Know about the difference between Free Zone and Mainland Visa?


Most investors from all around the world choose the UAE as their ideal country to trade and do business. Although there are many reasons for it, the main one is that this place offers a variety of options. For example, the visa eligibility depending on the jurisdiction they choose. But it is important to know the difference between freezone and mainland visa before setting up.

In this article, you will learn everything you should know regarding your visa options according to the location you select. Besides, you’ll discover all you need to learn about the differences between a free zone company and a mainland company. Subsequently, you will be able to make the right choices to satisfy your business needs. Let’s observe:

What is a Visa in the UAE and Why Do you Need it?

Before learning the difference between freezone and mainland visa, you need to know what exactly a visa is. This is a legal document that allows foreigners to live and work in a specific country or location. In the case of entrepreneurs and investors, a certain type of visa allows them to reside and run their businesses.

In the UAE, there are two main types of visas for foreign businesspeople; the free zone visa and the mainland visa. Both have similar functions, but their main difference is that one is for free zones and the other one for the mainland. However, both of these visas also provide benefits for those who desire to set up their business in the country.

For instance, one of the benefits of these visas is that the visa holder can get other visas for dependents. On the other hand, you must know that it is mandatory for foreigners to have this document. Otherwise, they could face several legal issues and penalties, which evidently won’t benefit them.

Additionally, it is essential to know the rules that visa holders must follow in order to avoid legal issues. For example, they have to be aware that this document needs a renewal process after a determined time. In the case of free zone visas, they need to renew them every three years.

What are the Differences Between a Free Zone Company and a Mainland Company?

Differences Between a Free Zone Company and a Mainland Company

As we mentioned before, the main difference between freezone and mainland visa is that each works for a different jurisdiction. For instance, the mainland visa works for setting up in different emirates with a mainland location, such as Dubai. On the other hand, a free zone visa is for setting up in any of the 45 available free zones.

Now, you should also know the differences between a free zone company and a mainland company. Both types of company formation have their own structure and benefits, and knowing them is essential. Therefore, we should take a look at the differences between these two types of companies that you can set up:

  • Mainland companies can do business anywhere across the country. But free zone companies can only trade within their jurisdiction. However, they can trade across the UAE through a distributor or local agent.
  • Another difference is the employment visa mainland and freezone. For a mainland company, it is only valid for two years. And for a free zone company, this visa is valid for three years.
  • A mainland company requires a local sponsor that holds 51 percent of shares. While the owner holds the remaining 49 percent. But free zone company owners can hold 100 percent of shares without requiring a local sponsor.
  • Visa requirements are also different according to the company structure. For a mainland company, there are no restrictions to issue visas for its employees. And for a free zone company, it needs a smart office package that offers two visas. Nonetheless, it is possible to get more visas by renting out a physical workplace.

There are many other elements that these structures don’t have in common. For example, there might a difference between freezone and mainland license. Nonetheless, you can ask a specialist in any case.

How Can You apply for a visa in a free zone in the UAE?

Another difference between freezone and mainland visa could be the way in which you obtain them. You need to follow five main steps in order to obtain a free zone visa in the UAE. Firstly, you need to register for e-channel services, which is an online platform that the government designed. With this platform, the application process is much easier and more transparent too.

After registering, it is necessary to apply for an entry permit and activate it by changing its status. The entry permit is a temporary visa that is valid for 60 days. Changing its status to activate is vital for getting your full visa afterward. And after completing these steps, you can continue and move on to the next one; completing your medical fitness test.

When your medical test is done, you will be able to register for getting an Emirates ID card. This element is important since it will allow you to open your bank account and complete other vital processes. And lastly, you need to complete the residence visa stamping process to finish the entire application process.

How to Apply for a Visa to Setup a Mainland Company in UAE?


If you want to apply for a mainland visa Dubai, it is important to understand the process and its steps. First, take into consideration that this process is issued by the UAE labor law. On the other hand, the application process for a free zone visa follows certain rules made by the free zone authorities.

