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Dubai Launches Unified Licensing for Free Zones

Dubai is set to revolutionize its business landscape with the introduction of the "one free zone passport" scheme, allowing businesses to operate from multiple free zones through a single license. Spearheaded by the Dubai Free Zones (DFZ) Council, this initiative aims to streamline the licensing process and significantly reduce fees for businesses seeking a presence in more than one free zone within the emirate.

This move aligns with a broader strategy to enhance business flexibility and economic sustainability. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of DFZ Council, emphasized the importance of greater coordination, stating that it opens avenues for sustainable development, attracts SMEs and international companies, and empowers entrepreneurs to bring their creative ideas to fruition.

In addition to the unified licensing approach, there is a proposal to extend the duration of free zone licenses from the current 25 years to 50 years. This extension aims to provide greater stability for businesses, fostering a conducive environment for long-term investments.

Furthermore, Dubai is actively working on creating a comprehensive geo-economic map to position itself as a premier destination for investment and business setup. This initiative is part of Dubai's commitment to economic diversification, a crucial element for the future prosperity of the emirate.

A recent initiative allows free zone-based entities to operate both onshore and offshore in Dubai, eliminating the need for multiple licensing requirements. This strategic move enhances the flexibility of businesses, encouraging a seamless operation across different sectors within the emirate.

The DFZ Council is also backing the "Free Zone 10X" platform, designed to establish a financial market exclusively for free zone enterprises. This marketplace would facilitate funding through Initial Public Offering (IPO) listings, providing a new avenue for businesses to access capital. The feasibility of this financial market is currently under study, exploring the legislative and logistical requirements for its implementation.

The collaborative effort to update the free zone concept in Dubai involves key entities such as the Ministry of Economy, the Department of Economic Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Development Authority, Jebel Ali Free Zone, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Customs, and Dubai Municipality. This collective approach aims to bring added value to the local economy and aligns with the priorities outlined in the recent "Letter of the New Season" from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Dubai's commitment to innovation and economic development positions it as a dynamic global business hub, fostering groundbreaking concepts and projects that transcend geographical borders.

This article was written by corporate lawyer Hashem Al Ahdal and focuses on Unified Licensing for Free Zones in Dubai. 

BSA is a regional Law Firm in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As a full-service law firm our practice areas include litigation, arbitration and corporate services, including M&A, banking & finance, Intellectual Property, TMT, Fintech, employment and insurance.

Published on 14 December, 2023.

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