Are you an entrepreneur looking to set up a business in the UAE? One of the best ways to do so is by establishing your company in a free zone. With a plethora of options available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. In this blog, we’ll take you through the 7 best free zones in UAE to start your business, ensuring that you make an informed decision. So, whether you’re a startup or an established business, keep reading to find the ideal location for your venture.

A host of entrepreneurs and business persons worldwide looking to establish their presence in the United Arab Emirates are favoring free zones for business setup in Dubai more than ever. And it’s not hard to see why. Tax holidays, full business ownership to expats, restriction-free capital repatriation and so much more, UAE free zones come with a multitude of benefits for foreign investors. If your heart also is set on UAE’s all-inclusive, world-class free zones then one question might bother you, given that the country offers more than 50 free zones, each better than the next. And that $64,000 question is – What are the best free zones in the UAE to start a business in 2023? Particularly when federal corporate tax is going to be implemented all across the Emirates. Read on, maybe you’ll be able to decide on one. If not, then at least you’ll learn the ropes which is sure to help you in making location decisions for your dream venture in the UAE.  


Common Benefits of Setting up a Company in Free Zone UAE 

1. 100% Foreign Ownership  
2. No requirement for a local sponsor to set up a free zone company  
3. 100% Repatriation of Capital and Profits  
4. 100% Exemption from Corporate and Income Taxes  
5. 100% Exemption from Customs Duty  
6. Fast and Easy Business Set-up Procedures  
7. Developed Business Communities  
8. Easy Regional, Global Market Access  
9. Modern and Sophisticated Infrastructure  
10. Independent Laws and Regulations  
11. Numerous Options at Competitive Costs

List of some popular and best free zones for business setup in the UAE  

Here are the 7 best free zones in Dubai and in the UAE (in no particular sequence) you might want to consider for your company formation.  

#1 Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)  

Sitting at the centre of the mesmerising district of Jumeirah Lakes Towers, DMCC is the address to be if you are looking for a free zone that has got a Midas touch for your new commodity business in Dubai. Glittering with businesses that deal in or operate with hard commodities such as gold, diamonds, and precious and base metals, DMCC free zone not just presents ideal opportunities for hard commodity businesses but also soft commodities or raw materials such as tea, oil and cereal grains. A unique mix of Free Zone standing, cutting-edge commercial and residential property and unprecedented commodities and financial services, places DMCC in a class of its own. With a DMCC company formation, you will enter the paradise decked up with a vibrant community, innovative infrastructure, world-class services and a stunning choice of properties, all minutes from outstanding air, sea and road links to the world. You might want to check out the following perks of starting a DMCC-licensed company in the UAE.  

  • One of the fastest-growing UAE Free Zones  
  • Company registration in DMCC is cost-efficient  
  • A single DMCC license can cover up to 6 activities (from the same group tho)  
  • World’s number one free zone (titled by Financial Times fDI Magazine)  
  • Permits crypto commodity trading  
  • Provides dual license  
  • Complete foreign business ownership
  • Nil personal and corporate income tax  
  • Full capital and profit repatriation  
  • No currency restrictions  
  • A wide range of permitted business activities  
  • Unique industry clustering and purpose-built infrastructure
  • Systematic networking opportunities through DMCC events  
  • Flexible office solutions including serviced offices, flexi desks, and shared offices  
  • Most interconnected, innovative business infrastructure  
  • Endless opportunities for global growth  
  • Residence and work permits for both employees and shareholders are available  

This blog can be helpful if you are looking to set up a gold trading business in DMCC.  

#2 Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

Next on the list of top free zones in Dubai is Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a prominent financial hub for business, fintech, and lifestyle in the region catering to the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and South Asia markets. Established in 2004, DIFC has developed into one of the top 10 onshore financial centres in the world. By establishing a Common Law framework, an independent regulator (DFSA), and an independent English-language Common Law judiciary (DIFC Courts), the free zone ushered in a paradigm shift in the area. 

