Set your business up for success with additional approvals in Dubai

Khaled Ahmed

Khaled Ahmed

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With the Dubai Economic Agenda – D33, designed to double the city’s economic growth over the next decade, create growth opportunities for expats, and diversify the UAE’s economy, entrepreneurs will have a variety of good reasons to choose Dubai as a location to set up a business. Furthermore, according to Abdullah bin Touq, Minister of Economy, 2022 has been a great year for the UAE economy, with trade crossing Dh1 trillion and re-exports crossing Dh300 billion for the first time ever. It is, therefore, the perfect time to open a business in Dubai if you have been considering it.

For entrepreneurs with an eye toward establishing or expanding a business in Dubai, Meydan Free Zone caters to over 3,500 business activities. However, when starting a business in Dubai, certain additional approvals may be required for your business to operate legally and compliantly. These additional or third-party approvals from government departments and regulatory bodies are crucial to issuing and renewing your license and keeping it valid. Hence, to avoid getting shut down or paying expensive fines – and to ensure that your business is set up for success right from the start – you need to be aware of the additional approvals required for starting a business in Dubai.

This article will cover the key details you need to know about additional approvals and what you need to do to get third-party approval in the UAE.

What is an additional approval?

In addition to a business operating license from the Dubai Department of Economic Development or a Dubai-free zone, certain industry-specific or government-mandated external approvals need to be obtained depending on the type of business you are planning to establish. These external approvals are referred to as additional approvals or third-party approvals. As the name implies, it is a confirmation/permit or approval from a third-party governmental establishment allowing you to do a particular activity or action. NOCs – No objection certificates or NOC letters – are the most common additional approvals in the UAE.

For example, businesses in specific sectors such as finance, healthcare, or education may require additional regulatory approvals from relevant authorities. Similarly, companies involving certain activities, such as food production or handling hazardous materials, may require additional permits or certifications. Additionally, a business that involves Foreign Direct Investment requires additional approvals from Dubai’s Foreign Direct Investment Office (FDI).

You don’t have to worry, though. If a business activity requires third-party approval, business owners don’t have to seek all the relevant permits – Meydan Free Zone will help you. This is just one of many benefits to make setup straightforward and cost-effective, from quick and simple incorporation to hassle-free company bank accounts.


Why is additional approval required?

There are several reasons why additional approval may be required when starting a business in the UAE. Some of the main reasons include:

  • Compliance with regulations : Depending on the type of business, there may be specific laws and regulations that need to be followed. Third-party approvals can ensure that the company complies with these regulations.
  • Health and safety : Some businesses, particularly those that involve manufacturing or handling hazardous materials, may require approvals from health and safety authorities to ensure that the company operates safely and responsibly.
  • Industry-specific requirements : Certain industries have specific needs and standards that must be met. For example, businesses in the healthcare or education sectors may require additional approvals from relevant government bodies.
  • Protection of consumer interests : Third-party approvals can help protect consumer interests by ensuring that businesses meet specific quality standards.
  • Protection of the environment : Approval from the environmental authorities is needed while starting a business that may affect the environment negatively.
  • Protection of Intellectual property : Intellectual property rights holders must be protected. Businesses that involve certain activities, such as using a trademark or patented technology, may require third-party approvals to ensure that they are not infringing on any rights.

It is important to note that laws and regulations in the UAE are subject to change, and it’s best to check the current requirements and consult a business setup expert in Meydan Free Zone, who can help ensure that your business is operating in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

What kinds of business activities require additional approvals?

Generally, any business activity impacting human life or the environment requires additional approval in the UAE. There are many examples, but here are a few of the most common:

If you wish to conduct business in these sectors and acquire a business license in Dubai, you will need a No Objections certificate or NOC. In such cases, an additional approval certificate will be issued by the government agency responsible for regulating the sector in which you want to work.

Identifying your business activity category is the first step. Free Zones in Dubai, like Meydan, has divided business activities into broader categories from which you can choose. Whether starting a company in Dubai or expanding an existing one in Dubai, Meydan Free Zone caters to over 3,500 business activities. If your business activities fit outside the provided categories, our business setup consultants in Meydan Free Zone will be able to help you choose the best approach.

You can visit Meydan free zone website and search for your business activity. Once you find it, the activity sheet will also tell you whether your business requires additional approval. You might be required to provide additional documentation, undergo a particular application process, and pay separate fees to get your third-party approval.

