Mainland vs Free Zone

Mainland vs Free Zone: Which is Best For Your Business?

The UAE offers a thriving business environment. It attracts entrepreneurs and companies from around the world. It’s a key decision for any new venture is choosing the right business setup. The two ventures are mainland or free zone. They both have their own set of advantages and considerations. It is necessary to understand these distinctions. It is a crucial decision to select the structure that best aligns with your company’s goals and long-term vision in the UAE.

In this article, we discuss what is a mainland and freezone company, the differences between both, the benefits of setting up a mainland company, reasons to establish a business in the free zone, the mainland vs free zone, and much more!

Mainland Company: What is it?

In the UAE, a mainland company formation is a business entity. It is registered directly with the DED of a specific emirate like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc. The mainland companies operate within the UAE’s legal framework. It allows greater freedom to conduct business activities throughout the entire country.

Under this, the companies can directly access the local UAE market. They can potentially participate in government contracts.

On the other hand, there are also additional requirements for mainland companies. It includes the need for a local sponsor in some cases.

Free Zone Company: What is it?

The Free zone companies are businesses set up within designated areas in the UAE. It offers specific economic and legal benefits. The free zones operate under independent regulations. The regulations are often with significant tax exemptions. There are many benefits of operating in free zones. Out of them, the top benefit is, that it helps streamline business registration processes. Also, it allows one to enjoy 100% foreign ownership. For international companies, it’s an attraction that seeks a base in the UAE.

Especially those to focus on import/export activities or cater to the regional market. In addition to this, the free zone companies face restrictions on direct access to the mainland market. To enter the mainland, they may require additional licensing for specific business activities.

Difference Between Mainland vs Free zone Companies in UAE

Mainland vs Free Zone

In this section, we discuss the substantial differences between mainland and free zone companies in UAE. It’s a brief discussion on mainland vs free zone! So, let’s get started

Access to Market:

In the UAE, Mainland companies enjoy full access to the entire market. On the other hand, the free zone companies have limitations. The companies operating in free zones need additional licenses to operate in the mainland market.

Business Ownership:

Around the UAE, Mainland companies might require a local sponsor. It depends on the emirate and activity. The free zones allow for 100% foreign ownership.


The companies operating in the Mainland are subject to corporate tax. It has been implemented recently that exceeds a certain threshold. On the other hand, free zone companies are free from tax exemptions. know about what is tax free Dubai.

Business Setup:

The UAE Mainland company setup can involve more steps and requirements. The free zones have streamlined processes

Rules and Regulations:

Under the UAE’s legal framework, Mainland companies operate. The free zones have their own independent regulations and business restrictions. It may vary depending on the specific zone.

Benefits of Setting up a Mainland Company in UAE

There are several advantages for businesses that set up a mainland company formation in UAE. Especially for those seeking wider market access and operational freedom. These include:

Market Access:

Mainland companies can conduct business activities throughout the entire UAE. It enables companies to reach a broader domestic customer base. It also allows them to participate in government tenders.

Operational Flexibility:

Companies on the mainland have more freedom to choose their business location. They also have a right to do activities within the legal framework. This allows them for a more customized approach.

100% Ownership:

Some mainland company structures allow for full foreign ownership. It depends on the emirate and business activity. This provides entrepreneurs with greater control.

Repatriation of Profits:

Mainland companies can repatriate their profits and capital back to their home country. It ensures their financial flexibility.

Long-Term Growth Potential:

In the UAE market, establishing a mainland company signifies a long-term commitment. This foster trust which potentially leading to greater growth opportunities.

Reasons to Establish a Business in the Free Zone

In the UAE, free zones offer a compelling package of benefits. Here, we share some key reasons to consider establishing a freezone company formation in UAE:

Tax Advantages:

Typically, free zones boast significant tax exemptions. It includes corporate and income tax, import and export duties, and VAT on most goods and services. This translates to substantial cost savings and improved profitability.

Simplify Business Setup:

In comparison to the mainland, free zones offer a simplified and efficient company registration process. This allows businesses to get up and running quickly. Also, it minimizes delays and administrative burdens.

100% Foreign Ownership:

Free zones allow for full foreign ownership and control. It eliminates the need for a local sponsor. This provides greater autonomy and decision-making power.

Strategic Location:

The UAE boasts a strategic geographic position. It connects businesses to major markets in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Free zones are often located near key transportation hubs. It enhances their appeal for import/export activities.

Modern Infrastructure:

Generally, free zones feature state-of-the-art infrastructure. It includes business centers, high-speed internet connectivity, and advanced logistics facilities. This provides businesses with a modern and well-equipped environment to operate from.

See More: Business Opportunities In Dubai 2024


From The UAE Gate, this blog is written to shed light on mainland and free zone companies, specifically on mainland vs free zone. It helps companies to choose the best location to set up their businesses. Both have their pros and cons of operating. However, it’s a key decision for any new venture to choose the right business setup. For this reason, it is necessary to understand their advantages and disadvantages.

Additionally, it is a crucial decision to select the structure. As a business entrepreneur, you must select the location that best aligns with your company’s goals and long-term vision in the UAE.
If you have any query and if you want to know more information about it then feel free to contact us.

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