Free zones are tempting propositions for anyone starting a business in the UAE.
But that’s not to say that every free zone is the same.
To give an insight into the specific benefits of popular UAE free zones, today we will focus on just one: Umm Al Quwain.
Located in the emirate of Umm Al Quwain (in the north of the UAE), this free zone serves up the key benefits that you would expect – offering 0% corporate and personal tax, 100% company ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and 100% import and export tax exemption within the free zone.
But Umm Al Quwain also offers entrepreneurs a range of benefits that differ slightly from others in the region. So, if you’re sold on the idea of free zones and are considering your options, here are seven key benefits of Umm Al Quwain to help you decide whether it’s the right fit for your business.
1. Easy incorporation process: Entrepreneurs who make Umm Al Quwain their home are not required to put forward any share capital or provide details of shareholder experience or attestation for owners and shareholders. Plus there’s good news for the entrepreneur who comes out in a cold sweat whenever someone utters the word audit: No annual audit is required. Of course, you’ll still be required to keep up-to-date accounts, but the headache of an audit – which many find laborious and even mildly panic-inducing – is removed entirely. In fact, the entire incorporation process is light on arduous paperwork – as there’s no need to present a formal business plan either.
Entrepreneurs who make Umm Al Quwain their home are not required to put forward any share capital or provide details of shareholder experience or attestation for owners and shareholders.
2. Fast and easy setup: One of the major benefits of the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is the speed and ease at which entrepreneurs can go from the dream to the destination. Not only can entrepreneurs set up shop here remotely without visiting the UAE in some cases, but company formation in the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone can take place in as little as two to three days. There are very few other places in the world where an entrepreneur could move from the thought to the realisation of a business in less than a week.
3. Variety of licence options: The level of choice among its licencing options is yet another factor that makes the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone such an attractive proposition to entrepreneurs looking to set up in the UAE.
Umm al Quwain allows entrepreneurs to set up with many licence types: Commercial, industrial consultancy, service and freelance / micro business. The commercial license allows businesses to import, export and store goods for sale and trade in other free zones or outside the UAE. Should your business wish to trade locally within the UAE, you must outsource this work to a third-party distributor.
Industrial licences differ from commercial licences in that they allow for the import of raw materials which can then be manufactured, assembled and packaged to be exported as a finished product.
Consultancy licences on the other hand allow businesses to offer expert and professional advice to a wide range of professions including artisans and craftsmen. It is possible to combine consultancy and commercial trading under the same licence. Similar to consultancy licences, service licences allow licensees to carry out services in a number of industries including logistics, insurance, travel agency, car rental and many more.
4. No visa package: One of the most intriguing offerings at the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is the option to apply for a licence and set up a business without applying for – or even needing – a visa. This is a fantastic option for small businesses, or even individuals who wish to set up with a minimum budget and don’t require a permanent physical presence in the free zone – or anywhere else in the UAE.
One of the most intriguing offerings at the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is the option to apply for a licence and set up a business without applying for – or even needing – a visa.
It also means entrepreneurs can set up in Umm Al Quwain even faster, as there is no need to wait on the visa process before they start trading from their chosen free zone.
5. Strategic location: There’s no doubt that the location of the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is one of its biggest selling points. Not only does the region benefit from low costs of both living and labour, but it is also perfectly placed to do business with the billions of potential customers across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, subcontinent, Far East and European markets.
It also benefits hugely from being located just off both the E11 and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road – allowing for easy access to the city of Dubai as well as Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport – both of which are less than one hour’s drive away. The Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is also within easy reach of the UAE’s main sea ports.
6. Open to a wide range of sectors: You often hear those in the know extol the virtues of sector-specific free zones – and with good reason. After all, working in an environment surrounded by other experts in your field brings with it many benefits. However, that’s not to say setting up in a free zone which is open to a wide range of businesses from many industries is necessarily a disadvantage. In fact, as Umm Al Quwain Free Zone goes to show, there are just as many advantages to be had.
Since Umm Al Quwain Free Zone is open to businesses from a cross-section of industries including service, commercial, trade, manufacturing, technology, media, arts, insurance and travel – there are few restrictions on the types of businesses that can take advantage of its benefits. This combines to create a unique, collaborative working environment where entrepreneurs from different fields can learn from, assist and work with each other – taking skills and knowledge from one industry and applying them to another.
7. Great for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs: Several of the benefits on this list combine to offer a fantastic advantage to SMEs and solo entrepreneurs with smaller budgets. Not only can licences be issued without entrepreneurs needing to be in the UAE, but they can also be turned around in a matter of days – saving both time and money.
Not only can licences be issued without entrepreneurs needing to be in the UAE, but they can also be turned around in a matter of days – saving both time and money.
But that’s not all. As Umm Al Quwain Free Zone issues freelance permits and micro business licences – at relatively little cost and with no requirement for having a physical presence within the free zone – entrepreneurs need not worry about all of the initial costs of forming a business and applying for a business licence (in the case of freelancers) and renting office space.
Plus, the Umm Al Quwain Free Zone does not require entrepreneurs to provide a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your current sponsor should you wish to set up a side business while still employed. And the best part is, a freelance permit can be easily upgraded as the business grows, offering entrepreneurs a fantastic foot in the door to the many benefits afforded to free zone companies.
Setting up your free zone business
So you’re sold on the benefits of setting up your business in Umm Al Quwain Free Zone – what next? There are a number of steps that need to be undertaken, some complex, some less so. Usually the first thing to do is choose your business activity. From here you’ll need to decide on your company name, complete and file your registration paperwork with the relevant authorities, open a bank account, and apply for any visas that may be required.
However, the specifics of this process will depend hugely on the type of licence you are applying for and the kind of business you wish to run. That’s why before starting any of these steps, the first port of call should always be to a company setup expert who will guide you through every part of the setup process, ultimately ensuring the entire process requires little more than a few hours of your time.