What you need to know: ADGM Tech Startup Licence

Everyone agrees it has been costing entrepreneurs too much to properly launch tech companies in the UAE. ADGM’s low-cost operating licence for tech startups is an exciting development and we set out below some of the key points you should know about this licence.

1.     Who can apply for the licence?

The licence is open to entrepreneurs of any nationality. The only restriction is that the licensee must appoint an authorised signatory who is a UAE resident or has a UAE entry stamp in their passport.

 2.     Do I need to be in the UAE to apply for the licence?

No. Documents can be signed digitally and we submit your application electronically. However, note the restriction outlined above (please see Question 1) in relation to the person appointed as the authorised signatory. 

 3.     Can any startup apply for the licence?

The licence is available to a technology-driven startup with an innovative business concept that:

  • has the potential to scale;

  • promotes innovation through the business application and its deployment;

  • has current traction or is at least at the prototype stage;

  • 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.

 4.     How long is the licence 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 anticipated that the company’s success will support the transition into an operating company. Alternatively, it can convert to a Special Purpose Vehicle (a holding company). You can find out more information about ADGM SPVs here.

 5.     Do I need office space?

No. Foundra, a registered service provider, can provide you with virtual office space. This represents a significant cost saving for a startup.

 6.     Can I get employee visas with the licence?

Yes. The licence allows you to apply for up to 4 employee visas. To see the full ADGM employment services fee schedule (including visas), please click here.

 7.     What is the application process?

 After you are onboarded as a client with Foundra, we will commence the application process:

Step 1:   Foundra will file your business plan with ADGM for approval. For a business plan outline, please contact us at ask@foundra.com

Step 2:   ADGM will review and come back with approval or requests for further information.

Step 3:  Once the business plan is approved, Foundra will send you an online questionnaire to collect the information required to prepare the incorporation documents.

Step 4:  Foundra sends you the incorporation documents for electronic signature

Step 5:  Foundra completes the online ADGM application and submits to ADGM for review

Step 6:  Congratulations! Your company is now incorporated and you will receive your commercial licence.

 8.     Are there any ongoing obligations for the company?

At the first licence period (12 months), the company must file:

  • commercial licence renewal;

  • data protection declaration; 

  • annual return (confirming the details regarding directors, shareholders etc are correct); and 

  • annual accounts (the level of disclosure and requirement for audit depends on the company’s revenue).

Ongoing filing requirements also apply. For example, if there is a change of director, a director changes their residential address or shares are allotted or transferred, a notification must be filed with the ADGM Registration Authority. Please inform Foundra immediately as some notifications must be filed with ADGM within 14 days.

 9.    What are the costs?

Foundra offers an incorporation package starting at USD 1,950 which includes:

  • the ADGM licence fee;

  • a registered office address for 12 months from the incorporation date; and

  • preparing the incorporation documents and submitting the application to ADGM.

 An annual renewal fee of USD 1,950 applies (which includes the ADGM licence renewal fees).