How to start a consultancy business in the UAE

How to start a consultancy business in the UAE

- Jonathan Kelly

Consultancy is an activity that involves providing professional advice and expertise to other businesses within a particular area of specialisation. A consultant aims to improve the efficiency and profitability of a business by evaluating business processes and offering advice on how to adapt them or streamline them to achieve better business outcomes.

Consultancy comes under the domain of professional services and consultants provide expertise in a number of different operational areas. These can include HR, finance, marketing, IT, logistics and management.

Due to the rapid growth of the UAE economy and the country’s continued diversification beyond the oil and gas sector, skilled professionals who are able to lend their expertise in a wide range of business sectors are in high demand.

The UAE is the second biggest consulting market in the Gulf region (after Saudi Arabia), with the market size growing by 16.6% in 2021 to reach a total value of USD 736 million. The financial services and public sector account for the largest share of the market but cybersecurity has shown huge recent growth, with revenue up 28% to USD 303 million.

Consultancy is clearly big business in the UAE and despite volatility with oil prices and the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, major recent events like Expo 2020 in Dubai and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar have ensured that the market continues to grow and thrive.

Types of Consultancy Activities

Management consulting services are available across a broad range of industries, but the main types provided in the UAE include:

  • IT and IT Management Consultancy
  • Architectural and Engineering Consultancy
  • Management, Information, and Marketing Consultancy
  • Banking, Finance, and Credit Consultancy
  • Waste Management and Recycling Consultancy
  • Renewable Energy Consultancy
  • Healthcare Consultancy
  • Health Planning Consultancy
  • Spa & Fitness Club Consultancy
  • Legal Consultancy
  • Marine Projects Consultancy
  • Tax, Accounting, and Bookkeeping Consultancy
  • Transport Consultancy
  • Tourism and Recreation Consultancy
  • Corporate Management Consulting
  • IT Management Consulting
  • Cyber Security Consultancy
  • Risk Management Consulting
  • Operations Consulting
  • Project Management Consulting
  • Strategic Management Consulting
  • Tax Advisory Consultancy
  • Business Advisory Consultancy

How to register a consultancy business in the UAE

Setting up a consultancy business in the UAE can be a complex process with many internal and external approvals required in order to obtain licensing. It is therefore advisable to seek the help of a reputable corporate services company who have the necessary contacts within key government departments and can facilitate all the required licences and approvals.

The following are the steps required to set up a consultancy firm in the UAE:

1. Establish the correct business activities and company structure

    Economic departments in the UAE have long lists of predefined business activities that are sometimes difficult to interpret. It’s important to establish the correct activity for your business from the outset to avoid difficulties or restrictions with the activities that your licence allows you to carry out.

    2. Obtain approvals

      Depending on the type of consulting activities that you intend to carry out, the correct approvals must be obtained from the relevant government authorities. The following are just a few examples of consulting activities practised in the UAE and the government departments that approve them:

      • Real estate consultancy - The Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA)
      • Legal consultancy – The Government of Dubai Legal Department
      • Fire safety consultancy – The Directorate of Civil Defence
      • Meteorology engineering consultancy – The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology
      • Safety consultancy firm and soil analysis services company – Emirates International Accreditation Centre (EIAC)
      • Security consultancies and maritime security services company – Security Industrial Regulatory Agencies (SIRA)
      • Social, psychological and family consultancy – Community development authority

      3. Select the appropriate jurisdiction

      In the UAE, a consulting company can be established in the mainland, in a freezone or as an offshore entity. Each jurisdiction will have different requirements for approvals and each jurisdiction will vary in terms of the types of business licences that can be obtained and where your business can trade. It’s important to evaluate all of the options and choose the one which most closely matches your business goals and requirements.

      4. Select an appropriate company name

        There are certain conventions around naming companies in the UAE and while these are not particularly restrictive, it’s advisable to review the guidelines so that your business name doesn’t contravene any of these rules and is certain to be accepted.

        Your company name should preferably reflect your company’s activities, not have already been reserved or copyright protected by another similar business. It should also not contain any obscene or indecent words that may be offensive.

        Certain names such as those that include the UAE, Emirates, city names, districts or airport codes are restricted and business names cannot begin with words such as International, Middle East, Global or be similar to government organisations or abbreviations.

        5. Applying for the company licence and registration

          This will involve the submitting all relevant documents required by the licensing authority and once approval has been given, payment of the licensing fees.

          6. Application for an establishment card, labour card and visa

            The establishment card is issued by the immigration authority of the emirate in which your company is registered. With a freezone company, it may be included with the company formation and renewal package costs.

            With freezones, the card is generally issued for a period of one year whereas, with a mainland setup it will be issued for a three-year term.

            The labour card is issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation or the relevant freezone authority where the company is registered. It can be obtained by visiting a service centre (Tas’heel) or online, through the ministry’s website.

            For the visa, you will have to undergo a medical test and submit biometric information. It is then issued for a period of 3 years.

            How can PRO Partner Group help?

            Practising consultancy in the UAE can be a lucrative business. However, in order to register a consultancy business, there are a number of approvals and licences which must be obtained to fully comply with all laws and regulations. By enlisting the help of a reputable company formation and corporate services business, you can ensure that your business is set up correctly and can avoid any costly delays or fines which may occur as a result of incomplete documentation.

            At PRO Partner Group we have built enduring relationships with key government bodies, and we have direct access to government departments, regulatory authorities and freezone authorities with our on-the-ground team of experts in each department.

            We will streamline the process of setting up a consultancy business in the UAE and provide ongoing support and administration. We always ensure that every step is taken to accelerate the application and deliver outstanding results both in the company formation stage and the ongoing maintenance of the licence.

            If you need assistance with this or any other related onshore 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.

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