  • Advantageous legal framework that supports cross-border activities 
  • 100% business ownership to expats 
  • No restriction on hiring foreign talent or employees 
  • Restriction-free capital repatriation 
  • Zero tax for 50 years on profits, capital or assets since 2004 
  • Zero tax on individuals’ income 
  • A highly regarded, independent regulator 
  • Independent, English-speaking, common law judicial system 
  • Distinguishable from the UAE legal system 
  • Risk-based regulatory approach 
  • Central to regional deal-making 
  • A mixed bag of scores of foreign businesses, investment funds, wealth management companies, banks, and financial organizations
  • Worldwide and regional legal firms, accounting firms, and other professional services of the highest calibre. 
  • The region’s largest fund domicile 
  • Management offices, holding companies and family offices are located closer to the assets they own or manage. 
  • The Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) is increasingly the centre of gravity for the global economy. 
  • Dubai plays a central role in the growing South-South trade, principally between Asia and Africa.
  • Well-positioned to harness the potential of emerging markets 
  • A number of activities are allowed 

DIFC checks all the boxes if you are planning any of the below-listed financial service activities:

  • Investment Banking 
  • Private Banking 
  • Fund Management 
  • Asset Management 
  • Brokerage 
  • Investment Advisory Services

What’s more, the business-perfect free zone is also a premier destination to live and work and brings with it a host of perks and efficiencies. 

#3 Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) 

How can we forget to mention DWTC when talking about the best free zones in the UAE?! Since its founding in 1979, the award-winning free zone has been essential to the development of business travel and trade in Dubai. DWTC business community has access to regional and global markets from a competitive and well-organized community since they are situated in the centre of Dubai’s business sector and close to the important event centre that holds crucial exhibitions, events, and conferences. In terms of creativity and productivity, DWTC provides a highly competitive environment for start-ups and international corporations. It facilitates the formation of professional, commercial, and general trade businesses as well as various high-end offices and event management firms. The sky is the only limit when it comes to the benefits of setting up a business in the Dubai World Trade Centre. The DWTC Authority proposes premier incentives for branches and new companies looking to start a business in One Central’s free zone including: 

  • Highly competitive, single-point-of-contact operation for corporations 
  • Unique and flexible offers to operate seamlessly 
  • The efficient and personalised company incorporation process 
  • Empowering policies and practices with minimum red tapes 
  • Freedom to initiate multiple options for legal operating structures 
  • Home to leading MNCs 
  • Located smack dab in the heart of Dubai’s Central Business District 
  • On-site accommodation and hotels 
  • Restriction-free foreign employee hiring 
  • No personal income tax and corporate tax for a renewable term of 50 years 
  • 100% foreign ownership 
  • “Benefit packages” for startups and SMEs 
  • No conditions over capital nationality 
  • No restrictions on industry or business types 
  • 100% repatriation of capital and profits 
  • Repatriation of funds and currency is allowed 
  • No export/import duties 
  • Attractive business-perfect regulatory environment for Single and Multi-Family Offices to set up in Dubai 
  • Suitable assortment of onshore and offshore operations 
  • Incredible office leasing options, coupled with comprehensive high-end property management and services to tenants 
  • Stable and precise regulations 
  • Dual licensing opportunities are offered 
  • Flexible licencing options 
  • The free zone acts as a global gateway, boasting over 3 million annual visitors from about 160 countries 
  • Freedom to originate multiple options for legal operating structures
  • A variety of license options – Commercial License, General Trading License, Professional License, Event Management License, e-Commerce, Single Family Office and Multi-Family Office.  

The Core DWTC sectors include services, events and trading and the free zone is recommended for investors and companies willing to offer events management services and professional services. The choice of business activities in the DWTC free zone 

  • License-specific commercial activities and unrestricted commercial activities 
  • License-specified professional services 
  • Business and leisure events management 
  • Online trading of goods and services in the UAE 
  • Import-export activities 
  • Sale, distribution and storage of items specified in the License

#4 Jebel Ali Free Zone  

Jebel Ali Free Zone is one of the biggest free zones in the world that boasts thousands of businesses, manufacturers, merchants, and exporters from around the globe. Started with just 19 enterprises in 1985, JAFZA free zone today is home to more than 8,700 organizations connected to a world of potential. The free zone’s position in the centre of Dubai’s thriving Middle Eastern economy and at the hub of numerous connected transportation routes strikes the right chord in the heart of business persons who want to enter industries like trade and logistics. Due to its closeness to Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Jebel Ali Port, JAFZA contributes around 24% of all FDI that enters Dubai and guarantees global connectivity for businesses. JAFZA connects over 150 ports, making it a significant link in the worldwide trade network. Due to the availability of industrial property, furnished office space, and storage facilities, the free zone enables businesses to lower the cost of their operations.  

