You don’t have to be a full-time resident in the UAE to own a company here. In fact, living abroad is no barrier to success in the Emirates. Most UAE business owners choose to reside in the UAE to make the most of the amazing climate, attractive business incentives, and thriving communities. But if full-time residency doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you can still reap the rewards of owning a business from afar.
First, you need to address important issues such as time spent in the UAE, tax implications and power of attorney. Working with a company formation specialist can help answer these three vital questions.
1. How many days per year do you need to be in the UAE?
When you know how long you want to stay, you can apply for the relevant visa. The exact amount of time a UAE business owner needs to spend in the Emirates may differ depending on what country they reside in. Technically speaking, those who do not reside full-time in the UAE do not need to spend any time here. However, it is likely you will want to visit occasionally (or maybe even regularly) to check on your business and meet management and other stakeholders.
What this means for you and your business: In most cases, you will require a visa or entry permit which stipulates the number of days you can spend in the UAE. It is important, therefore, to understand the different visa requirements for non-residents.
Citizens of GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) do not require a visa to enter the UAE and only need to show their passport/ID at their port of entry.
Citizens from the US, China, Australia, the UK and 16 other designated countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival. Those from 40 other listed countries can get a 90-day visa, as detailed on the official UAE government website.
These free, renewable visas will be particularly useful for those business owners who need to visit the UAE frequently.
Anyone outside the GCC and who is also not eligible to apply for a visa will be required to obtain an entry permit prior to arrival. This requires a sponsor which will usually be an Emirati citizen, an expat with a valid permit, a private company, or a free zone.
If you obtain your permit through your company or free zone, this will allow you to stay for a maximum period of 30 days from the date of entry. Once inside the country, you will then be eligible to apply for a residence visa which may allow you stay up to three years subject to certain conditions. While this does sound somewhat complicated, working through it with a specialist saves both time and money.
2. Do you have to pay taxes on your UAE income?
Not necessarily. It depends on your country of residence. Again, depending on where you reside, you may or may not need to pay taxes on your UAE income. If you have a residence visa and spend more than six months continuously in the UAE, you are considered a tax resident here. As the UAE income tax is set at 0% you don’t have to pay anything on your income.
What you need to consider regarding taxes: Certain countries may take other factors into account such as whether you are accompanied by your family, where your main work or business is based, where your bank accounts are held, and where your property and other assets are located. The good news is the UAE has drawn up a series of double tax agreements (DTA) with around 100 different countries with ‘tiebreaker provisions’ to determine which country can tax your worldwide income. This helps you avoid paying tax twice unnecessarily.
However, there are notable exceptions, including the US and Australia, so it is important you obtain expert advice to ensure you don’t fall foul of the tax rules in your country of residence. As always, the onus is on the individual to understand and meet their obligations. Failure to do so can result in financial penalties and possibly even a criminal conviction.
3. Can you appoint a power of attorney for business matters?
Yes ,and it could be highly beneficial to do so. If you live outside of the UAE but own a company here, you may wish to appoint a power of attorney to handle business matters on your behalf. A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs.
How power of attorney affects the control of your company: Appointing a POA is an attractive proposition for non-resident business owners and can help ensure the smooth running of the business. A general power of attorney gives broad powers including the handling of financial and business transactions, buying life insurance, settling claims, operating business interests, giving gifts, and employing professional help.
If you want to specify exactly what powers an agent may exercise, you can sign a special power of attorney. Typical examples include collecting debts, handling specific business transactions, or selling the property. Trust is everything when choosing an agent for your power of attorney. You need someone who will protect your business and respect your wishes. If you have a sponsor in the UAE (for example, to obtain an entry permit), your sponsor may be your power of attorney.
It may also be worth considering a professional director. This is similar to a sponsor but can bring operational value to your business, derived from local and commercial expertise.
Professional directors are provided as a service by many reputable UAE firms. It’s important to determine how much power and authority you give your director, but their knowledge can prove worthwhile.
Questions answered: are you now ready to own a UAE company from abroad?
Living in the UAE offers an enviable lifestyle and a host of benefits, but it is not always possible or convenient for business owners to reside here. With careful planning and expert guidance, you can run a business from outside the Emirates and still benefit from much of what the country has to offer.
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