freezone company need onshore license Abu Dhabi, UAE Gateway Group
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6th June 2018

Does your business currently operate within one of the Abu Dhabi free zones but need to operate onshore? Gateway Group can assist to ensure your business is legally compliant.

Licenses for free zones and licenses for onshore companies

There are some misconceptions that you can operate throughout the Emirates with one commercial license.  This is incorrect.  Licenses are issued by jurisdiction.  Operating in more than one jurisdiction requires multiple licenses.  Free zone licenses restrict operations to within the specific free zone and with companies overseas.  (Fore more information about Abu Dhabi free zones CLICK HERE.) Free zone companies are not permitted to operate on the Abu Dhabi mainland except via a company licensed by the Department of Economic Development (DED).  For Dubai-based free zone entities which are operating onshore, they could face a fine of up to AED100,000.  So, if your free zone company is expanding its operations into mainland Abu Dhabi, it’s important to be legally compliant.

How can an Abu Dhabi free zone company get licensed onshore?

Free zone companies providing services can branch onshore.  Free zone companies selling goods are required to setup a Limited Liability Company (LLC) when stepping onshore.  In both instances, Gateway Group can assist with the onshore company setup in Abu Dhabi.  Our expert team can manage the registration process.  We also provide corporate service agent and local partner services, if required.  The process takes approximately one month.  For companies registered with TWOFOUR54 or Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) free zones, special agreements in place with Abu Dhabi’s DED negate the requirement for an onshore commercial premise.

What are the benefits for an Abu Dhabi free zone company stepping onshore?

  • Work directly with Abu Dhabi government and semi-government entities
  • Tender for Abu Dhabi government projects
  • Can apply for Supreme Petroleum Council approval to work directly with the ADNOC group in the oil and gas sector. (For more information about the Supreme Petroleum Council CLICK HERE.)
  • Increased opportunities in a larger geographical market
  • VAT return compliance
  • Fast onshore registration process

If your free zone company is currently working onshore without a DED-issued license, contact Gateway for assistance to get compliant.

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By providing bespoke, trustworthy business setup; a corporate local sponsorship platform for protection; and, efficient visa processing in Abu Dhabi, award winning Gateway Group uses its on-the-ground experience and knowledge to help companies make informed decisions that are right for their business and in line with their goals. For assistance with your Abu Dhabi business set up, visa processing and ongoing Trade License renewal requirements, Email us:

Jenny Hunt Gateway Group of CompaniesBest company setup UAE 2017 Gateway Group of CompaniesBusiness Setup in Abu Dhabi Gateway Group award winner

Jenny Hunt, CEO Gateway Group of Companies