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  • Writer's pictureJenny Hunt

Is it time your Abu Dhabi free zone company steps onshore?

6th June 2018

Does your business currently operate within one of the Abu Dhabi or Dubai free zones but need to operate onshore? Gateway Group can assist to ensure your business is legally compliant.

Licenses for free zones and licenses for onshore companies

There are some misconceptions that you can operate throughout the Emirates with one commercial license. This is incorrect. Licenses are issued by jurisdiction. Operating in more than one jurisdiction requires multiple licenses. Free zone licenses restrict operations to within the specific free zone and with companies overseas. For more information about Abu Dhabi free zones CLICK HERE. Free zone companies are not permitted to operate on the Abu Dhabi or Dubai mainland except via a company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED). For Dubai-based free zone entities which are operating onshore, they could face a fine of up to AED100,000. So, if your free zone company is expanding its operations into mainland Abu Dhabi or Dubai, it's important to be legally compliant.

How can an Abu Dhabi and Dubai free zone companies get licensed onshore?

Free zone companies providing services can branch onshore. Free zone companies selling goods are required to setup a Limited Liability Company (LLC) when stepping onshore. In both instances, Gateway Group can assist with the onshore company setup in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Our expert team can manage the registration process. We also provide corporate service agent and local partner services, if required. The process takes approximately one month. For companies registered with TWOFOUR54 or Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) free zones, special agreements in place with Abu Dhabi's DED negate the requirement for an onshore commercial premise.

What are the benefits for an Abu Dhabi free zone company stepping onshore?

  • Work directly with Abu Dhabi government and semi-government entities

  • Tender for Abu Dhabi government projects

  • Can apply for Supreme Petroleum Council approval to work directly with the ADNOC group in the oil and gas sector. (Approval is at the discretion of the Supreme Petroleum Council.)

  • Increased opportunities in a larger geographical market

  • VAT return compliance

  • Fast onshore registration process

How Gateway Group can help your free zone company expand onshore in Abu Dhabi or Dubai

If your free zone company is currently working onshore without a DED-issued license, Gateway can help you to get compliant as it is the authority on company formation in Abu Dhabi in Dubai. Get legal now and engage Gateway to help you setup your business onshore, email us:

Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO

Gateway Group of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai UAE


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