How to set up a business in Dubai airport free zone

How to set up a business in Dubai airport free zone

- Olivia Baikova

Setting up new business or relocating one to the United Arab Emirates can come with significant financial and logistical benefits. However, this can become quite complicated, especially for people who are not familiar with navigating the UAE’s regulatory system. For this reason, the Emirati government established various free zones to attract foreign investors and businesses. These free zones offer special tax incentives and have relaxed business requirements.

Each Freezone offers unique benefits, so it’s important to decide which free zone is right for your business.

Why choose the Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)?

Dubai’s Airport Free Zone is an economic free zone with more than 2000 registered businesses from over 20 sectors and industries operating within it. Established in 1996, DAFZ has a unique advantage due to its close proximity to Dubai International Airport. The airport is a major hub connecting the Middle East with major markets across Africa, Europe, and Asia.

This makes DAFZA / DAFZ the perfect location for businesses that require access to the airport including logistics and freight, aerospace, and engineering. However, DAFZ can also be a great free zone for most business types.

Like the other free zones, DAFZ provides many benefits to investors and businesses owners who want to establish a presence in the Middle East. Located in one of UAE’s VAT designation zones, it offers 100% foreign ownership, no currency restrictions, tax incentives (no personal, income, or corporate taxes), and full repatriation of capital and profits.

Businesses that choose to operate in DAFZ will also have access to a world-class infrastructure and special rapid cargo clearance.

How to Set up a Business in DAFZA

Free zones in the UAE are designed to be simple to navigate and easy for foreign businesses owners and investors to access. To set up your business with DAFZ, you will need to apply through the Dubai Airport Free Zone website.

Step 1: Select Your Licence

The first step to opening your business in DAFZ is to select the appropriate licence type that matches your business activities. A wide range of business types can operate in DAFZ. There are five main licence types available.

  1. Trade - Companies that secure a trade licence can participate in import and export activities. Note: Because DAFZ is a free zone, you can’t import products through DAFZ to the mainland UAE.
  2. E-Commerce - This licence is specifically designed for business that perform their sales activities online and may involve using DAFZ as a shipping hub.
  3. Industrial - This licence covers activities that include light manufacturing, packaging, and assembly.
  4. Service - Service-oriented businesses that don’t produce products will need to secure a service licence.
  5. Talent Pass (Freelancing) - This licence is for businesses that perform freelancing activities within the media, technology, and education sectors.

Note: It is possible for businesses to secure a dual licence from the Department of Economic Development (DED) which allows them to operate outside of DAFZ without needing a physical office space on the mainland.

Step 2: Choose Your Company Structure

Whether you are starting a new company or looking to expand to the UAE, you will need to select the appropriate company structure that matches your business. There are three options to choose from within the DAFZ.

  1. Free zone (FZCO) - These business entities have between 1 to 50 shareholders with a minimum share capital of 1 AED (or $0.27 USD).
  2. Public Limited Company (PLC) - These are partnership companies set up with limited liability agreements (also commonly referred to as LLCs).
  3. Branch Office - This option is for companies that have a corporate headquarters located elsewhere in the world but want to establish a branch office in DAFZ.

Step 3: Select Your Office Space

You will be required to secure a physical workspace for the business to operate within DAFZ. There are several options available depending on the needs of your business.

  1. Office Space - DAFZ has many options for traditional office space including flexi desks and executive offices.
  2. Warehouses and Industrial - Businesses that perform activities in logistics, packaging, and assembly may need a space to perform those functions such as warehouses and industrial space.
  3. Cold Storage - DAFZ has cold storage facilities available for business that require temperature-controlled storage for food products and other temperature-sensitive items.

Step 4: Submit Application and Pay Fees

The process to get approval can take a few weeks to a few months depending on the type of business. Small, freelance-type businesses can be approved in as little as 2 to 3 weeks. The fees associated with setting up a business in the DAFZ typically range from AED 11,000 to AED 18,000.

You’ll need to submit a few different documents (translated into Arabic or accompanied by an official translation) with your application depending on the size and type of business. These documents can include, but are not limited to:

  • Copies of passports for owners
  • Copies of visas for owners
  • UAE government-issued ID for owners (EID)
  • Business plan
  • Proof of an office space
  • Bank account information (if company share capital exceeds AED 150,000)

How can PRO Partner Group help?

It’s important to carefully work through the process of setting up your DAFZ business. Securing the wrong type of licence or failing to submit the right documents can delay the process or result in being rejected.

PRO Partner Group can advise you on the best corporate structure for your business and can liaise directly with DAFZ on your behalf to simplify and expedite the incorporation process.

If you need assistance with setting up your company in DAFZA or any other related onshore, freezone or offshore company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman, Qatar or KSA, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

Get in touch with Olivia Baikova

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