Difference between Mainland and Free Zone Company

The Difference Between Mainland and Free Zone Company
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Free Zone vs. Mainland

Difference between Dubai Mainland and Dubai Free Zone Business Set Up:

It can get confusing to not know where to start your business in Dubai, whether on the Mainland or in the Free zone and what are the differences?

Dubai Mainland companies are registered with Department of Economic Development (DED) and can do business locally and internationally without any restrictions. Whereas business companies in the  Free Zone are limited to do business within the respective Free Zone and Emirate

Mainland company: What is it?

A mainland company is simply an onshore entity registered with the relevant emirate’s government body. The Emirate’s Department of Economic Development (DED) issues its trade license. The company’s advantage is that there are no restrictions on its commercial activities.

Free zone company: What is it?

If you prefer to keep 100% ownership, the free zones are an excellent alternative to the mainland. The first free zone in the UAE opened in the 1980s, and they have grown and scope since then. Currently, there are more than 45 free zones across the country. Each free zone is managed and administered by its own regulatory authority.

Here is the difference between Mainland and Free Zone



Free Zone


Registration authority

Mainland company is registered and monitored by Dubai Economic Department of the equivalent administration in another Emirate. Free Zone company is registered with specific authority Managed by the Government or Semi Government administration


Mainland company offer complete control of the company (100 % Foreign ownership) but for some Business activity, a local sponsor is required (Clinic – Law firm … etc) Free Zone company offer 100% foreign ownership without any restriction – No local sponsor is required.

 Office Space Legal address

Mainland company I allowed to conduct business anywhere in the UAE and across the globe. Free Zone companies are allowed to do business only within the Free Zone where the company has been registered. The office of the company should be in the Free Zone area.


Cost of registration

The cost of company registration in Dubai Economic department is 16,599 AED. The price depends on the business activity, number of Shareholders and cost of the office rental. Additionally to the license fee, you are required to rent a office ( Private – Shared – Shop – Warehouse) to obtain the address of the company

The Price of Free Zone company depends on the location of the Free Zone, Business activity and Emirate. Registration of Free Zone company in the UAE start from 5,750 AED

Visa Eligibility

Mainland companies are not subject to any visa restrictions; however, the number of visas issued is dependent on the workspace area Free Zone companies have restrictions on the number of visas they can apply for. Typically, the number of visas available depends on the free zone regulations and ranges from 1 to 12.

Accounting and Company audit

It is mandatory for all mainland companies to prepare a financial audit at the end of each fiscal year not all free zones require companies to process their yearly financial audits. Only few free zones require to submit the annual audit like DMCC – Dubai South

To Get Free Consultation, please contact us on info@FreeZoneMarket.ae or call on +971 4 876 9890

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