How to set up an IT company in the UAE

How to set up an IT company in the UAE

- James Elliot-Square

IT is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Its impact can be seen in virtually every aspect of modern life, from transforming the way businesses operate and communicate to revolutionising diverse industries from healthcare and banking to education, retail and entertainment. In the UAE, in particular, this global trend is amplified by strong government technological innovation and a society that eagerly embraces cutting-edge solutions.

The UAE has invested heavily in fostering innovation and technology. Initiatives such as the Dubai Future Foundation and the UAE Vision 2021 aim to position the country as a global technology leader and cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai have emerged as startup hubs, thanks to the availability of numerous incubation programmes and funding opportunities and international technology events, such as GITEX Technology Week which attract tech professionals, companies and investors from across the globe.

Why set up an IT company in the UAE?

Setting up an IT company in the UAE provides numerous benefits that position it as a top choice for technology entrepreneurs. The UAE is home to thriving technology-focused free zones, such as Dubai Internet City and Abu Dhabi's Hub71 which offer simplified company setup procedures, tax exemptions, full foreign ownership and the availability of cutting-edge resources. Additionally, initiatives like the UAE National AI Strategy and the Dubai Future Accelerators actively promote tech innovation and allow tech entrepreneurs to cultivate valuable partnerships across a variety of sectors.

Access to funding is readily available through venture capital firms, angel investors and financial incentives, like the UAE's Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund, which supports tech startups.

The nation's strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa also creates unparalleled networking opportunities, connecting tech companies to a global marketplace and providing an ideal launchpad for IT businesses to tap into regional and international tech markets. With all these elements in mind, setting up an IT company in Dubai can provide numerous opportunities.

IT business opportunities

There are numerous areas of focus, which are evolving rapidly and presenting opportunities for investment. These include:

  • Cybersecurity: With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats, the demand for cybersecurity solutions and expertise is growing and companies are increasingly looking for businesses that can offer expertise in this area.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: These technologies are revolutionising sectors such as logistics, healthcare, and finance. Investment is flowing into AI-driven solutions to enhance efficiency, predictive analytics, and automation.
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency: Dubai's drive to become a blockchain and cryptocurrency hub is propelling investment into this space. The emergence of blockchain use cases in supply chain, finance, and real estate is driving innovation.
  • Health information technology (Health IT): The healthcare sector is embracing digitalisation with electronic health records, telemedicine, and health analytics. Investment in health IT is on the rise with free zones such as Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) actively promoting the growth of health tech startups and companies.
  • Renewable energy and sustainability tech: The UAE's commitment to sustainability is fostering investment in renewable energy and environmental monitoring technologies. With the nation's focus shifting towards broadening its energy resources, prospects in solar, wind, and green technology are beginning to emerge.
  • Smart cities and IoT: Smart city initiatives are evolving rapidly with a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT). Investment is flowing into IoT solutions for urban planning, transportation, and infrastructure.
  • Education technology (EdTech): This is another area of significant growth with the adoption of technology for online learning, virtual classrooms, and educational software in high demand as the UAE continues to modernise its educational sector.

These are just a selection of the many avenues of investment with new ones emerging all the time as the UAE proves itself to be among the most attractive IT markets globally.

How to set up an IT company in the UAE

1. Define your business concept:

Identify the particular IT niche or industry segment you aim to concentrate on. Consider your expertise, market demand, and the unique problems you aim to solve. This could include cybersecurity, software development, cloud computing, or AI solutions. Define and understand the unique selling points that set your IT business apart from the competition. This might include your groundbreaking technology, outstanding customer service, cost efficiency, or specialised expertise. Highlight what makes your IT solutions different and valuable.

2. Choose your jurisdiction:

Choosing the right jurisdiction for your IT company in the UAE is a crucial decision that affects various aspects of your business, including ownership, taxation, and regulatory requirements. The two main choices are to set up on the mainland or in a free zone. Mainland companies benefit from a broader market reach and the flexibility to engage in government contracts. However, set up costs tend to be higher than in a free zone and the availability of resources and support may be more limited.

Opting for a Free Zone jurisdiction offers tax exemptions, and a faster registration process. For instance, for an IT solution company in Dubai - Dubai Internet City, a prominent tech-focused Free Zone, is home to numerous IT companies. It provides a tech-friendly ecosystem, support services, and access to a diverse pool of talent, making it an ideal choice for early-stage startups and those who need the support to scale quickly.

3. Registration and licensing:

    Specific licences and approvals vary based on your business activities. A few that may be required are.

    • Commercial Licence: A general trading licence allowing you to conduct IT business activities.
    • Professional Licence: Required for IT consultancy and advisory services.
    • Technology Services Licence: This is specific to IT companies and covers services such as software development, IT support, and more.
    • Cybersecurity Certification: If your IT services include cybersecurity solutions, specific certifications may be required, ensuring compliance with cybersecurity regulations.
    • Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) Approval: For IT companies involved in cybersecurity, you may need DESC approval to provide cybersecurity services in Dubai.
    • DIFC IT Licence: If you're setting up within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), you'll need an IT licence from the DIFC Authority.

    4. Office space and infrastructure:

    Securing the right office space and infrastructure is a critical aspect of setting up your IT company in the UAE. Free zones like Dubai Internet City typically offer a convenient option with ready-made offices, cutting down on the time and effort required for office setup. These offices are often equipped with essential amenities and are designed to cater to the specific needs of tech businesses.

    For mainland businesses, the responsibility of finding office space falls on the company. It provides flexibility in terms of location choice but may require more time and resources for setup and customisation. When choosing your workspace, take into account elements such as proximity to target audience, ease of access, and the possibility of expansion as the IT business develops.

    5. Obtain visas

      Acquiring visas for your employees and managers in the UAE involves several distinct steps. The particular kind of visa required will vary based on the roles and duties of the individuals. Employment visas are typically required for foreign staff members. This process involves providing employment contracts, passport copies, passport-sized photographs, and educational and professional certificates for each employee. Medical fitness tests and background checks are also part of the process.

      For managers and business owners, investor visas or partner visas may be applicable. These visas are generally linked to business ownership and investments in the UAE. In addition, family visas for dependents can be obtained for spouses, children, and other family members. Each category of visa has its own requirements and eligibility criteria.

      How can PRO Partner Group help?

      PRO Partner Group has an experienced team with in-depth knowledge of business practices in the UAE and close connections with key government departments.

      We can help you set up an IT company in the UAE, assisting in selecting the most appropriate legal structure for your business, ensuring it aligns with your specific goals. We’ll also take care of all documentation and licensing, ensuring your IT company complies with sector-specific regulations and obtains essential licences and approvals. Additionally, we can provide guidance on visa and immigration procedures, simplifying the application process for your employees, managers, and investors, while ensuring compliance with immigration regulations.

      If you need assistance with setting up an IT company or any other related onshore or offshore company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, or Saudi Arabia, then please do get in touch with us on +974 4478 8765 Qatar or +971 4456 1761 Dubai , or alternatively you can email us at or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

      Setting up an IT company in the UAE?

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