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Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED)

About Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest of UAE’s seven emirates, with more than three-fourths of the area of the entire federation. Its rich oil fields make it one of the nation’s most prosperous emirates. Abu Dhabi’s total oil reserves are estimated to be about one-tenth of the world’s total reserves.

Revenues from oil royalties and investments give Abu Dhabi one of the world’s highest per capita incomes (third highest in the world after Luxembourg and Norway). This has led to a surge in foreign investor interest in opening a business in Abu Dhabi.

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The Basics

Apart from free zone areas in Abu Dhabi, all companies are required to apply via the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) to receive a business license. All companies incorporated under ADDED must abide by the UAE Commercial Companies Law (CCL).

The CCL requires a limited liability company to be held by at least two individuals or entities, one of which must be a UAE or GCC national (either a UAE or GCC individual or a company wholly owned by UAE or GCC nationals) holding fifty one percent of the share capital and the foreign investor/entity would hold the remaining forty nine percent. There is no specific minimum capital requirement

Notwithstanding the majority UAE or GCC national ownership provision, there are means to protect the investments of a foreign investor.

It is possible to enter into a side agreement with the UAE or GCC shareholder to improve the standing of the expat shareholder under the applicable laws in the UAE. The agreement clarifies that the UAE or GCC shareholder has no right towards management, administration, appointment of employees, access to bank accounts, visas, or company’s assets. The UAE or GCC party agrees to an annual sponsorship to be a part of the business. We at Dubai Business Zone can help you protect your rights when you incorporate with our assistance.


A business in Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Department can operate under these types of licenses:

Commercial License

Encompassing trading activities;

Industrial License

Encompassing industrial or manufacturing activities;

Professional License

Encompassing professional services;

Documents Required to Start a Company in Abu Dhabi

The management of ADDED is keen to shift the entire business incorporation process online. Many of the documents mentioned below can be submitted via a dedicate portal on their website.

Current list of documents required:

  • ADDED license form
  • Company name reservation form
  • Copy of the passport and Emirates ID card of the UAE or GCC national or company documents of the LLC shareholding company
  • Copy of the passport and Emirates ID of the foreign shareholder(s) and general manager
  • Memorandum of association (notarised at the public notary)
  • Lease contract along with map of the location
  • External approvals (if applicable)
  • If industrial license, technical and environmental assessments might be required
  • If professional license, educational documents proving proficiency in the service offered may be request if applicable
  • If the foreign shareholder has an existing UAE residence visa, a NOC from the sponsor is needed

Timeframe for Business Setup in Abu Dhabi

ADDED has introduced a service where they are able to issue a license within 1 day if all the paperwork submitted is correct. While this is a great initiative, it does not apply to all business licenses. On average, it can take anywhere between 8 to 12 weeks to get a license. Extra time is required if you operate in a sector that is regulated by an external body or ministry.