Some of the primary reasons why JAFZA could be your best pick for company formation in the UAE include:  

  • 100% foreign ownership  
  • 0% corporate tax for 50 years with renewable concession  
  • no restriction on capital repatriation  
  • 0% import or re-export duties  
  • no currency restrictions  
  • no restriction on foreign talent or employees  
  • ability to mortgage your premises  
  • 0% personal income tax  
  • onsite customs  
  • presents an ideal setup for manufacturing, trading and import-export businesses  
  • e-Commerce licence option is available  
  • effortless business formation process with easy access to a range of support services, including visa and residency services, business set-up assistance, and access to funding opportunities  
  • well-developed infrastructure, including modern office buildings, warehouses, and transportation links  
  • easy access to global markets  
  • caters to diverse industries, including manufacturing, trading, logistics, and services  
  • flexible regulations for businesses to operate smoothly  
  • easy access to a large pool of talented professionals  

 The JAFZA business activity list is huge. The free zone is ideal for:

  • Agricultural, Flowers & Plants 
  • Aircraft & Train Trading 
  • Bags, Packaging Material & Paper Trading 
  • Chemicals Trading 
  • Equipment & Machines 
  • Fuel & Petroleum Products Trading 
  • Medical Clinics 
  • Barber Shops and Beauty Salons 
  • Logistics 
  • Retail & E-Commerce 
  • Petrochemicals 
  • Automotive & Spare Parts 
  • Electronics & Electrical 
  • FMCG 
  • Healthcare Distribution activities to name some. 

#5 Sharjah Media City (Shams)  

With services and solutions that are intended to work as a catalyst for their growth and profitability, Sharjah Media City (or SHAMS), which was established in January 2017, is home to creative and media firms from more than 160 different countries. This doesn’t mean you can’t set up a non-media business in SHAMS. Shams is not limited to media activities despite being committed to enhancing and adding value to Sharjah’s media sector. And the joy of joys is investors can open a firm at the lowest possible cost and gain access to several visas through a joint office. On the same license, multiple company activities are also allowed. Shams aims to be a major creative hub in the area and is only 15 minutes from Dubai International Airport and 5 minutes from Sharjah International Airport. If you have limited finances to set up a media company in the UAE, then Sharjah Media City might check all the boxes. Here are some of the perks that your SHAMS business setup will bring to you:  

  • Economical business setup  
  • Hassle-free and swift company formation  
  • Continued customer support  
  • No personal or corporate income tax  
  • Permitted foreign ownership of 100%  
  • 12 or more visas can be distributed through a shared desk facility  
  • Online registration is quick and easy  
  • Numerous business activities are permitted with one company license  
  • Ideal for small and medium-sized media businesses 

#6 Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone  

In 2011, the Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone, which is under the control of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain International Airport, and Al Bateen Executive Airport, designated these airports to be free zones. This free zone, which covers an area of more than 12 square kilometres and has mixed-use commercial districts with facilities, storage units, commercial offices, and land for projects, has an excellent investment structure for businesses specializing in aviation, space, defence, logistics, ICT, and light industries. Additionally, the free zone offers total office solutions for numerous industries. A sweeping business park being developed by Skycity, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone is anything but ordinary if you are planning to work wonders with an aviation or logistics business setup in the UAE’s capital city. Besides the benefits of company registration in a Free Zone, such as full ownership, 100% repatriation of profits, 0% income and corporate taxes and an expansive range of activities, Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone offers a host of other advantages which make it stand out in the crowd of other free zones in the UAE. Some of them are mentioned ahead.  

