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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Abu Dhabi phases in dual licences to free zone firms

Initially companies can operate onshore with the second phase to encompass more businesses

More details about how the emirate will be affected will be made over the coming days. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
More details about how the emirate will be affected will be made over the coming days. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development is rolling out dual licences allowing companies in free zones to establish an onshore branch as the emirate seeks to attract foreign investment and stimulate the economy.

The first phase of the initiative is open to companies headquartered in Abu Dhabi and based in one of its freezones, the department said in a statement on Saturday. It is also working on the second phase that will allow more companies to qualify for a dual licence.

"In its first phase, the initiative will offer companies more opportunities to do business and grow, such as allowing them to work and partner with other government entities," Saif Al Hajeri, chairman of Abu Dhabi's DED, said. "Dual licensing is the latest in a series of initiatives we have launched to support entrepreneurs, SMEs and the private sector, which are all key engines of the economy."

The dual licences are one of 10 strategic initiatives linked to a three-year Dh50 billion stimulus package for the emirate, first unveiled in June. The package is designed to reduce the emirate's reliance on oil by diversifying the economy and making it easier for companies to do business in turn bolstering growth, attracting more foreign direct investment and creating jobs.

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Companies eligible for a dual licence must present a no-objection certificate from their free zone, an undertaking that states no ownership of branches located outside the free zone, and a photocopy of the parent company's free-zone licence, according to the department.

The time frame to issue the licence will depend on the type of business activity, with more than 90 per cent completed within 20 minutes, it said. Other licences will be completed within two to three days, following further approvals.

Providing a physical location is excluded from dual licences, therefore the cost of a dual licence is 80 per cent less than a standard licence, the department said.

Some of the department's other strategic initiatives focus on simplifying the process of receiving commercial licenses. This includes Tamm, an online portal that launched earlier this year and allows investors anywhere in the world to instantly obtain commercial licences for 91 per cent of all economic activities.

In July, a centralised claims platform called Sharakah was rolled out to speed up payments to private sector companies and resolve any disputed fines.

Meanwhile, the department's expanded Tajer Abu Dhabi licence package - which previously only supported Emiratis - is now open to all entrepreneurs in the UAE, allowing new companies to obtain commercial licences without an office or physical presence for two years. This allows entrepreneurs to officially work from home for the first time.

The UAE has introduced other reforms aimed at boosting economic growth. Measures announced over the last few months include the waiving of corporate fines in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership in companies in selected sectors from the end of this year.