Business Setup Consultants

DED – Dubai Department of Economic Development

DED Dubai
Dubai Department of Economic Development

DED Dubai Mainland Company Setup

The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) is responsible for issuing business licenses in all areas that are not under the purview of free zones in the emirate of Dubai. They issue commercial, professional, and industrial licenses.

A local DED mainland license is very popular because it has no limitations on trade, unlike a free zone license. You can directly engage with consumers and businesses across the UAE. You will not have to contend with a local distributor to sell your products, nor will they face a five percent fee duty when buying from your business. A local license gives you much more flexibility in where you can establish your office, shop, or manufacturing plant.

Dubai Mainland License

As of 2021, a local national is no longer needed to get most Dubai mainland licenses. Instead, foreign investors can now start most mainland businesses with full ownership. There are more than 1,000 business activities included in the list of full foreign ownership. Companies considered to have strategic impact to the UAE are required to appoint a local nominee shareholder, holding 51 per cent of the company shares but its possible to get a waiver of rights and revenue.



The process to get a business license from the DED Dubai mainland is straightforward if you understand how the agency works. However, if you are an investor from overseas or don’t wish to get bogged down in the process, we can help you accomplish your goals. We handle all the formalities and take care of the paperwork to focus on growing your business.

Understand the Different Types of Business Licenses

The DED issues three different types of licenses; it is critical to understand the difference in these so that you select the right one for your business:

  • Commercial License. A commercial license is suitable for any company involved in any trading. General and specialized traders will need this type of license to trade within the UAE or import and export with the world. It is possible to retain full ownership under this license.
  • Professional License. A DED Dubai professional license is generally for service-based businesses. A foreign national can have full ownership under this type of license; however, a UAE national service agent is required for formalities with government agencies.
  • Industrial License. As the name indicates, this type of license is for businesses that engage in any industrial process. This can include turning one kind of product into something else. This type of license covers both small-scale and large-scale manufacturing. You generally do not require a UAE national as a shareholder unless it is in a sector that is vital to the national interest.

Benefits of Getting a DED Issued Local License

There are many benefits to getting a DED issued license, here are some highlights:

  • Tax residency. All mainland DED company owners can apply for UAE tax resident status.
  • Local tenders. Many local and federal tenders are only open to businesses with mainland business licenses. You will be able to bid for lucrative tenders that will expand your business.
  • Obtain property and assets under the DED license. You have the flexibility to register property and assets under the DED license. This flexibility is fairly limited with free zone licenses.
  • No yearly audit. Mainland businesses are not required to submit a yearly audit to the DED. Companies can conduct an audit for their own internal reasons, but they do not have to disclose it to the governing authority.
  • Future proof your business. Many entrepreneurs start out in free zones because of low costs but eventually discover that they need a local mainland DED license to help their business grow. This means they must go through the costly process of closing their existing free zone license, obtaining new visas, etc. With a DED license, you are one step ahead!
  • Residence visas. With a DED license, you have more flexibility to add visas as your business grows. Many free zones have limitations on the maximum number of visas under a license. Also, with a DED license, all your staff will have Dubai-issued residence visas which means they can avail of local services such as drivers’ licenses. If you have a free zone license from a distinct emirate, you and your staff will have to go there to avail of government services.

DED Instant License

DED launched a service called the “Instant License” service which allows business to issue a trade licence without having to go through all the normal protocols for certain business activities. Business owners can directly apply for a Dubai trade licence through the online portal in less than five minutes. Based on the success of this pilot program, they will study the option to expand it to more sectors.


The DED license cost is dependent on the type of business activity being conducted. Business owners can expect some initial costs when establishing a mainland license; Name approval, initial approval, license cost, establishment and labour card, memorandum of association, and municipality fees. Cost varies from 2,050 Dhs (e-trader license) up to 30,000 AED + 5% municipality fees from the annual rent. Other fees to consider are the attestation fees for legal documents and rents for office space.

Incorporation Physical Presence Needs

Shareholders have to be physically present in the UAE for the incorporation process of a company.

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