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Abu Dhabi to allow foreigners to fully own professional companies

16 August 2021

Our Middle East experts review the latest decision by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development to introduce a new professional license that will permit foreigners to have full ownership of their businesses across various sectors. 


Further to our client alerts "UAE allows for foreign ownership" and "Amendments to the UAE Companies Commercial Law of 2015", the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (AD DED) is all set to introduce a new professional license that will permit foreigners to have full ownership of their businesses across various sectors. The launch of this license is an addition to various other initiatives introduced by the AD DED in order to simplify setting up of businesses in the emirate.  

Key Features

Currently the new professional license will allow foreigners full ownership of their businesses in around 600 activities covering multiple sectors including, but not limited to, accounting, consultancy, beauty centres, computer and internet network companies. 

The licence ties into various other initiatives of simplifying the setting up of a business with the AD DED, is meant to be easy to set up or adjust as well as cost effective. The intended result is not only to streamline the business practice across the emirate of Abu Dhabi but also to attract increased foreign investment as Abu Dhabi boosts its economy and aims for economic diversification. 

An applicant for such professional licence may also explore the option of opening up a commercial branch as opposed to a separate company, if the commercial activity is consistent with the prescribed professional activity.

Existing Companies

It is understood that existing businesses can also take advantage of the aforementioned license by adjusting their status from a commercial to a professional operation.

Next Steps

Considering that the announcement regarding the professional licenses has just been made, it will take some time to see what sort of guidelines the AD DED will issue and how it will go about implementing the changes. We will continue to monitor new developments in this area closely, and will provide updates.

For further details, please contact any of our lawyers below.

This Client Update provides is a follow up on our previous client alert. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from counsel.

Further Reading