The UAE government requires businesses and entrepreneurs to obtain a professional license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) before they can be authorized to provide their professional services to clients in mainland Dubai.
The purpose of professional licensing is to establish that the person or business is qualified to provide services in a certain profession. Issuance of these mainland licenses in Dubai generally requires the applicant to show certain skills or training.
All professionals, specialists, craftsmen, and artisans need to acquire a professional trade license to set up a mainland license in Dubai.
There are several company structures that can be formed with a professional license: A Limited Liability Company where a local sponsor holds 51% of the company; and a Civil Company and a Sole Establishment where the foreign investor(s) have 100% ownership of their company.
However, in setting up a Civil Company or a Sole Establishment, a UAE national must be appointed as a local service agent (LSA) to complete the legal formalities.
Commercial trade license
A company dealing with buying and selling of goods and commodities, or any kind of trade activities, requires a commercial trade license to operate in the UAE. This license can be used to form a limited liability company (LLC) or set up a sole establishment, and it can be used for both specialized trading and general trading activities in the UAE.
There are different types of commercial trade licenses in the UAE. You must apply for the correct type of commercial trade license that will permit you to carry out trading activities specific to your business.
Broadcast and communications companies, rental transportation services, retail companies, construction companies, healthcare businesses, real estate businesses, and other general trading entities also need to apply for a commercial trade license.
Industrial trade license
Businesses that want to conduct industrial or manufacturing-based activities in the UAE must acquire an industrial trade license, Dubai mainland license which will allow them to engage in activities related to converting natural materials or incorporating natural resources into their end products.
This license is issued by the DED but additional approvals might be required from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, and other authorities, depending on the industrial activity involved.