Capital International Group

Deciding Between Mainland, Free Zone, or Offshore

When thinking about starting a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you have three main options: Offshore, Free Zone, and Mainland setups. Each has its pros and cons, depending on what you need. Here’s a simple comparison:

Offshore Company:


  • You can fully own it as a foreigner.
  • No taxes or customs fees.
  • Your privacy is well-protected.
  • Good for holding assets and international trade.
  • Less paperwork needed.


  • Limited to certain activities.
  • Can’t operate inside the UAE.
  • You need a registered agent.
  • Some limits on shareholders and directors.
  • Best for people or businesses looking to protect assets or do international trade without doing business locally.

Free Zone Company:


  • Full foreign ownership is allowed.
  • Tax breaks, including no corporate tax for a while.
  • Easy to set up.
  • You get access to good facilities.


  • Limited to operating in the free zone or outside the UAE.
  • Some restrictions on what you can do.
  • You might need a certain amount of money to start.
  • Ideal for businesses focusing on specific industries or trades in designated free zones, like startups or tech companies.

Mainland Company:


  • You can do business anywhere in the UAE.
  • No limits on what you can do.
  • You can access the local market and government projects.
  • No restrictions on how many visas you can get.
  • More freedom in choosing office locations.


  • You usually need a UAE national as a partner or service agent for some activities.
  • Costs for setting up and running can be slightly higher.
  • You have to follow local laws and rules.
  • Good for businesses that want to trade directly in the UAE, like retail or hospitality.

In the end, the choice depends on what your business needs and goals are. It’s important to do your research, get advice from experts, and keep up with any rule changes. CIG Business Setup Services can help you set up and manage your UAE business, no matter which option you choose. We offer guidance, support, and keep you informed about any changes in regulations. With our help, you can make sure your business in the UAE gets off to a good start.

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