Abu Dhabi unveils 'virtual' business licences to boost foreign direct investment

The scheme allows investors to get an economic licence to conduct business in the emirate before proceeding with their residence permits

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (Added) unveiled a virtual licence for non-resident foreign investors as part of its efforts to attract new investments to the emirate.

The new licence lets non-resident foreign investors to conduct business in the emirate before proceeding with their residence permits, as well as allow them to conduct business from outside the UAE, Added said on Thursday.

This is an “unprecedented proactive initiative” targeting foreign direct investments, said Added chairman Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa.

It will facilitate the "economic activity licensing procedures and requirements, regardless of the location of the investor", said Mr Al Shorafa. He said that the initiative is in line with the directions of the UAE government to enable cross-border digital trade.

Abu Dhabi has been enacting measures to support its economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons.

In August, Added said it was introducing a professional licence that would allow foreigners to have full ownership of businesses related to 604 activities as the emirate seeks to attract more investors and boost its economy.

The virtual licence allows applicants to obtain a permit within 13 economic sectors that are considered the top strategic industries targeted by the Abu Dhabi government to attract FDI, said Rashid AbdulKarim Al Blooshi, undersecretary of Added.

These sectors include agriculture, manufacturing, repair, contracting, maintenance, installations, retail, transport, services, leasing, health and entertainment.

Foreign investors can apply for a licence in any of these economic sectors and own the business outright by choosing one of two approved legal forms – a limited liability company and a sole proprietorship LLC.

The licence is subject to local fees of a maximum of Dh1,000, provided all additional federal fees have been paid upon the completion of the remaining requirements.

Abu Dhabi’s economy is expected to grow between 6 per cent and 8 per cent over the next two years, driven by the oil sector, government spending, financial services and foreign direct investment, Mr Al Shorafa said this year.

Rabie Al Hajeri, acting executive director of the Abu Dhabi Business Centre, said the virtual licence does not require previous approvals from the concerned entities and it focuses on granting an economic licence to people residing outside the UAE to encourage them to do business in Abu Dhabi.

How to get the virtual licence?

Applicants need to log into the Abu Dhabi Business Centre’s website, select "Abu Dhabi virtual licence", then sign in through UAE Pass.

After that, the investor should choose an economic name (in English only), enter their contact details, identify the economic activity to be practised, attach a copy of their passport and pay the fees by credit card. The licence is then issued.

Updated: October 21st 2021, 4:19 PM