The complete guide to legal requirements to start an Online Business in UAE 

legal requirements to start an online business in UAE

2023 onwards is the best time to begin online ventures. It is a booming industry due to consumer comfort, lesser financial investment and the flexibility it provides to entrepreneurs and consumers. This is your go-to guide if you plan to begin an online start-up. We list here your legal requirements to start an online business in UAE.

Starting an online business in UAE has immense potential for global success. The e-commerce sector in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is growing rapidly and is expected to reach a market value of $9.2 billion by 2026. This presents an attractive opportunity for businesses to launch online stores. One key factor is the popularity of mobile e-commerce in the UAE. Over one-third of UAE consumers make weekly purchases using their smartphones, which is higher than the global average. It is important to note that UAE shoppers tend to favour local e-commerce websites over international ones. This is likely due to a number of factors, such as concerns about shipping costs and delivery times.

However, it can also be challenging due to the legal and compliance requirements. It is essential to understand the legal requirements to ensure a smooth flow of setting up your process. This article is a comprehensive guide to walk you through launching an online business in the UAE. It covers consequential aspects such as company registration, business licensing, visas, and other necessary documentation. 

The UAE comprises seven emirates, each with distinct advantages for start-ups. 

Abu Dhabi, the capital, offers better access to government contracts. 

Dubai has a robust network of international exposure. Starting an online business in Dubai will help you access a cosmopolitan and global market. 

Sharjah is best for culture and creativity. 

Ras Al Khaimah is better for affordability and technology growth. 

Ajman boasts a very business-friendly atmosphere. 

Umm Al Quwain offers a laid-back, peaceful, functioning environment.

Fujairah has a community on Trade and maritime activities. 

You can start by choosing the right location based on your target audience, industry, and goals. You must also consider regulations, market access, costs, industry focus, networking, and infrastructure. This important decision will impact your startup’s success and growth potential in the UAE.

Step-by-Step Guide for legal requirements to start an online business in UAE

These are crucial to your start-up journey. Whether you are physically present in UAE or work remotely, these are your legal requirements to start an online business in UAE:

1. Company Registration: Starting your online business begins with choosing a suitable legal structure, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or a free zone entity. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  • Select a business name that complies with UAE naming regulations.
  • Register your business with the relevant authorities and secure a trade name reservation.
  • Prepare a comprehensive business plan and copies of your passport and residency documents.

2. Business Setup: Carefully Consider the zone in which you want to set up your company. UAE has two distinct zones with its own specific set of opportunities.

Mainland Business Setup:

Establishing your business within the UAE’s local jurisdiction allows nationwide operation, including cities and residential areas. Benefit from access to local markets and Trade barriers-free environment. 


  1. Freely Trade with local UAE markets and individuals.
  2. Cross the Emirates without obstacles.
  3. Engage in a wide range of activities and have access to a vast network.
  4. Enhance trust and accessibility through a physical presence.


  1. Need an Emirati sponsor or partner with majority shares.
  2. Adhere to local regulations, possibly more documentation.
  3. Choose from various licenses based on activities.

Free Zone Business Setup: 

Set up in economic zones to attract foreign investment and industry promotion, each with unique regulations and incentives. 


  1. Enjoy 100% ownership, unlike mainland setups.
  2. Tax exemptions, no corporate or personal income taxes.
  3. Streamlined process with fewer hurdles.
  4. Industry-tailored regulatory frameworks. 


  1. Operate only within the free zone or internationally, with limited access to the UAE local market.
  2. Align activities with the zone’s focus.

In short, the Mainland offers local access and diverse activities but needs local sponsorship. Free zones provide foreign ownership and tax perks but restrict local market access. Make a choice depending on your business prerequisites.

3. Business License: Once you have decided on your zone, Identify the business activities you intend to engage in, such as e-commerce or general trading. Then:

  • Apply for the relevant business license corresponding to your chosen activities.
  • Complete the requirements for license approval, which may involve providing financial statements and signing lease agreements.

4. UAE Residency Visa: A UAE residency visa is essential to reside in the country. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Apply for a UAE residency visa that aligns with your business objectives.
  • If you’re an investor or business owner, consider applying for an investor visa, which may require meeting a minimum investment threshold.
  1. Establishment Card: If your online business’s physical establishment is in the UAE, apply for an establishment card, which allows you to sponsor employees and dependents under your business umbrella. This card is pivotal in hiring staff and conducting business activities within the UAE.

5. E-Channel Registration: Registering with the E-Channel system is a must. It is a digital platform for streamlining the visa application process, thus ensuring your business complies with labour regulations. This platform facilitates the issuance of work permits and visas for your employees, reducing administrative hurdles and legal requirements to start an online business in UAE.

Launching an Online Business in UAE from Abroad

Even if you’re not physically present in the UAE, you can launch your online business through free zone entities. Here’s how:

  • Opt for free zones to capitalise on benefits like full foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and simplified registration procedures.
  • Free zones offer a supportive environment for remote entrepreneurs seeking to establish online businesses.

