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Can Dubai Golden Visa holders start their own businesses in Dubai?

The Dubai Golden Visa, formally known as the UAE Golden Visa, is a long-term residency permit that allows foreign nationals to live, work, and study in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the option of full ownership of their business on the UAE’s mainland. The introduction of this visa is part of the UAE’s strategy to attract skilled professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs to contribute to the country’s economic growth. This article explores the opportunities and regulations surrounding the ability of Dubai Golden Visa holders to start their own businesses in Dubai.

Understanding the Dubai Golden Visa

The Dubai Golden Visa is issued for 5 or 10 years and is automatically renewable, provided the visa holder continues to meet the eligibility criteria. It is aimed at investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with outstanding talents such as researchers, medical professionals, and those within the scientific and knowledge fields, as well as exceptional students and graduates.

Eligibility for Business Establishment

Golden Visa holders are encouraged to contribute to the UAE’s economy, and starting a business is a key aspect of this contribution. The visa provides a stable and long-term residency option for business owners, offering them the peace of mind to invest in and grow their businesses in Dubai.

Legal Framework and Business Setup

Starting a business in Dubai as a Golden Visa holder involves understanding the legal framework, including the type of business licenses available, permitted business activities, and the regulatory requirements of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai. Golden Visa holders can set up businesses in the mainland or in one of the many free zones in Dubai, each offering distinct advantages.

Mainland vs. Free Zone

  • Mainland: Setting up a business on the mainland offers the flexibility to operate anywhere in the UAE and engage in a broader range of business activities. Recent reforms have made it possible for foreign nationals to own 100% of their business on the mainland in many sectors.
  • Free Zones: Dubai’s free zones are areas with special tax, customs, and import regimes. They are designed to encourage foreign investment with features such as 100% foreign ownership, full repatriation of profits and capital, and no personal income taxes. Each free zone is tailored to specific business sectors.

Steps to Start a Business

  1. Business Plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your business idea, market analysis, and financial projections.
  2. Choose a Business Structure: Decide on the most suitable legal form for your business, such as a Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or Free Zone Company.
  3. Select a Business Name: Choose a trade name that complies with the DED’s naming conventions.
  4. Apply for a Business License: Depending on your business activity, apply for the relevant business license (commercial, professional, industrial, etc.) with the DED or the relevant free zone authority.
  5. Find a Local Sponsor/Agent: For mainland businesses, unless exempted by recent reforms, you may need a local sponsor or service agent. In free zones, this is not a requirement.
  6. Get Approvals: Obtain the necessary approvals from the relevant governmental and non-governmental entities.
  7. Office Space: Secure an office space or business premises as per your business requirements. Virtual offices are also an option in some free zones.
  8. Open a Corporate Bank Account: Choose a bank and open a corporate account for your business.

Support and Resources

The Dubai government and free zone authorities provide a range of support services and resources to assist Golden Visa holders in setting up their businesses. This includes business setup consultants, one-stop-shop services for licensing and registration, and various business incubators and accelerators designed to support startups and SMEs.

Challenges and Considerations

While the process is designed to be business-friendly, potential entrepreneurs should be aware of the challenges, including navigating the legal and regulatory landscape, understanding the cultural and business environment, and managing initial setup costs.


Dubai Golden Visa holders have a unique opportunity to start and grow their businesses in one of the world’s most dynamic and business-friendly environments. With the right planning, understanding of the legal framework, and utilization of available resources, Golden Visa holders can successfully establish and operate their businesses in Dubai, contributing to the emirate’s thriving economy and vibrant business ecosystem.

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