How to Obtain a Virtual License to Set Up a Business in Dubai and Abu Dhabi


Obtaining a virtual license to operate a business in Abu Dhabi and Dubai offers streamlined digital management, reduced costs, and access to thriving business opportunities. Entrepreneurs can benefit from simplified processes and increased visibility in these dynamic markets.

By Giulia Interesse

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has introduced several innovative options for foreign entrepreneurs and businesspersons to establish and operate businesses remotely through virtual licenses. These licenses, offered by Abu Dhabi and Dubai, enable individuals living outside the UAE to start and manage businesses within the emirates.

This initiative is part of the UAE’s broader strategy to attract global talent and investment by simplifying business setup processes and making it more accessible for international investors to engage with the UAE’s dynamic economy.

In this article, we provide an overview of the opportunities available for establishing virtual businesses in the UAE, highlighting the application processes, associated costs, and the numerous advantages for entrepreneurs.

Obtaining a virtual license in Abu Dhabi

In 2021, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) introduced the virtual license specifically catering to non-resident foreigners.

Foreign investors can apply for the Abu Dhabi Virtual License from any location outside the UAE, allowing them to secure an economic license to conduct business within Abu Dhabi prior to obtaining residency permits.

Scope of business

The license covers 13 economic sectors. These are:

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Repair
  • Contracting
  • Maintenance and installations
  • Retail trade
  • Transport
  • Services
  • Leasing services
  • Health and entertainment events
  • Management and provision of the supporting services
  • Wholesale trade
  • Import and export

Application process

Applications can be submitted via the Abu Dhabi Service Portal (TAMM). The virtual license can be obtained by following the following steps:

  1. Log in: Use your UAE PASS Basic Account, which provides limited access to services and is verified through your mobile number and email.
  2. Submit application: Upload the necessary documents with your application. These include your passport, a photo, and the company’s Memorandum of Association (MoA).
  3. Approval process: Obtain approvals from other entities if required. This may take up to five working days.
  4. Notification: Receive either an approval or rejection notification.
  5. Payment: Pay the applicable fees.

Application costs

The expenses related to obtaining the Abu Dhabi Virtual License are as follows:

  • AED 790 (US$215.08) for application request;
  • AED 50 (US$13.61) for MoA attesting fees;
  • AED 10 (US$2.72) to be paid for the final license issuance fee.

Dubai Virtual Commercial City

Dubai’s Virtual Commercial City (VCC) program, launched by the Department of Economy and Tourism in collaboration with other government entities, allows entrepreneurs and freelancers worldwide to start a virtual company in Dubai without needing a residence visa.

Eligibility and taxation considerations

To qualify for the program, applicants must possess the following criteria:

  • Non-UAE residency: Applicants cannot currently reside in the UAE.
  • National or tax resident: Owners must be citizens or tax residents of one of the 101 approved countries, including India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, and others. The full list is available on the Virtual Commercial City’s official website.
  • Financial compliance: Companies generating over US$100,000 annually are subject to a 5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UAE, necessitating registration with the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority.
  • Designated business sectors: Virtual presence in Dubai is limited to specific sectors, including services such as printing, advertising, computer programming, consultancy, and design activities like fashion, jewelry, and interiors.
  • Taxation implications: Virtual company owners should note that their companies will still be subject to corporate, individual income, and social taxation in their home countries. Additionally, revenue generated within the UAE may be subject to taxation.

Scope of business

Computer programming, consultancy and related activities, including:

  • Computer systems & communication equipment software design
  • Electronic chips programming
  • Web-design
  • Social media applications development and management
  • Cyber security architecture
  • Public networking services
  • Cyber risk management services
  • Auditing, reviewing and testing cyber risks
  • Cyber security services provider
  • Marketing services via social media

Design activities, including:

  • Fashion design
  • Jewelry design
  • Design services (interior design, garden design)
  • Calligraphers and painters
  • Product design

Service activities related to printing and advertising, such as:

  • Books binding
  • Typesetting services
  • Color separation services
  • Design and artwork services
  • Greeting cards production and distribution services
  • Promotional gifts preparation

Application process

To launch a virtual business in Dubai, you need to obtain a Virtual Company License by following these steps:

  1. Complete the online registration form: Begin by filling out the registration application form online, which can be found at
  2. Undergo a background check: This step involves a background investigation, which can take anywhere from one to thirty days.
  3. Attend an identity and business verification session: Your identity and business details will be verified during this session.
  4. Obtain the virtual company license: After successful verification, pay the necessary fees to receive your virtual company license.

All virtual companies automatically gain access to, an online marketplace for companies registered with Dubai Economy.

Application costs

The expenses related to obtaining the Dubai Virtual License are as follows:

  • AED 300 (US$81.68) for identification and validation;
  • AED 680 (US$185.13) annually for the virtual license; and
  • AED 200 (US$54.45) for trade name reservation.

Advantages of setting up virtual businesses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Setting up a virtual business in Abu Dhabi and Dubai presents numerous advantages for entrepreneurs. Firstly, both emirates offer virtual company licenses, empowering entrepreneurs to conduct all business-related tasks digitally. This includes document signing and submission, with digitally obtained signatures legally recognized in the UAE. This streamlined approach enhances operational efficiency, eliminating the need for physical presence.

Additionally, establishing a virtual business in Abu Dhabi and Dubai entails reduced initial costs and administrative burdens. The simplified processes and lower overhead expenses make it an appealing option for entrepreneurs seeking to expand their business presence without hefty upfront investments.

Moreover, Abu Dhabi and Dubai boast thriving economies and abundant business opportunities. Acquiring virtual licenses in these emirates grants entrepreneurs access to new clients, markets, and investment prospects. This unlocks a spectrum of growth opportunities, both domestically and internationally.

Lastly, virtual companies registered in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are integrated into directories of virtual businesses. This inclusion amplifies visibility and facilitates networking with a diverse array of businesses, fostering collaboration and expansion prospects.


About Us

Middle East Briefing is one of five regional publications under the Asia Briefing brand. It is supported by Dezan Shira & Associates, a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm that assists foreign investors throughout Asia, including through offices in Dubai (UAE), China, India, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, and USA. We also have partner firms in Malaysia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia.

For support with establishing a business in the Middle East, or for assistance in analyzing and entering markets elsewhere in Asia, please contact us at or visit us at To subscribe for content products from the Middle East Briefing, please click here.

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