  • 100% import and export duty exemption  
  • One-stop-shop administration services  
  • Fast and efficient cargo clearance services  
  • International freight forwarders and logistics services  
  • Online customer service  
  • Land with easy access to the airport apron  
  • On-site customs inspection  
  • 24-hour access to the facility

#7 Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)  

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, located in the centre of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, is a thriving economic and industrial hub that provides free zone and non-free zone firms in a global community thriving in more than 50 sectors with individualized solutions. Dotted with a vibrant local culture, breathtaking views of towering mountains, a laid-back beach atmosphere, and year-round sunshine for a price that’s far lower than that of larger cities, the business-perfect RAKEZ offers business persons and their families the best of both worlds. Not to mention the retail centres, upscale educational institutions, cutting-edge medical facilities, and luxurious accommodations that can be rented just for a song. Committed to supporting startups, entrepreneurs, SMEs and industrialists with their business set-up requirements, RAKEZ authority offers a range of licences including freelance licences and customisable facilities as well as first-class support services such as visa facilitation to make running a business in the UAE as easy as ABC in line with the UAE’s rules and regulations. Businesses may easily access the trade flows between the east and the west thanks to logistical centres including seaports, international airports, and multilane superhighways. In addition to the generic Freezone-specific advantages, RAKEZ company formation in the UAE comes with a unique set of benefits such as:  

  • The cost of business setup in RAKEZ can be as low as AED 5,499 (price guaranteed for 3 years)  
  • Customised solutions just gild the lily  
  • Bank account opening assistance  
  • Diverse business activities including gaming  
  • The free zone offers tailor-made packages for company setup in UAE and smart solutions  
  • A dual licence can be availed of  
  • RAKEZ is known for the seamless and fast delivery of services  
  • RAKEZ welcomes wide-ranging industries, sectors and activities  
  • Availability of e-Commerce license for entrepreneurs  
  • Cost-effective businesswomen business inception packages starting from just AED 6,200  
  • RAKEZ Compass Co-working Centre is the new attraction for a collaborative working environment  
  • Delivering affordable premium solutions is no big deal for RAKEZ  
  • The professional RAKEZ team is happy and confident to advise and service clients  
  • Simplified and fast-track business set-up processes  
  • Secretarial and business centre services  
  • One-stop shop for all government services  
  • Ultra-modern warehouses of various sizes (Lease more, pay less)  
  • Industrial land plots for large industrial projects  
  • Choice of free zone and non-free zone entity incorporations including offshore company formation

 To Sum Up

The above-mentioned 2023 list of the top 5 free zones in the UAE is just to give you an idea about the popular free zones for business setup. Therefore, it should not restrict your options. Because it’s not about choosing the best free zone for business setup in the UAE but selecting the right freezone that suits you the best. It is highly advised to take your location decision only after considering the below-mentioned factors.  

  • Type of business activity  
  • Your business setup budget  
  • License requirements  
  • Capital requirement  
  • Office space  
  • UAE residence visas  
  • Type of legal entity  

If this doesn’t help too, then the best way to find the most suitable free zone for your company incorporation in UAE is to consult one of the best business formation specialists in Dubai such as Adam Global who has a successful track record of setting up a company in UAE free zones 

Just So You Know    

A free trade zone is a location created to encourage foreign investment in the United Arab Emirates by allowing 100% foreign enterprise ownership. Free zones are intended to provide a number of alluring advantages, including the absence of any requirements for local partners or shareholders to be UAE nationals, duty and tax exemptions, and more. In the wake of VAT implementation in 2018, the majority of free zones have been designated zones that grant VAT exemptions to the firms registered under their jurisdictions.   

Federal Corporate Tax in UAE Free Zones (2023) 

The year 2023 has dawned on the UAE with a blizzard of changes, changing the country’s business landscape dramatically. Implementation of federal corporate tax on businesses all across the Emirates (by 1st June 2023) and mandatory WPS setup for DMCC-licensed companies (by 21st February 2023) are some of the major ones. Whether the free zones in the UAE will be exempted from the new Corporate Tax or not, is yet to be clarified by the Government. However, as of now, it is safe to say that Free Zone Persons that are Qualifying Free Zone Persons can benefit from a preferential Corporate Tax rate of 0% on their “Qualifying Income” only if they meet certain criteria. As per the UAE Corporate Tax Public Consultation Document, free zone companies and branches registered in any of the free zones in the UAE are termed as ‘Free Zone Persons’.  

Get in Touch

Whether you’re looking to set up a dental clinic, a holding company, a small cafeteria or a real estate firm in Dubai, our experienced Business setup advisors in Dubai can help you choose one of the best free zones in the UAE 2023, irrespective of the type of business you’ve envisioned. Click here for a free consultation with one of our most experienced free zone business setup consultants in Dubai.  

Disclaimer: Please note that this information should not be considered the ultimate guidelines, and one should consult with our experts for advice or assistance.