The UAE has a number of free zones across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain. Free zones may be broadly categorized as seaport free zones, airport free zones, and mainland free zones. Free-trade zone exemptions are:
- 100% foreign ownership of the enterprise
- 100% import and export tax exemptions
- 100% repatriation of capital and profits
- Corporate tax exemptions for up to 50 years
- No personal income taxes
- Assistance with labor recruitment, and additional support services, such as sponsorship and housing.
Each Free Zone is designed around one or more business industry categories and only offers licenses to companies within those categories. An independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) governs each free zone, and is the agency responsible for issuing FTZ operating licenses and assisting companies with establishing their business in the FTZ.
Investors can either register a new company in the form of a Free Zone Establishment (FZE) or simply establish a branch or representative office of their existing or parent company based within the UAE or abroad. A FZE firm is a limited liability company governed by the rules and regulations of the Free Zone in which it is established. Except for acquiring nationality in the UAE, the provisions of the Commercial Companies Law (CCL) do not apply to FZEs, provided that the Free Zones have special provisions regulating such companies.