Under United Arab Emirates (UAE) law, there are five types of business establishments applicable to foreign entities interested in establishing a formal presence in the UAE. A company can create a permanent establishment, establish a branch office, create an entity in a UAE free zone, create a civil company (currently limited to Sharjah and Dubai), or enter into a commercial agency agreement.
The UAE Commercial Companies Law requires that each company established in the UAE have one or more UAE national partner(s) who hold at least 51% of the company’s capital. Companies that undertake certain activities are exempt from the 51% requirement, including oil companies with concession agreements, companies involved in the oil and gas industry, companies that produce electricity and gas, companies involved in treatment of water and transmission and distribution. Foreign banks are exempt from having to appoint a sponsor. Companies established in free zones are exempt from the 51% requirement, if the relevant free zone has special provisions regulating the company.