Law No. 13 of 2011 states that the Department of Economic Development (DED) will be the body responsible for the regulation of economic activity for all businesses outside the freezones. DED's responsibilities include licensing, classification of economic activity permitted within Dubai, issuing trade permits for marketing activities and setting business work hours. The law also establishes a one-window system with a single portal managed by DED for issuing licenses to businesses and dealing with investors.
In March 2012, DED announced a new instant license that will be launched for investors. The new instant license will allow investors to start their business immediately and complete the rest of the licensing requirements such as approvals from other government authorities within 120 days.
The first official step in obtaining a trade licence is to reserve a trade name and obtain an initial approval from the Department of Economic Development. To reflect its persistent efforts to enhance the UAE’s top rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report and promote the country as a globally-competitive business hub, the Department of Economic Development has expanded its eServices window by offering these services through law firms in Dubai.
Unlike the rest of the official set up process, this step is the same for all business structures. The application for trade name approval can be completed online and a list of trade name restrictions and regulations can be found along with the online application. The costs for obtaining a trade name varies depending on the content and language of the name. The process is relatively straight forward – after filling out the online application or submitting the application in person to the DED, you will be given a date on which you can pick up the approval. All fees must be paid before the trade name approval certificate can be released.
Applicants can usually submit their initial approval applications at the same time as submitting their trade name approval application. The documents needed for this step vary depending on the business structure of the company. At this point you will also need to submit any necessary special approvals from Ministries corresponding to your business.