicants who haven’t previously had an Emirates ID card, will also need a biometrics appointment with the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, to provide their fingerprints and an eye scan. If this all sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry, our team will make all of the necessary arrangements and we’ll accompany you to the appointments with all of the paperwork you’ll need. You, literally, just have to turn up.


Overseas Parent Company

✔️  Company name

✔️  Registration number

✔️  Registered address

✔️  Phone number

✔️  Email address

✔️  Source of funds

✔️  Certificate of Incorporation 

✔️  Memorandum & Articles of Association*

✔️  Board Resolution to establish the Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch

✔️  Power of Attorney for the general manager of the Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch

✔️  Power of Attorney for Gateway Group to establish the Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch on your behalf

* Memorandum And Articles of Association need to clearly state: activities of the company, registered address, capital and shareholders. In the instance the activities are not mentioned, a separate 'Activities Undertaking' is required.

The above documents must be notarized; legalised at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and, legalised at the UAE Embassy in the company's home territory.

Signatory's Details & Documents 

✔️  Full name

✔️  Residential address

✔️  Power of attorney (POA)

✔️  Passport copy

✔️  Emirates ID Card copy (only if UAE citizen or resident)

✔️  UAE Pass App (download on your mobile phone and register)

General Manager Details & Documents

(Abu Dhabi branch office)

✔️  Full name

✔️  Residential address

✔️  Mobile number

✔️  Email address

✔️  Passport copy

✔️  Emirates ID Card copy (only if UAE citizen or resident)

✔️  UAE Pass App (download on your mobile phone and register)

✔️  UID Number (only if non-UAE citizen or resident)

Legal Documents for the new Abu Dhabi LLC

✔️  Specimen signature of the General Manager

This document will be notarized by the Notary Public in Abu Dhabi during the company registration process.

✔️  Auditor's Appointment Letter (in Arabic , from the appointed auditor)

✔️ AED50,000 Bank Guarantee in favour of the Ministry of Economy (MOE)

We're making it easier to register your business in Abu Dhabi.

Our website is currently being upgraded.

We're adding all of our services onto our site to provide you the best and easiest experience for setting up your business and applying for visas in Abu Dhabi.

Although this license setup isn't available to purchase online yet, don't worry, we can still register your company right away. Fill out the form below to let us know you want this service and one of our team will contact you.

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Delving into the Details: Helpful Information You Need To Know

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Business Activities

A Foreign Branch is only permitted the provide the same activities that it's overseas parent company is registered for. Additionally, new Abu Dhabi Foreign branches can only apply for business activities which allow 100% foreign ownership.


Foreign branches can not carry out following business activities in Abu Dhabi:

  • Trading (buying and selling goods, wholesale or retail)

  • Restaurants and catering

  • Haj and Omra services

  • Labour supply (recruitment and manpower services)

  • Commercial Agent

  • Disabled shelters and rehabilitation centres

  • Care and community centres

  • Social services and activities

  • Printing and publishing

Business Name

The Foreign Branch takes on the same name as it's overseas parent company. Usually the approved name will have the suffix 'Abu Dhabi' or 'Abu Dhabi Branch' added to reflect the legal status, but this isn't always the case.

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Commercial Premises

Foreign Branches need an Abu Dhabi Tawtheeq lease contract for a commercial premise. (A Tawtheeq contract means the lease is officially registered with the Department of Municipalities & Transport. Without a Tawtheeq lease, a lessee can't open a dispute or claim against the landlord if ever needed.)

Commercial space must be:

  • suitable for the activities on the license

  • large enough to accommodate the anticipated number of visas

Some business activities have specific requirements, e.g. training activities require a training centre of 100sqm as a minimum, and have special fit-out instructions which must be adhered to.

Employing Staff

There are no restrictions on the number of visas a Foreign Branch can apply for. However, the Foreign Branch should have a genuine need for the employees and be able to provide a suitable working environment.

The branch must first have an E-Channel registration in Immigration and an Establishment Card, as well as have a registration with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), prior to starting the visa application process for staff employment visas.

  • Foreign Branch employment visas are issued for two years

  • Foreign branches must pay their employees' salaries via the UAE's federal payroll system, the Wage Protection System (WPS).

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  State-of-the-art commercial premises throughout Abu Dhabi

Offices, Industrial

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Business Bank Account Opening

Foreign Branches can open corporate bank accounts and avail business banking facilities. Bear in mind, banks regularly update their account features and conditions to be competitive, reflect their current appetite for risk and to comply with industry regulations.

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Exit Strategy

As a Foreign Branch doesn't have a separate legal status from it's overseas parent company, it doesn't have shares which can be sold. When the license is no longer needed, it will be necessary to formally close the branch and remove it from the official registry.

Whilst, it is technically possible to convert a foreign branch into a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which could then be sold to a new owner, this is a complicated and expensive process. Therefore, if the longer term strategy is to sell the Abu Dhabi operation as an individual operating unit, it might be better to consider an LLC from the the outset.

UAE Tax Compliance


All businesses in the UAE need to record their financial transactions and ensure their financial records are up to date.

Mandatory VAT registration - when taxable supplies and imports exceed AED375,000. Voluntary VAT registration - when taxable supplies and imports reach AED187,500. New businesses can register voluntarily if their expenses exceed the voluntary registration threshold.

Corporation Tax

Corporate tax is levied at 9% on taxable income exceeding AED375,000, whilst taxable income below this rate is subject to 0% rate. All businesses are required to register for corporation tax, whether or not their taxable income meets the threshold.

Economic Substance Regulations

The UAE's Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) require UAE mainland and free zone companies, and certain other business forms, that carry out any of the defined 'Relevant Activities'  (listed below), to maintain and demonstrate adequate economic presence in the UAE relative to the activities they undertake, and to comply with notification and return filing obligations.

ESR Relevant Activities

  • Banking

  • Insurance

  • Investment Fund Management

  • Lease - Finance

  • Headquarters

  • Shipping

  • Holding Company

  • Intellectual Property (IP)

  • Distribution and Service Centre.

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Still have questions?

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Why Use Gateway Group

for your business registration in Abu Dhabi

✔️ We are highly experienced in setting up Abu Dhabi Foreign Branches. Our Abu Dhabi business setup team are here to help you through the registration process to license issue and subsequently the Ministry of Economy registration.

✔️ We have the ability to setup your Abu Dhabi Foreign Branch electronically - eliminating the need to complete any paperwork.

✔️ Upon completion of your license registration, you will receive an electronic copy of your Commercial Registration Certificate, Economic License, and Ministry of Economy Registration Certificate confirming the existence and validity of your Foreign Branch.

Strategic Partnership with Abu Dhabi government preferred partner Business Setup Gatewaytouae

Strategic Partnership

with Abu Dhabi government

Gateway Group was chosen as preferred partner for business setups by Abu Dhabi Residents Office, part of the Department of Economic Development (DED). This strategic partnership is committed to attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Abu Dhabi and supporting foreign companies entering the market to promote the ease of doing business in the emirate.


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