Although that counts as a difference between freezone and mainland visa, the process itself is very similar. All you need to do is to follow these four main steps:

  • Register online for e-channel services.
  • Apply for your entry permit.
  • Complete your medical fitness test.
  • Obtain your Emirates ID card.

To summarize this section, you first need to understand the employment visa mainland meaning to start the process. But you can request professional help to understand and complete the entire application process in no time.

In the UAE, What are the Benefits of a Freezone Visa?

There are many Dubai free zone visa benefits for employee and also for company owners and investors. For example, one of the most outstanding advantages that it offers to investors is 100 percent of ownership of their businesses. Nonetheless, there are many other benefits and you can see each of them right here:

  • Tax exemption from import, export, and personal taxes. Besides, there is also a full exemption from corporate tax for a determined period of time (and it can be renewed).
  • This license allows investors to open their corporate bank account and access many other financial services to cover their needs.
  • You can also know if your freezone visa is limited or unlimited, however, this is not exactly the correct term. After getting your visa, it will be valid for three years and you can renew it after those three years.
  • After getting your visa, you will be able to carry out other important processes. For example, it allows you to apply for a driving license.
  • Visa holders can also access healthcare services and take out their health insurance if they need it.
  • It is important to know how to check free zone visa in Dubai. And luckily, you can easily check your application validity on the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs of Dubai.

If your dependents Need Visas, What Should You Do?

Once obtaining their visas, investors can also apply for additional visas for their dependants, including spouses and children. Furthermore, it also allows them to get visas for their domestic staff (maids and drivers) if they require it. But in order to do this, investors will need to have a salary certificate.

There is a minimum salary that is necessary to have to obtain these additional visas. And although it could vary, the usual minimum amount is AED 7,500. On the other hand, it is also essential to pay a certain fee when applying for these documents. This is a security deposit of AED 3,000, and in the case of women, it is AED 5,000. Make sure to contact a specialist to confirm the steps of the application process.

Additional Information About the Employment Visa Available in the UAE.

You must know that there is another difference between freezone and mainland visa, which is visa eligibility. Compared to a mainland company, there are certain restrictions that a free zone company setup has regarding visa eligibility. Usually, the number of visas varies (from 1 to 6), but it depends on the chosen package.

As for mainland companies, there are no restrictions, but the number of visas will depend on the workplace area. In other words, the bigger their work premises, the more visas they can issue. As for the visa cost, it will mostly depend on the exact location and the business license. For example, a visa for a commercial license costs AED 30,000 and AED 27,000 for a UAE professional license.


How can Connectfz help you get more information about the available visas in the UAE?

Now that you are aware of the difference between freezone and mainland visa, you can get your business started. The first thing that you should do is requesting better guidance provided by professionals such as our Connectfz team. This way, you will be able to set up your company quickly and without spending too much effort or resources.

Requesting our services equals getting a significant improvement in your business setup and also a variety of benefits. For example, you can get the best advice to choose the most suitable options for your kind of business. This includes choosing your location or jurisdiction, your licenses, packages, and many other elements.

In addition, you have the opportunity to make your company more efficient by improving its operations effectively. And this is possible due to other services that we offer to improve your company, such as HR consultancy. Some other support services that you can request are banking services, payroll, staff outsourcing, and many more.

Would you like to contact Connectfz to learn more relevant information about the free zone visas and mainland visas for foreign investors in the UAE? If you have any questions, call us on +97143316688. You can email us at, and you will talk to one of our representatives who will answer your questions.

Kane Bernard

Avatar photoKane BernardHe is a dynamic Enterprise Development Manager with a proven track record in driving business growth and innovation. With a strategic mindset and a passion for fostering enterprise success, he excels in identifying new market opportunities, developing strategic partnerships, and enhancing operational efficiencies. His expertise includes market analysis, business planning, and project management, enabling her to guide enterprises through complex development stages.

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