The Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai launched the Instant Licence initiative in 2018 to help boost UAE economy by attracting new investors into the market and making it easier and quicker to set up commercial licence in the mainland UAE. An Instant Licence is processed almost immediately through a digital portal, allowing for commercial licences to be issued in 5 to 10 minutes.
Usually the process of obtaining a UAE mainland trade licence is a lengthy procedure and can take from one and three months or more, depending on the company activities, document preparation time and specific requirements of the business. In addition, a tenancy contact / Ejari is mandatory for the licence to be issued.
An Instant Licence does not require a tenancy contract for twelve months, which allows investors to enter the market at lower cost and enables them to review the business market before committing to larger expenses. The initial licence will have ‘Dubai Municipality’ listed as the office address, once the licence is renewed after the twelve-month period, a registered commercial lease agreement must be presented.
The instant licence also does away with the Trade Name and Initial Approval stage prior to issuance of the Licence for certain activities.
Once an Instant Licence is issued, companies are legally permitted to begin conducting business activities immediately with a twelve-month grace period to run the company without a commercial space agreement and without obtaining the fully notarised constitutional documents for the company – Memorandum of Association (MOA).
However it should be noted that in order for the company to hire staff it will need commercial space (the Ministry of Labour will need to ensure that the company has sufficient space in order to obtain a Labour Quota) and the company will also need to obtain the notarised MOA in order to convey powers to the General Manager to open the company bank account, and to open additional files with Immigration, Ministry of Labour and other government departments that may be required for additional regulatory steps.
Anyone apart from public/private shareholding entities can apply for an Instant Licence including General Trading companies. Instant Licences offer the following legal structures; Limited Liability Company (multiple shareholders), Single Limited Liability Company (single shareholder), Sole Proprietorship and Civil Company.
It should be noted that Instant Licences are only possible for individual shareholders, they cannot be obtained for companies that have corporate shareholders, so in the case of an LLC the 51% local partner must be an individual UAE National, and the 49% must be an individual (or number of individuals). The LLC can be formed using individuals initially and then corporate shareholders can be transferred – in addition, Instant Licences only apply for activities which do not require any external approvals.
Only foreign shareholders with a valid UAE residence visa and Emirates ID can apply for an Instant licence and will need to apply for a UAE Smart Pass to be able to complete the online application process.
The following documents are required to complete the Instant Licence application:
Important Notes: All shareholders must be present for the official application process. General Trading licences can only be applied for through the DED e-services platform.
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