If you’re starting a business and now need to decide on where to register it, the UAE has thought of just about everything when it comes to the country’s free zones. Do you need a free zone dedicated to education? Are you looking into the healthcare industry? Or are you searching for a place amongst your fellow creatives? 

In the UAE, we’re practically spoilt for choice when it comes to free zones. There are so many options that it can be quite overwhelming to sort through this and decide what’s right for you and your business. To help you understand your free zone possibilities (and save you from a headache), we’ve put together a bit of advice on just what’s what when it comes to the UAE’s free zones.

 Types of Free Zones 

Overall the types of Free Zones you find here can be grouped into two categories.

Industry-Specific Free Zones

Around the UAE, you’ll find a free zone for just about every industry. You may have already noticed this yourself. From Dubai Healthcare City (healthcare industry) to Dubai Creative Cluster Authority, Fujairah Creative City, and Twofour54 (creative industries), you can find a home for just about any sector. 

Why might these free zones be a good choice for your new business venture? Industry-specific free zones can be a great place to find a supportive environment. It can be pretty helpful if your new graphic design studio has a neighbour that is a popular website developer or your nutrition clinic is just one floor down from a well-established gastroenterologist. Now, you may think it’s a bad idea to be surrounded by your possible competitors, but cooperation and collaboration can flourish when like minds come together.

There’s another benefit to these specialised free zones. The authorities running them tend to be pretty knowledgeable about their represented industries. You can get a little extra boost on your way to business greatness with a free zone authority that has the knowledge to help you succeed as part of their free zone family. 

Additionally, these free zones host conferences, seminars, and networking events targeted at their specific industries, which means you’ll meet plenty of potential clients and colleagues (as well as possibly get the chance to give a presentation yourself).

General-Purpose Free Zones

 It could be that you’re going into a field that doesn’t have a specific free zone or you’re doing something just a bit niche. Or maybe you want to be surrounded by a wide variety of different businesses. If any of that sounds a little familiar, then perhaps a general-purpose free zone is for you.

There aren’t as many general-purpose free zones, unlike the large number of specialised free zones. But they can be huge, like the DMCC, located in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers area. The DMCC offers a massive list of licence activities to choose from, including education, healthcare, legal services, and more. If you want to look a little further from Dubai (and you don’t really need physical offices), the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone, Ajman Free Zone, and Umm Al Quwain Free Zone give you almost as many options for your brand new trade licence. 

One thing to keep in mind with these free zones is that, though you may have fantastic freedom to choose your business activity, you could become lost amongst the crowd. The free zone authorities are still very knowledgeable, but there won’t be as much of a focus on a specific industry. And there will be seminars, workshops, and networking events, though they will be more general. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. There are plenty of fields that need a diverse client base to thrive, and a general-purpose free zone is a great place to find just that.

Whatever free zone you choose, it’s going to be your business’s home for quite a while. So, treat the process like you would when choosing a new flat – What fits your style? How’s the management? Can you get on with the neighbours? But there’s no cause for worry because, just like flats and villas, in the UAE there’s something for everyone. 

Written by Amanda Perry, Managing Director of Vital Corporate Solutions


Read more: 

Essential tips for starting your business in Dubai

How to digitally market your business in Dubai

Everything you need to know about financing your start up in Dubai

Why networking is so important for your start up business in Dubai

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