Free Zones vs. Offshore Companies in UAE – Key Differences

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When it comes to setting up a company in UAE there are three major business jurisdictions – Free Zone, Mainland, and Offshore. For foreign investors to easily establish a company in UAE, the Free Zone and the Offshore business jurisdiction are the most favorable options. Here is a comparison of Free Zones vs. Offshore Companies.

However, there are a few differences in the company structure, company setup procedures, and nature of business operations for Free Zones and the Offshore jurisdictions in UAE.

What are the Advantages of a Free Zone Company?

The Free Zone company has many business advantages when compared to Offshore companies. The investor can easily setup a Free Zone company in UAE with the help of an experienced business consultant.

A Free Zone company can take an office space in the Free Zone if necessary and coordinate the business operations. The Free Zone company is eligible to can hire employees depending on the visa quota availability.

Free Zones are a preferred investment destination for foreign investors due to the 100% foreign ownership for the company. The investor can also repatriate 100% of the business profits and capital to the home country.

There is no income tax and certain Free Zones in UAE are VAT exempted. The business license in UAE Free Zones starts at AED 11,500 for zero visa quota to up to 6 visa quotas and more.

Free Zone Company – Key Highlights

The Free Zone Company is an onshore company governed by the respective Free Zone jurisdiction and eligible to apply for a UAE residence visa, hire employees, set up an office, open a corporate bank account, buy property, sponsor employee & investor visa, etc.

The Free Zones offer customized office spaces (Flexi-desk, shared office, furnished office -12 sq.m, 25sq.m, 50 sq.m, office + warehouse) and a host of other business benefits for the investors.

Free Zone Company in UAE

The company formation in Free Zones is easy with minimal documentation. However, it becomes quite confusing for the investors to choose the right business activity and Free Zone company package.

Also, depending on the nature of the business activity, it requires a few approvals from the Free Zone authorities and other government authorities in the UAE. It is best advisable for the investor to get the assistance of an expert Business Consultant to carry out the process of the company set up in the Free Zones of UAE.

Top Four Free Zones to explore in UAE

What is an Offshore Company in UAE?

Offshore company in UAE is a type of business entity that is setup with the UAE offshore jurisdictions. In UAE there are mainly three offshore jurisdictions – JAFZA, RAKICC, and Ajman Offshore.

Offshore Company in UAE – Key Highlights

Offshore companies in UAE are governed by the respective Offshore jurisdictions and are non-resident companies. An offshore company is not eligible for applying UAE residence visa for the investors or the employees.

Also, the Offshore company cannot trade or involve in any trade operations with the mainland of UAE. Offshore companies are aimed at facilitating global trade only and they fall out of the UAE VAT regime and other local company governance.

Companies registered with the RAKICC Offshore have the provision to purchase a property in the Free Hold area in Dubai under the company name. 

Offshore Company Formation in UAE – Key Business Benefits

1. Tax Advantage

Offshore Companies do not fall into the tax regime of any business jurisdiction or country. They enjoy Zero taxation for the revenue generated.

Offshore Company in UAE

Zero taxation for offshore companies is one of the major driving factors for global investors to choose offshore business.

2. Business Anonymity

One of the key reasons global investors prefer to register an offshore entity is to keep their ownership and assets invested confidentially. There is no requirement for keeping public records for an offshore company.

However, with the new law of global taxation, economic substance regulation filings, anti-money laundering, etc; the anonymity of offshore companies is subject to respective authorities’ inquiry. The company documents, transactions, and other trade details will have to be shared upon request by the Government authorities.

3. Ease of Formation and Low Maintenance Cost

The steps involved in setting up an offshore company are relatively straightforward with minimum documentation. It just takes 2 working days in UAE to complete the process of the offshore company registration. Offshore allows remote company registration without the presence of the shareholder (Ajman & RAKICC).

Also, the company is not eligible to open a physical office in UAE nor apply for an employee residence visa. The maintenance cost of an offshore company is relatively lower than an onshore company.

4. Access to Bank Accounts

Offshore companies registered in RAKICC, UAE are eligible to open a bank account in UAE and other global business locations. Individuals can protect their assets by opening a holding company and moving all the assets under the company name.

Also, by opening a corporate bank account in UAE the offshore company can handle all the business transactions via the bank account and successfully run the business.

To know more about the difference between Free Zone, Mainland, and Offshore Companies in UAE, talk to our expert team right away!

Contact Us: Aurion Business Consultants


A Marketing Consultant working @Aurion Business Consultants specialized in writing about Business Setup in UAE tips, License Packages, Free Zones, LLC Company Formation, Startups, etc in the UAE.


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