After receiving third-party approval, you can proceed to the pre-approval process, which requires you to submit your business license application form, identification, and a business feasibility study. While this process may seem daunting, completing it correctly is crucial for a successful Dubai business formation. The good news is that experienced business setup consultants at Meydan Free Zone are available for a free professional consultation.


Who is issuing the additional approvals?

With Meydan Free Zone, you can start your business with total confidence by taking advantage of our expertise. The following steps will be guided by your dedicated account representative.

Even though free zones provide a more relaxed environment for businesses to operate in, there may still be certain additional approvals that are required for a free zone company in the UAE. Major third-party bodies for additional approvals include:

  • Licenses and permits : Depending on the type of business you are planning to establish, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits from the relevant authorities. For example, a company involved in food production may require a food safety permit from the local health department.
  • Accreditations and certifications : Some businesses may need to obtain specific accreditations or certifications to operate legally. For example, a company involved in the medical field may need to be accredited by the Ministry of Health.
  • Approval from government authorities : Depending on the nature of the business, you may need to obtain approval from various government authorities such as the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), Dubai Civil Defense, Dubai Legal Affairs Department, Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), Dubai Tourism Authority, Emirates International Accreditation Centre (EIAC), Federal Transport Authority Land & Maritime FTA (MOEI), Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA), Ministry Of Climate Change And Environment, Ministry of Justice, Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), Regulatory & Supervisory Bureau (RSB) etc.
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry Membership : Free zone companies are required to register with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in their respective emirates; this will allow them to participate in various trade fairs, exhibitions and other business-related activities by the Chamber.
  • Dubai Municipality approvals : Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain approvals from the Dubai Municipality for things such as food safety, building and construction, waste management, and public health and safety.
  • Department of Economy & Tourism (formerly DED) approvals : You may need to obtain a commercial license and other DET approvals to register your business and obtain the necessary permits to operate.
  • Dubai Health Authority (DHA) approvals : For businesses involved in the healthcare sector, such as clinics, hospitals, or laboratories, you may need to obtain approvals from the DHA to operate legall
  • Dubai Civil Defence approvals : Businesses involved in certain activities that require fire safety inspections, such as hotels, restaurants, and retail shops, may need to obtain approvals from the Dubai Civil Defence.
  • Dubai Police clearance : You may need to obtain a commercial license and other DET approvals to register your business and obtain the necessary permits to operate.
  • Dubai immigration approvals : Some companies may need approvals from the immigration department for their sponsored employees
  • Dubai Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approvals : Businesses which are planning to have foreign investment in their companies may need to get additional approvals and clearance from the Foreign Direct Investment Office (FDI).

Keep in mind that these are only examples, and other third-party approvals may be required depending on the specific nature of your business. It’s advisable to consult with a business setup expert at Meydan Free Zone to determine any additional approvals that may be required for your specific business. Meydan Free Zone can assist you in obtaining all the necessary approvals for your business activity.

What are the requirements for obtaining additional activities and the authorities involved?

10 common business activities that require additional approvals

  • 1. Restaurants/cafeterias/coffee shopsHaving simmered over the years, Dubai’s food scene has heated up! The emirate now boasts some 13,000 establishments, and some have garnered global recognition. Due to the increasing popularity of cloud kitchens, a license can be issued in as little as a day. In any case, relevant authorities must inspect your facility to ensure it meets their requirements and issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) before you begin operating.License type : Professional


    Restaurants/cafeterias/coffee shops need two categories of additional approval.

    Category 1: Location

    1. – The area must exceed 200 sqft
    2. – Ample space for cooking equipment
    3. – Provision for waste disposal
    4. – Smoke management system
    5. – Storage areas
    6. – Washroom
    7. – Non-absorbent, washable, and fireproof walls, floors, and roof
    8. – No pests
    9. – A separate wash basin for vegetables, meat, and utensils
    10. – Blueprint of the restaurant/cafeteria, with floorplan indicating the locations of the food storage and processing; the locations of windows, entrances, and exits..

    Category 2: Food safety

    • – Consignment release license
    • – Permit for food-transporting vehicles
    • – Additional permits for handling and serving non-halal items that include pork or alcohol


    • Dubai Municipality (DM) – Food safety and public safety departments.
    • Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) – This special approval for business is required if your restaurant or cafe is in a hotel.
  • 2. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and accessories tradingSelling e-cigarettes without registering the product is a crime in the UAE. Products that are unregistered and flout the standards set out by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation & Metrology (ESMA) are considered fakes. Penalties and other punishments will be imposed if you try to distribute e-cigarette products that don’t comply with ESMA regulations.License type : Commercial


    • To ensure public safety, traders must display health warnings similar to those shown on tobacco and regular cigarettes.
    • Ejari is mandatory. Traders can choose to set up shop in either malls or standalone buildings.


