What's a Dubai Virtual Commercial Licence and How Can I Get One?

On the 30th of September, during the launch of Dubai Investment Week, the Dubai government announced the start of a new virtual commercial licence. The scheme is another effort to boost foreign direct investment (FDI) in Dubai. What makes this new Dubai commercial licence programme stand out? We’ll explain the advantages here. 


commercial licence in dubai


What is the Dubai virtual business licence?

The Dubai Virtual Company Licence is a programme that allows investors from all over the world to coordinate all enterprise-related activities online, including document signing and digital submission with them being legally binding in the UAE, under the utmost legal standards. The rights that come with the virtual commercial licence in the UAE emirate of Dubai include opening a bank account and e-residency. When introducing the initiative at Dubai Investment Week, Dubai Economic Department Director General Sami Al Qamzi noted the virtual licence scheme “... corresponds with the third article of Dubai’s 50-year charter, which promises policies and initiatives that will ensure progress, growth and Dubai’s sustainability and prosperity.” The Dubai authorities hope this new virtual commerce hub will bring at least 100,000 corporations from around the world, and the initiative hopes to continue to maintain the emirate’s momentum as one of the top ten destinations for FDI in the past decade.


Who is eligible for the Dubai Virtual Commercial Licence?

Just like with most free zones in Dubai, commercial licences are generally permitted for a specific list of business activities. The Virtual Commercial Licence is specifically for non-resident businesspeople and freelancers. Before delving into which industries are the focus of this initiative, we must go into the difference between commercial licence and trade licence. In Dubai and the rest of the UAE, the act of buying and selling is referred to as trading, meaning that they use the terms trade licence and commercial licence interchangeably. The Dubai virtual licence focuses on the creative services, services and technology industries. Some of the permitted commercial licence categories and activities are:

  • Service activities related to printing and advertising
    • Design & Artwork Services
    • Promotional Gifts Preparing
  • Computer programming, consultancy and related activities
    • Web-Design
    • Social Media Applications Development & Management
    • Cyber Security Architecture
    • Marketing Services Via Social Media
  • Creative Designs
    • Fashion Design
    • Jewellery Design
    • Design Services (interior design, garden design)


Can foreigners start a virtual business in Dubai?

To be eligible for the Dubai Virtual Company Licence, you must be a verified non-resident of the UAE. If you are a UAE resident already living in Dubai, you are not eligible for this permit. There are some requirements you must satisfy to apply for this permit. If you are looking to register a virtual company, you must be a citizen or tax resident of a country that has implemented the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and also shares tax information regarding its residents and citizens. A heat map on the official Dubai Virtual Commercial City website indicates eligible countries, which include the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Russia and China. Ineligible countries for the Virtual Commercial City include Venezuela, Egypt, Jordan and Oman.


Who is issuing the virtual trading licence in Dubai?

Dubai Virtual Commercial City is a joint effort bringing together Dubai Economy, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) free zone, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs (GDRFA), the Supreme Legislation Committee and Smart Dubai.


How can I get a virtual business licence in Dubai?

If you are a non-resident businessperson or freelancer who is a citizen or resident of any of the eligible Virtual Commercial City countries, there are two options for registering your business. You can do so entirely online. Both routes involve filling out an online company registration form. Once you complete the form, you will then have to undergo and pass a background check that will take anywhere from one to 30 days. If you choose to go through the company formation process with Dubai Virtual Commercial City’s official service provider, you will skip the identification and verification process to go straight to paying for your virtual corporate licence. If you do it yourself, you will have to go through the additional identity verification step. Are you interested in establishing a presence in Dubai through the Virtual Commerical City scheme? Our team of business formation experts will be delighted to walk you through everything you need to set up your digital business successfully. Don’t hesitate to contact us.  


Written by

Anna Soloviova

Anna Soloviova

Senior Associate, Europe Emirates Group


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Business Formation
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