How to Start an Online Business in Dubai and the UAE (2023 Guide)

How to Start an Online Business in Dubai, UAE

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As time progresses, technologies continue to grow and thrive. With more and more individuals turning to and relying on the digital world, we are witnessing an upsurge in e-commerce businesses. This is why starting an online business in Dubai has become an ideal business move for entrepreneurs.

As the pandemic came into the picture, most businesses had to make use of online platforms. This was because most individuals started to rely solely on their phones or laptops when in need of something. There is no doubt that digitization is going to be a major player in the relevancy of businesses now and in the future.

This is why taking advantage of the world of technology would undeniably enable businesses to create their mark on the online platform and boost any business’ reach. 

In this blog, we explain everything you need to know about how to start an online business in Dubai.

Steps for setting up an online business in Dubai

When considering starting an online business in Dubai, there are various steps that are involved in the process of getting your business up online.

Step 1. Choose the right jurisdiction for your online business

When deciding on the most suitable jurisdiction for your online business in the UAE, there are two options:


Mainland is also often referred to as onshore. Businesses working on mainland can freely operate all across the UAE as well as in the international markets. Companies formed on mainland are licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED). Mainland companies also have the advantage of having no cap on employee visa quota depending on the size of the office. They can also easily take on government projects.

If you choose mainland as your preferred jurisdiction, the UAE national will have to be an agent. Additionally, your e-commerce business cannot be set up as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Free Zone 

On the other hand, businesses formed in free zones benefit from having no custom duties or taxes for trade within free zone boundaries. This boosts trade, especially when it comes to import and export. Free zones offer an array of activities with an emphasis on logistics and trade. These jurisdictions are also referred to as free trade zones.

If you choose free zone as your preferred jurisdiction, you have the advantage of not requiring an agent. You can also set up your online business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). 

Choosing between the options of conducting business on mainland or free zone will depend on the nature of your online business as well as the market reach. 

Step 2. Picking the ideal name for your company & obtaining your initial approval certificate 

Although this may not be the biggest priority for most, your company name is more important than you might think. It is important to keep in mind that the UAE has a strict set of conventions when it comes to your trade name. It is absolutely necessary to abide by these rules in order to have your trade name approved by the authorities.

When choosing a name for your business, you must follow these rules:

  • If you wish to have the name of your company after your own name, it should be your full name or your surname. Abbreviations or initials are not permissible.
  • No offensive language or profanity
  • References to Allah is prohibited
  • No use of politically charged terms
  • No sectarian or political groups

Lastly, after picking the name of your company, you must check the availability of the name for registration by the authorities.

When applying for your license, you will need to submit various documents including:

  • Application form
  • Passport copy
  • Coloured passport photos

Step 3. Getting started with the process of obtaining your online business license

Once the initial process of determining your jurisdiction and location is done, you can apply for your online business license. The type of license you will need will depend upon the nature of your business, activities, as well as the jurisdiction that you choose. 

Your online business license will be issued by the authorities in Dubai. The process of obtaining your license will take about a week and will have to be renewed on a yearly basis. When applying for your license, you will also need to provide details about all the social media channels and accounts that are related to your business.

During the application process for your online business license, you will also be required to draft and submit a Memorandum of Association (MOA). This additional step is only applicable if you pick mainland as the jurisdiction for your online company.

Step 4. Application process to acquire visas

One of the many benefits of starting an online business is that you do not require office space, neither do you need to be physically present in the UAE to conduct your online business. However, you will need to have a legal address in order to conduct online business in accordance with the UAE rules.

If you do want to have a physical office in Dubai, you and your employees will need to have a valid visa. Having an online business license in Dubai does enable you to have a valid visa for 3 years after which it should be renewed every year.

The number of visas you can acquire will depend upon the size of your business and jurisdiction. With an online business license, you also have the opportunity to sponsor dependants such as your family members as well as employees.

Step 5. Opening a bank account in Dubai

Lastly, once you obtain your license and establish your online business, you can open your corporate bank account. The process of opening your bank account is fairly quick and simple. All you really need to do is pick your preferred bank and submit the following documents:

  • Passport copy
  • Emirates ID
  • Visa copy
  • Business license

Top 7 online business ideas in Dubai worth considering:

  1. Virtual fitness instructor – The pandemic, on the lighter note, has paved way for entrepreneurs to carryout online workout, yoga, and meditation sessions
  2. Wellness coach – Certified nutritionists, and providers of wellness-related services can operate well virtually
  3. Mental health counselling – The rapidly changing times, and moreover, the restrictions brough about since the onset of Covid-19 have unfortunately created grater demands for counselling services
  4. Social media management – Several businesses in almost all sectors have been pushed under the bus with the urgent need for digitisation for survival. Thus, they must utilise the social media platform not only for brand awareness, but also advertisements and lead generation
  5. Drop-shipping – Simple to carry out, drop-shipping is the new way for those seeking to venture in the world of e-commerce
  6. IT solutions – The need for technology-related services is ever-growing, especially in this era
  7. Consulting services – Be it educational, financial, or recruitment, most types of consultations can be conducted digitally today

Click here for full list online business ideas in UAE

Benefits of starting an online business in Dubai

There is no doubt that most individuals turn to their phones or laptops when they require something. This inevitably increases your reach. But, this isn’t all there is when starting an online business. There are various benefits of starting your online business in Dubai. These include:

  • Full profit repatriation: Companies can repatriate all their profits to their home country. This gives them the freedom to transfer 100% of their capital to their place of origin without any requirements. 
  • Full ownership of business: The jurisdictions permit foreign investors to get 100% ownership of their business depending on their activity.
  • Fast and easy setup process for acquiring a business license.
  • Economical setup and operating costs
  • No personal tax
  • Ease of conducting business
  • Bank account assistance
  • Residence visa granted for 3 years

Start your online business journey with Shuraa

The UAE is a country filled with possibilities and opportunities. With the digital world ever evolving and with the UAE expanding its horizon with its innovative methods and growth, the possibilities are endless. This is why setting up an online business in the UAE is the ultimate choice.

Obtain your license for online business in Dubai now with Shuraa Business Setup — one of the best business setup companies in the UAE. Shuraa also ensures that the entire process of obtaining your license runs smoothly.

Our expert consultants will guide you through the entire process from registering your online business, regulatory requirements, understanding everything you need to know about the jurisdictions, all the way up to the process of getting approvals from the relevant authorities. 

To get started and find out more, contact our expert consultants at +97144081900 or send a WhatsApp message on +971507775554. You can also drop in an email at [email protected] and get your queries answered in no time.

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