    • Emirates Standardization and Meteorology Authority (ESMA).
    • Dubai Municipality – Narcotics Department.
    • DED – NOC from the relevant official.
  • 3. Selling or serving non-halal productsThe UAE has an advanced and globally competitive halal industry system. It is no secret that alcohol and pork are major prohibited items in Middle Eastern countries. Yet, the UAE respects and cares for all its residents regardless of their personal, lifestyle, or religious beliefs. Non-halal goods, however, are subject to strict regulations. 
  • License type : To sell pork products in supermarkets, a commercial license is needed, while to deal in alcohol, you will need a liquor trading license based on the activities you wish to carry out. These can include importing, selling to third parties, and serving in a hotel, restaurant, or club.


    • Stores/Supermarkets that sell pork meat and other products that contain pork must have a separate area of at least 232 sqm away from regular products. They should also appoint dedicated employees to handle pork products and control the freezer temperature.
    • Restaurants serving pork must clearly describe pork dishes on separate menus in English and Arabic.
    • Alcohol can only be served in restaurants located in four- or five-star hotels.
    • Do not advertise the sale of liquor.


  • 4. Wireless telecommunications equipment trading and wired & wireless communication systems installationWith Dubai’s urban population and fast-paced cities heavily relying on technology, UAE is highly concerned about telecom equipment users’ safety and streamlined experiences (general public). Considering that wireless communications are sensitive, UAE closely monitors them.License type : Commercial & Professional
    • A Commercial license is required to trade equipment that helps transmit voice, data, text, audio, and video via mobile phones and other devices.
    • Professional license for installation services


    • Networks shouldn’t be interfered with or damaged by imported equipment.
    • Devices must meet specified technical standards.


    • Type approval” from Telecommunications And Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).
    • A commercial space (a shop or an office) is mandatory.
  • 5. Jewellery/luxury goods trading
  • Among the many things that make Dubai famous is its gold market, the Dubai Souk. There is much potential for profit when starting a jewellery business in Dubai. Whether it’s high-quality jewellery or antiques, there are plenty of buyers.Businesses in Dubai’s jewellery and gold sector may also import and export precious metals or provide diamond exchange services. The operation of this business requires strict inspections, approvals, and a customs code number.

    License type : Commercial


    • The store should be at least 150 sq ft to 200 sq ft in size.
    • It is mandatory for owners to install surveillance cameras, security alarms, and a video guard.


  • 6. Women/gents haircutting & hairdressing salons
  • Looking good is big business. Dubai is home to millions of style-savvy and image-conscious residents and leads the region when it comes to haircutting & hairdressing salons. A total of USD 3bn is predicted to be generated by the haircare industry by 2025, including skincare and more.

    License type : Professional


    • The outlet should have a minimum space of 200 sqft


    • Dubai Municipality (DM) Health & Public safety department
    • DED Commercial compliance & consumer protection sector
  • 7. Educational services/support services 
  • Following the UAE government’s recent educational reforms, this is the right time to launch an academic business in Dubai. Several business activities fall under the category of Educational services/support services, including tutor training, university application assistance, and exam preparation. The UAE, however, prohibits private tutoring.
  • License type : Professional


    • Provide a list of services
    • Template of certification (if applicable)
    • Proof of affiliation to local or foreign institutes


    Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) issues a variety of additional approvals for businesses. Aside from that, this authority has a stringent policy regarding permits for educational establishments.

  • 8. Real estate company/activities
  • Real Estate in Dubai is always in demand. During the first half of 2022, Dubai’s property market recorded 43.2k transactions worth AED 115 billion. To qualify for the real estate license, you should register for the Dubai Real Estate Institute’s Certified Training for Real Estate Brokers course (DREI). This certification is necessary for the license-issuing process. You must pass an exam at the end of the course to become a registered real estate broker in Dubai. In addition, obtain a Good Conduct Certificate from Dubai Police after passing the course.

    To open a business in the Dubai real estate sector, you must apply for a RERA license through the Trakheesi system online.