Addressing Common Questions About Online Business Setup in UAE

  • Can I Sell Online Without a License in UAE? 

No matter what business you do, physical or online, joint or sole proprietorship, every kind of business needs a specific licence to make the business legit.

  • How Much Does it Cost to Register an Online Business in UAE?

The registration cost varies based on your business structure and license type. Please consult us for an accurate estimate.

  • How Much Does an E-Trader License Cost in UAE? 

An E-Trader license is cost-effective and varies with the type of business. It is a popular choice among small online businesses.

  • Can Foreigners look at starting an online business in dubai? 

Foreigners can launch online businesses in the UAE, either in the Mainland or free zones.

  • How Can I Begin an Online Business in Dubai from Another Country? 

Starting an online business in Dubai remotely involves setting up within a free zone. Free zones will be the most beneficial for anyone working remotely.

  • VAT Considerations for Online Businesses in UAE 

Online businesses must adhere to UAE VAT regulations. As of 2023, the standard VAT rate is 5%, affecting pricing and financial operations.

Illegal online business list:

In the UAE, strict regulations govern online businesses. The purpose is to share ethical and legal procedures. Engaging in online businesses that are for gambling, unlicensed e-commerce, selling counterfeit goods, adult content distribution, illegal pharmaceutical sales, pyramid schemes, promoting hate speech, online prostitution, unauthorised financial services, or cybercrime is considered illegal. It is best to be familiar with the legal requirements to start an online business in UAE and align with cultural values, national security concerns, and consumer protection. Online business owners must stay updated with evolving laws and consult legal experts to ensure compliance with the UAE’s evolving legal framework.

Kinds of frauds and scams to stay away from:

Online businesses are relatively new compared to traditional setups. As entrepreneurs begin on their journeys to establish online businesses in the UAE, they must remain vigilant against potential frauds and scams that could target them. These scams often prey on inexperienced business owners or digitally inexperienced owners seeking funding or services. Common scams include fake investment opportunities, phishing attempts to steal sensitive information, counterfeit business licenses, misleading promises from digital marketing agencies, the risk of engaging with suppliers offering counterfeit products, and domain name scams that pressure entrepreneurs to make unnecessary purchases. 

Entrepreneurs entering the cyber world of online business in Dubai or the rest of the UAE can shield themselves from scams by adopting prudent measures. Following the legal requirements to start an online business in the UAE is a necessary step that includes focused research and due care. This will, in turn, help when considering investments or partnerships.

Entrepreneurs should exercise caution in the face of offers that promise unrealistic outcomes, as genuine opportunities inherently entail risk and demand careful scrutiny. Communication should be conducted securely, steering clear of unsolicited or dubious messages. Always confirm the licensing and registration of government bodies and service providers to confirm their authenticity. It is crucial to seek guidance from legal, financial, and business professionals before making significant commitments. It protects entrepreneurs against fraud and scams.


Non-compliance with legal requirements to start an online business in UAE brings many challenges:

  • Your business will face legal consequences, including fines, penalties, or even closure. 
  • It tarnishes the business’s reputation, hampering customer trust and brand image. 
  • Financial losses will inevitably affect profits and growth prospects due to the burden of fines and penalties. 
  • Operations will be disrupted as authorities may suspend business activities until compliance is achieved. 
  • Restricts access to vital services like banking facilities, licenses, or permits, further impeding business operations.

Authorities in the UAE take stringent actions against non-compliance with legal requirements for online businesses. These measures include imposing fines and penalties based on the seriousness of the violation. In severe cases, your business operations may face suspension until all compliance issues are resolved. Continuous non-compliance might even lead to the revocation of your business license, forcing the closure of your online venture. Legal consequences are inevitable, with the possibility of lawsuits and court proceedings prompted by authorities or affected parties.

Furthermore, non-compliant businesses risk being blacklisted, which can severely damage their reputation and credibility. To steer clear of these unnecessary adversities, it’s better to have a comprehensive understanding of all legal requirements for starting an online business in dubai. Seeking legal guidance, conducting thorough research, and being aware of regulatory updates are essential to ensure compliance and prevent these actions by authorities.

How Nair & Nelliyatt Can Assist You

Nair & Nelliyatt Chartered Accountants provide comprehensive services to facilitate your online business setup in the UAE. Our expert team will guide you through the legal requirements to start an online business in the UAE. From company registration to licensing and visa applications, we provide end-to-end solutions. With a commitment to excellence, we ensure your online business journey is seamless, compliant, and positioned for success.


Launching an online business in the UAE requires a clear understanding of the legal framework. From company registration and business licensing to obtaining visas and establishing a presence, adhering to legal requirements is crucial for a successful start. Whether you’re physically in Dubai or launching remotely, NNCA is your trusted partner for navigating the complexities of online business setups in the UAE.

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