Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Tech Startup Commercial License – Q&A
Everyone agrees it has been costing entrepreneurs too much to properly launch tech companies in the UAE. ADGM’s Tech Startup Commercial License (License) is an exciting development for tech startups: a new low-cost operating license to transform entrepreneurship in the region and remove cost as a barrier for entry. Startups will benefit from the advantages of operating in ADGM, an independent, English language jurisdiction with its own civil and commercial laws and court system based on English law. For investors, ADGM offers a trusted and recognised legal platform with optimal flexibility that allows for different classes of shares, share options and an unlimited number of shareholders.
Support Legal played an integral role in the formation of this new license through its collaboration with ADGM. Support Legal, and its corporate services affiliate, Foundra, is excited to support tech startups by sharing this Q&A on the new License.
- Can anyone apply for the License?
- Yes. The License is open to entrepreneurs from any nationality.
- The licensee must appoint a signatory who resides in the UAE or has a UAE entry stamp in their passport.
- What type of business can use the License?
Technology-driven startups with an innovative business concept that:
- has the potential to scale;
- promotes innovation, in terms of the business application and deployment;
- can be deployed in the UAE and contribute to the development of the local economy; and
- has a business plan with clearly defined milestones, against which progress can be monitored, are eligible to apply for the License
- How long is the License valid for?
- An initial term of 12 months which can be renewed for a further 12 months.
- At the end of the second year, it is envisaged that the company’s success will warrant the transition of the company into an operating company. Alternatively, it can convert to an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle – a type of holding company).
- Do I need office space?
- No. Unlike a typical operating license, no physical office space is required. A virtual office space provided by a registered services provider, such as Foundra, can be used. This represents a significant cost saving for a startup.
- Can I apply for employee visas with the License?
- Yes. The License allows you to apply for up to 4 employee visas.
- An establishment card (AED 1,030), e-channel account (AED 5,620 for two years) and visa fees (AED 3,260 per individual for two years) are payable.
- What is the application process?
Foundra can guide you through the application process, including the business plan requirements and preparing the incorporation documentation on your behalf.
- Are there any ongoing obligations for the company?
Yes. In addition to renewing its License, the company must file certain documents with ADGM annually:
- Data Protection Declaration
- Annual Return (confirming the details regarding directors, shareholders etc are correct)
- Financial Statements (the level of disclosure and requirement for audit depends on the company’s revenue).
- What are the costs?
- Foundra offers an incorporation package starting from USD 1,950 which includes:
- the ADGM license fee (USD 700);
- a registered office address for 12 months from the incorporation date;
- preparing of the incorporation documents and submitting the application to ADGM; and
- submitting renewal documents for the License at the end of the first 12-month term.
- An annual renewal fee of USD 1,950 applies (which includes the ADGM license renewal fee).
- Who can help?