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Navigating UAE Trade Licenses: Mainland, Freezone, and Offshore Explained

In the dynamic business landscape of the United Arab Emirates, understanding the nuances of trade licenses is essential for entrepreneurs and corporations looking to establish a presence or expand operations. 

At Adler & Partners, we recognize the significance of clarity in navigating UAE's regulatory framework. Keep reading to learn the key differences between Mainland, Freezone, and Offshore trade licenses within the UAE, empowering you to make informed decisions for your business endeavors.


Mainland Trade License

Mainland trade licenses, also known as onshore licenses, enable businesses to operate within the UAE's mainland territory. Here's what you need to know:


Local Market Access: With a Mainland trade license, businesses have the freedom to conduct commercial activities and trade both locally and internationally, tapping into the UAE's robust market.


Ownership and Visa Requirements: Mainland companies no longer require a local Emirati sponsor or partner, however, there is an exception when activities fall under an Industrial License. Additionally, residency or visa requirements may apply to business owners and employees.


Taxation: Mainland businesses are subject to the UAE's taxation regime, including corporate income tax and VAT, in line with the country's laws and regulations.


Freezone Trade License

Freezone trade licenses offer businesses a gateway to international trade and investment within designated economic zones across the UAE. Here's what sets them apart:


Foreign Ownership: Freezones allow 100% foreign ownership, providing autonomy and flexibility for businesses without the need for local sponsorship.


Customs Benefits: Freezones offer customs duty exemptions on imports and exports, facilitating seamless logistics for businesses engaged in global trade.


Tax Advantages: Freezone entities often benefit from tax incentives such as no personal income tax, and customs duty exemptions, depending on the specific Freezone jurisdiction.


Offshore Trade License

Offshore trade licenses in the UAE are geared towards businesses seeking asset protection, tax optimization, and confidentiality. 


Tax Efficiency: Offshore companies registered in UAE jurisdictions like Ras Al Khaimah offer favorable tax regimes with low or zero taxation on corporate profits, capital gains, and dividends.


Confidentiality: Offshore jurisdictions prioritize confidentiality and privacy, safeguarding corporate information and shareholder identities.


Asset Protection: Offshore entities provide a shield against legal liabilities and asset seizures, enhancing asset protection for businesses operating globally.

Selecting the right trade license in the UAE is a strategic decision influenced by factors such as business objectives, market preferences, and regulatory considerations. 

Whether you opt for a Mainland, Freezone, or Offshore license, Adler & Partners is here to provide expert guidance and support.


Contact us today to explore tailored solutions for your business licensing needs in the UAE, and embark on a journey towards sustainable growth and success.

Schedule a free consultation with our expert team.

Email us at


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