How to Start an Online Business in UAE

Start an Online Business in UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a prominent destination for individuals looking to start an online business. With its favorable business environment and increasing digitalization, the UAE provides a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurs in the online space. 

However, navigating through the process of establishing an online business in the UAE can seem daunting, especially for first-time business owners. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of starting an online business in the UAE, covering everything from understanding the online business environment to obtaining the necessary licenses and visas. By following these steps, you can set yourself up for success in the rapidly growing online business landscape of the UAE.

Emerging Trends in the UAE E-commerce Landscape

The ecommerce landscape in the UAE is experiencing a significant upsurge, driven by several emerging trends. Online store development, ranging from small independent businesses to established brands, has witnessed substantial growth in recent years. This trend can be attributed to the increasing use of social media as a tool for business promotion and customer engagement. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook have emerged as networking tools, allowing businesses to connect with their target audience effectively.

Furthermore, the middle east, including the UAE, has been quick to embrace digitalization, leading to a surge in online transactions. With the availability of multiple payment options, such as credit cards, mobile payment apps, and online banking, customers in the UAE can conveniently make purchases online. This has had a significant impact on ecommerce businesses, allowing them to expand their customer base and cater to a broader market.

Step-by-Step Guide to Establish an Online business in the UAE

Establishing a company in the UAE may initially seem complex, but by adhering to a straightforward step-by-step approach, the process becomes far more manageable than anticipated. Collaborating with Arnifi, streamlines the acquisition of your online business license, reducing it to a series of five uncomplicated steps.

Step 1: Choose a distinctive name for your company

Your first task involves selecting a name for your organization. It’s crucial to adhere to the UAE’s stringent regulations regarding company names, avoiding any offensive or blasphemous language, as well as names already registered by prominent entities.

Step 2: Determine whether to opt for a free zone or mainland license

Your business license can be acquired either from a free zone or the mainland. While a free zone license restricts trading within the local UAE market, it offers advantages such as 100% business profit repatriation, exemption from corporate tax, full business ownership, and no customs fees. Conversely, a mainland license permits access to both international and local markets.

  • Free zones: Free zones provide a tax-free environment, allowing you to operate your online business without corporate tax obligations. Additionally, free zones offer various benefits, such as 100% business ownership, exemption from import and export duties, and simplified company setup procedures.
  • Mainland: The mainland allows online businesses to operate within the local market, providing access to a broader customer base. This option requires compliance with local business laws and regulations, including obtaining a mainland license and partnering with a local agent or sponsor.
  • Ultimately, choosing the suitable location for your online business depends on factors such as logistics, market demand, and networking opportunities. Researching the advantages of free zone business setup and mainland licenses will help you understand the best fit for your online business.

Step 3: Apply for an e-commerce license

Following the selection of a suitable location, the next step involves applying for an e-commerce license in Dubai. For a mainland license, the application must be submitted to the Department of Economic Development (DED), the designated licensing authority for e-commerce activities. Conversely, for businesses in free zones, applications are directly made to the chosen free zone authority.

Step 4: Initiate the visa application process

Upon approval of your license application, you can proceed to apply for a UAE visa. This application may also encompass visas for your staff and family members, facilitating their relocation if necessary.

Step 5: Establish a business bank account

Upon securing your license, the immediate priority should be to open a business bank account, as operating in the UAE necessitates this prerequisite.

Essential Documentation for an Online Business License

The Department of Economic Development mandates specific documentation and basic details to facilitate the online registration of your business. Required documents include:

  • Passport copy of the investor
  • Passport copy of the local sponsor (if applicable)
  • No Objection Certificate (NOC) for any shareholders employed by a UAE company
  • Copy of Emirates ID
  • DED registration application form
  • Attested tenancy contract for office premises (if applicable)
  • Attested Memorandum of Association from a public notary

For comprehensive guidance on these requirements, consulting with a business setup manager at Arnifi  is advisable. Their expertise ensures that your documentation is meticulously prepared and error-free.

Cost Considerations for an Online Business License in Dubai

The cost of obtaining an online business license in the UAE varies based on factors such as business size, the number of visas required, office space, and whether the company operates in a free zone or the mainland. Anticipated costs typically range from AED 5,500 to AED 30,000, with registration in a free zone representing a popular and cost-effective option.

Getting Started with Your Online Business Journey

Acquiring a virtual license in the United Arab Emirates presents a seamless experience for online entrepreneurs, enabling them to conduct ecommerce activities and online transactions. Registering a company name under the virtual license provides a unique online identity while complying with UAE business regulations. Moreover, virtual license holders can establish a limited liability company, ensuring a secure online business setup, especially beneficial for family members seeking a golden visa in the UAE. This opens avenues for business expansion, leveraging the benefits of free zone, mainland, or ecommerce licenses, making the online business journey in the UAE more accessible and lucrative for freelancers and businesses alike.


In conclusion, starting an online business in the UAE can be a lucrative venture, given the country’s favorable business environment and emerging trends in e-commerce. It is crucial to understand the legal requirements and financial aspects before establishing your online business. Conduct thorough market research, identify profitable sectors, and select the right e-commerce license for your business. Virtual licenses are also gaining popularity and offer several benefits for online businesses. However, it is important to consider various factors and ensure that the UAE is the right place for your online business. With careful planning and execution, you can embark on a successful journey and tap into the vast opportunities offered by the UAE’s online market.