Setting up in the DIFC
DIFC is an onshore financial centre strategically located between the East and West, which provides a secure and efficient platform for businesses and financial institutions to reach into and out of the emerging markets of the region. The quality and range of DIFC’s independent regulation, common law framework, supportive infrastructure and its tax-friendly regime make it the perfect base to take advantage of the region’s rapidly growing demand for financial and business services.
DIFC fills the time-zone gap for a global financial centre between the leading financial centres of London and New York in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East. Guided by its core values of integrity, transparency and efficiency, DIFC is playing a pivotal role in meeting the growing financial needs of the region.
World Class Regulatory Environment
At the heart of the DIFC model is an independent risk-based regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), which grants licenses and regulates the activities of all banking and financial institutions in DIFC. The regulatory body was created using principle-based primary legislation modelled closely on that used in London and New York. The DFSA has played a major role in providing financial companies the confidence that they have a sound, stable, secure and growth-oriented platform for their business.
Unique Legal Framework
DIFC is unique in that it has a legislative system consistent with English Common law. Given its construct, DIFC has its own set of civil and commercial laws and regulations and has developed a complete code of law governing financial services regulation. As part of its autonomy, DIFC has created an independent judicial system. The DIFC Courts is the entity responsible for the independent administration and enforcement of justice in DIFC. The Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil and commercial disputes arising within DIFC and or relating to bodies and companies registered in DIFC.
Within DIFC, subsidiaries and incorporated entities enjoy 100% ownership as well as a world-class regulatory environment that allows for a range of options for structuring legal entities.
COMMON LAW FRAMEWORK
DIFC’s legal system and courts follow a Common Law framework administered by an independent and highly regarded regulator and adjudicated by an equally respected court system.
NO RESTRICTION ON CAPITAL REPATRIATION
DIFC-based companies face no restrictions or constraints on capital or profit flows, and benefit from no currency exchange controls in the US-dollar denominated jurisdiction.
INDEPENDENT REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
An independent risk-based regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) grants licenses and regulates the activities of financial services conducted through DIFC.
HUB & SPOKE MODEL
DIFC provides a platform for businesses to centralise the regional and global management of operations, and their rollout to branches around the world.
DIFC provides a 40-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits, enhanced by the UAE’s wide network of double taxation avoidance treaties with regulators and central banks.
Single point of Contact
Organisations interested in establishing at the DIFC can consult a dedicated relationship management team to complete a simple application process. Creating a presence in an overseas market can be challenging even for the most established firms. The DIFC’s streamlined process makes setting up both clear and efficient. Firms are guided through our integrated application, registration and incorporation, leasing, and employee sponsorship processes by a dedicated relationship manager. Firms benefit from this single point of contact for service provision, query handling, issue resolution, expansion assistance, and ensuring the return of maximum value for their presence in the centre. DIFC’s relationship managers also provide information about, and access to a variety of services, including:
- Our independent judicial system and arbitration centre
- Long-term leasing and commercial property ownership
- Short-term serviced offices and meeting rooms
- Specialised information and communication systems
- Facilities management and security services, and health and safety consultation
- Coordination of moving, delivery and parking operations
- Employment and residency permits, driving license, alcohol license, and other government services
- Event venues and catering options for corporate functions, as well as participation in our networking activities
Types of Companies in the DIFC
From financial services firms to professional services and retailers can establish their business in the DIFC.
Offering an enabling and supportive regulatory and legal framework, DIFC hosts a diverse client base ranging from regulated firms, authorised market institutions, designated non-financial businesses to non-regulated businesses and exempt companies. Regulated firms carry out financial services and comprise of banks, capital markets, wealth and asset managers, insurance and re-insurance firms, islamic finance and business processing operations. Market institutions are authorised to operate an exchange and/or clearing house in or from DIFC.
Non-regulated firms offer professional support services and back office administrative operations to the financial community. This includes legal, accounting, notary, audit, insolvency and recruitment firms, corporate governance experts, international tax advisers, consultancy and more. In addition, DIFC hosts a retail community comprised of various retail shops, casual and fine dining restaurants, five star hotels and leading academic institutions.
Selecting and Registering Office Space
Companies looking to establish a presence in DIFC can select office space from several attractive and suitable commercial and retail properties ranging in scale and scope. With access to a variety of floor plan and layout options, businesses can lease Grade ‘A’ quality cellular and open plan figurations with flexible core and shell space, safety and security systems, IT packages and integrated data solutions. The Centre’s office space is accompanied by modern business centres and resilient data centres.
Firms interested in registering office space in DIFC can do so by contacting the Centre’s Registrar of Real Properties (RORP). The RORP is responsible for approving and registering a variety of transactions related to Real Property. The registrar will provide comprehensive guidelines on how to lease, surrender and terminate registration of an office space.
Entities looking to establish and conduct business in DIFC must apply for incorporation or registration of a DIFC entity. They can do so by submitting their application to the Registrar of Companies (ROC), who will advise, receive, review and process all applications. The ROC will provide a detailed checklist of required forms and supporting documents to be submitted.
Registrant’s entity structures will be determined by the Companies Law, General Partnership Law, Limited Liability Partnership Law and Limited Partnership Law. The ROC will then issue a Commercial License along with a certificate of incorporation, registration or continuation.
With an established Government Services Office, DIFC offers a single window service provider where registered clients can avail a range of government services including employment and residency permits, driving licenses and more.
DIFC entities can access government services through the DIFC Client Portal, where they can receive assistance with visa packages, renewals and cancellations and more.