Depending on the category of business, type of license and ownership pattern, the Department of Economic Development has laid out clear stipulations on the legal business structure of a company being incorporated in the UAE.
There are 13 different types of companies that one can be licensed to run in the UAE:
- Sole Proprietorship: As the name implies, the single owner is completely liable for debts or any other financial obligations. While a commercial or industrial-type sole proprietorship can be owned only by UAE nationals or GCC nationals, consultancy-type sole proprietorship must have the necessary qualifications to run the business.
- One-person company: A one-person company can be owned by an individual or a corporate body in which case, the liability of the owner(s) is limited to the shares held by them.
- Civil company: Here, professionals from service businesses such as Medical, legal, Engineering and Accountancy come together to form a partnership firm.
- Limited Liability Company: An LLC can have between 2 to 50 shareholders, where 51 percent ownership is held by UAE nationals although profits can be shared in a different way.
- Partnership Company: Here, UAE nationals must be general partners, while non-UAE nationals can only be limited partners.
- Branch of a foreign company
- Representative Office
- Branch of a Dubai-based company
- Branch of a UAE-based company
- Branch of a free-zone company
- Branch of a GCC based company
- SME license: For businesses that are 100% owned by UAE Nationals
- Intelaq: For home-based businesses