    RERA provides oversight of the following kinds of businesses:

    • – Real Estate Consultancies
    • – Real Estate Brokerages, Leasing Companies And Mortgage Consultancies
    • – Real Estate Management Companies
    • – Businesses Providing Real Estate Services In Dubai
    • – The Buying And Selling Of Real Estate
    • – Real Estate Promotion And Advertising
    • – Any Kind Of Dubai Real Estate Inspection Service
    • – Owner Associations
    • – Many Other Related Parties

    At Meydan Free Zone, our consultants can provide guidance and advice on submitting your application online and support you at each step.


  •                License type : Commercial


    • If you are not a UAE national, get a valid residency visa and Emirates ID
    • Apply for a business trade name that complies with the United Arab Emirates business naming rules
    • Next up, you must submit various documents and complete your online registration. If you are based in a free zone like Meydan Free Zone, you will also need to receive a no objections certificate (NOC) from the free zone authorities to permit you to work in the real estate sector. You will also need to collect signatures from all shareholders and obtain your payment voucher.
    • Register For DREI Certified Training And Take The RERA Exam
    • Get a realtor license.


    • Dubai Land Department is the government body that oversees activities related to real estate in the UAE. Before operating a real estate brokerage business in Dubai, brokerages must receive approval from the Dubai Land Department (DLD).
    • You must also register your real estate brokerage company with the Department of Naturalisation and Residency Dubai (DNRD) and the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to employ foreign employees and sponsor their visas.
  • 9. Transportation-related business activities
  • Business activities that involve transportation, like private taxis, auto rentals, sale of autos/business vehicles/bicycles (new/pre-claimed), sale of imported autos/bicycles, auto/bicycle modification workshops, garages and so on, require endorsement/NOC from RTA (Roads & Transport Authority) before they can have a permit from Department of Economy & Tourism or some other licensing authority.

    Dubai Municipality requires the gate level permit if you want to get any approval for building in Dubai. Gate level is basically the relative height of the building entrance with respect to the road level. If you are a private building owner, consultant, contractor, or government agency, you are eligible to get RTA approval.

    License type : Commercial


    • Copy of the trade license
    • Preliminary approval from the Free Zones to add the activity.
    • Effective Plot Plan (depends on the nature of activity)
    • Topographic survey around the plot


    • Roads & Transport Authority
    • Department of Economy & Tourism
    • Dubai Municipality
  • 10. Art/Media related activities and selling related materials
  • The United Arab Emirates has one of the highest rates of internet penetration in the Arab world, according to Internet World Stats, with over 12.1 million internet users in July 2022.

    All administration services in the UAE are ensured to be of high quality, transparent, and efficient by the National Media Council. Furthermore, it ensures compliance with Federal Law No. 15 of 1980 Concerning Press and Publications.

    In 2018, UAE National Media Council implemented a new system to govern all electronic and digital media activities on the mainland and in free zones. According to the new system, the following media activities require prior approval:

    • – Trading, showcasing, selling and printing video and audio materials on websites and social media
    • – Electronic publishing and on-call printing
    • – Electronic advertisements
    • – Publishing news
    • – Any electronic activity that the council deems appropriate to be added

    You can also choose between other types of media-related business activities, like the following ones:

    • – Advertising and communication
    • – Marketing services
    • – Media services
    • – Marketing consultancy
    • – Media associations
    • – Event management and support
    • – Media consultancy
    • – Business information
    • – Freelancing

    Additionally, influencers in the UAE, who accept paid advertising on their social media accounts, need a license from the National Media Council (NMC).

    License type : Commercial


    • A minimum age of 25 is required.
    • You must have a good reputation, which means you have never served a prison term.
    • Be sure to specify “publishing” (if applicable) when applying for a trade license. Unless your license specifies this activity, you must notify the appropriate authorities. You must request a change after notifying it.
    • And as we previously mentioned, the company owner must have a valid UAE residency visa. This requirement also applies to the person in charge and the magazine’s chief editor.
    • The only companies that are eligible for an NMC permit are visa package companies with a company immigration card.


    • The Media Regulatory Office – Ministry of Culture and Youth

How much does it cost to obtain additional approval in the UAE?

The additional approval, in most cases, involves a one-time charge, and sometimes it comes with a periodic payment. However, due to the differences in business activities and the variety of business opportunities they provide, each activity has a different fee structure. For example, fees for a personal trainer activity cannot be compared to fees for a business activity for education service or support activities. You may therefore contact a business advisor at Meydan Free Zone for a free professional consultation and to find out what it will cost to apply for a business license and to obtain the necessary approvals.

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