The IT industry in Dubai is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UAE, with software companies from all over the world realising the commercial opportunities the city has to offer.  Once you have decided to form a software company in Dubai, then the next step is to start the process, which can feel daunting if it is your first time.

To give you an idea of what is involved, here we explain everything you need to know about setting up a software company in Dubai, from choosing a location and registering the company to the associated costs and much more.

Where should I have my software company located?

There are two types of location that could be suitable for your software company, depending on other requirements. Free zone areas in Dubai such as Dubai Media City, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Dubai Internet City offer several benefits for tech companies looking to set up in the country.

If you decide to set up in a free zone, you can trade within the zone and outside of the UAE and will also enjoy several generous tax exemptions. There are around 25 free zones in Dubai and each one has its own set of regulations that need to be followed. The set-up period is usually very fast, taking between 3-5 days (this can be done remotely) and you can also use a virtual office for convenience.

Alternatively, you could set up the business as a mainland company, which allows you to trade with other onshore companies in the UAE and international businesses. Mainland companies must have office space of at least 140 square feet (instant licence holders are exempt) and you must be present in the country during the setup procedure. And from June 2023, most mainland companies will only have to pay 9% income tax.

How do I register my software company in Dubai?

To register your software company in Dubai you will first need to register a legal trade name for your business with the government. There are several rules and regulations that need to be followed here, as the government has strict guidelines in place regarding company names. For example, the trade name should not target any religion, community or caste or contain any offensive words, or your own name in the title.

Whilst this part of the process may seem straightforward, because of the restrictions in place, it can be confusing, so it is advisable to seek professional advice before you begin to ensure your application has the best chance of being approved.

What requirements are there?

The requirements for setting up a software company in Dubai depend on whether you register as a mainland or free zone entity. We explain the basic requirements below:

  • You must first decide on a suitable business name that fits within the UAE trade name regulations.
  • Identify which services you will provide and check that they can all be covered by a single licence.
  • Confirm who will be the General Manager of the company.
  • As a mainland company you will need a physical location for your business, so you will need to find and rent a suitable commercial space. The registration process can only progress once you have one in place.
  • Register your business with the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Ensure that your company meets labour and immigration requirements so you can apply for all investors, employees, families, spouse and dependent visas.

The process for applying for a free zone is almost identical, with the only major difference being that early in the process you will need to choose a suitable free zone to incorporate your company in.

What charges shall I expect?

There are some charges associated with setting up a software company in Dubai. The costs will vary, depending on a variety of factors. Charterhouse Lombard will be happy to discuss these further by contacting our team.

Hiring the right team

Another vital part of setting up a software company in Dubai is acquiring the right team for your business. You will need to hire various skilled IT professionals and technology experts who can provide and support your services, which means work visas will have to be arranged.

In addition to organising employment visas, there will be other matters to settle, such as finalising their healthcare insurance and ensuring that all employees are registered with the Ministry of Labour and General Authority for Pension and Social Security.

Company Formation with Charterhouse

The process of establishing a software company in Dubai can seem complex to anyone who is attempting it for the first time.

From registering your company name to finalising the paperwork and ensuring that all the rules and guidelines are being followed, it’s important to get every detail correct to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Charterhouse has a long history of helping software companies to set up and get started in the city. Our team of expert consultants can guide you through every stage of the procedure, taking care of the formalities whilst you focus on other important parts of your operation that need to be resolved before you start trading.

The laws and regulations in Dubai are constantly changing as the government continues to encourage entrepreneurs and brands to invest in the country. But rather than it being an added complication that slows down the process, by working with Charterhouse you can keep up to date with all legal requirements, so it doesn’t affect your application.

Whether you are setting up as a free zone business or a mainland company, the Charterhouse team can streamline the process and help with finding commercial premises and provide advice on visas and work permits. We also offer ongoing admin support for your software company once you are up and running, so you always have access to regional commercial experts whenever you need.