The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (equivalent to principalities). Each of these emirates is governed by a hereditary emir who jointly form the Federal Supreme Council - the highest legislative and executive body in the UAE. The seven emirates that make up the UAE are:
Although there is a federal system of government and federal laws with power over the UAE, each emirate has jurisdiction over certain rules and regulations. The procedure and requirements to start a business in each emirate differs. How the company can operate in each emirate can also differ, i.e. type of company and commercial license, such as when been allowed to tender for government projects in the various emirates.
Each emirate has different options on the type of company structures available, such as onshore and offshore companies in Free Trade Zones, and companies in non Free Trade Zones, with local various forms of local sponsorship or agency services. Each also then has different costs in company set up process, office space leasing, and other such professional services.
Charges for local sponsorship in the UAE can vary, depending on the type of entity and business activities - and subject to negotiation between the various parties.
Many businesses work on a two shift system (for example, 8am - 1pm and 2.30pm - 5:30pm). As in all Muslim countries, Friday is the weekly day of rest. The weekend for office workers was traditionally Thursday afternoon and Friday, but a growing number of organizations have changed over to a five day week with Friday and Saturday as the weekend. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, normal working hours are reduced by two to three hours per day.
It is also quite common that during the summer months, business pace slows down.
In order to work in the UAE, you will need to be sponsored by an employer or establish an entity in a Free Trade Zone that acts as its own sponsor.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of Arab states of the Persian Gulf, namely:
Free TradeZones (FTZ) is a specific economic zone and geographical area where goods can be received and handled, manufactured, and re-exported without intervention from national custom authorities. Only when goods are moved to consumers within the country of the Free Trade Zone are they subject to customs duties and perhaps other laws and regulations.
FTZs are common throughout the UAE, as well as other parts of the GCC, Middle East and other parts of the world. Indeed, Free Trade Zones can be an attractive option for business and trade in the UAE, GCC and Middle East, due to their flexible regulations, absence of trade barriers, and geographical positioning.
In the UAE for instance, Free Trade Zone companies can be 100% owned by the investors/partners, and are except from import/export tax, repatriation of capital and profits, corporate tax (up to 50 years) and income tax - Free Trade Zones each have their own zone authority, where financial statements need to be submitted. Free Trade Zone companies in the UAE also have added benefits in terms of expatriate labour recruitment, as well as business support services and associated infrastructure. Free Trade Zones do however have some restrictions, such as with supplying goods directly to the local market, and generally higher rental costs.
Six out of seven emirates (the exception is Abu Dhabi) offer the possibility to conduct business out of a Free Trade Zone. Two emirates, Dubai and Ras al Khaimah (RAK), offer an International Business Company (IBC) regime. See list of key Free Trade Zones in the UAE