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ADGM Tech Startup Commercial Licence
- A technology-driven startup with an innovative business concept that:
- meets the ADGM startup criteria (seed and emergent stages)
- has the potential to scale
- promotes innovation, in terms of the business application and 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
- has a business plan with clearly defined milestones, against which progress can be monitored
- falls within the ADGM regulation remit and business structures
- ADGM tech startup licence does not cover consumer retail, manufacturing or other activities outside of ADGM’s jurisdiction (Al Maryah Island), unless the startup meets the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development’s (DED) dual licensing requirements
|Stage of maturity||Number of FTEs||1 - 10||11 - 50|
|Year since first registration in UAE||Does not exceed three (3) years||Does not exceed five (5) years|
|Incentive packages||Incentivised licence fee||USD 1,000 P.A.||USD 4,300 P.A.|
|Duration of incentive||2 Years||3 Years|
|Office space requirements||1 Desk space in an incubator/ co-working space domiciled in ADGM||1 Desk space in an incubator/ co-working space domiciled in ADGM|
|Visa eligibility||3 Visas for every desk space||3 Visas for every desk space|
Eligibility for the incentivised licence is determined at the time of application and the duration is fixed. E.g. if a startup is approved for the seed stage incentivised licence, it will have two years in seed stage and will automatically move into the emergent stage in its third year of operations in ADGM regardless of the number of full time employees.
All ADGM commercial licences are valid for 12 months.
For seed stage startups, the annual licence fee is USD 1,000, and it can be renewed once for another 12 months at USD 1,000, if the entity still meets seed stage criteria (ie max one time renewal).
At the end of the second year, it is envisaged that the success of seed stage startups will warrant transition from seed to emergent stage.
A licence issued for emergent stage tech startups is valid for 12 months and the annual licence fee is USD 4,300, and it can be renewed for another 2 consecutive years if it still meets emergent stage criteria (ie max two renewals).
Following the emergent stage, it is envisaged that the startup’s success will warrant transition to a mature stage and the full annual licence fee of USD10,000 will be applicable.
Yes, physical office space on Al Maryah Island is required. Startups must have at least one dedicated desk or office space i.e. hot-desk is not accepted. The startup needs to provide evidence of confirmed office space by presenting an executed Lease Agreement or Membership Agreement.
For details of the office spaces and co-working spaces on Al Maryah island and Al Reem island please click here: ADGM Office Spaces.
The ADGM Tech Startup Licence allows you to apply for employee visas based on 3 visa for every 1 dedicated desk space. ADGM issued visas are for up to 3 years. See full visa fee schedule.
All visa related enquiries must be addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org
ADGM tech startups are required to take the legal form of a Private Company Limited by Shares. As per the ADGM Companies Regulations 2015, the names of limited companies must end with either: “limited”, “LIMITED”, “ltd”, “LTD”, “l.t.d” or “L.T.D”. Other provisions on naming conventions apply too. The application for name reservation and incorporation contains validation rules, prompting the applicant not to use restricted words and expressions. The proposed name is subject to the ultimate approval of the Registrar, which can be communicated to the applicant during application process via online registry solution.
To do so, you would need to show ownership of the proposed name, ie for example through any current licence that lists the shareholders. The proposed name must be in compliance with ADGM Companies Regulations and Business and Company Names Rules 2016, ie one of the prescribed suffixes to denominate the legal entity type private company limited by shares must be included. However, ADGM cannot grant a formal name approval until the application for name reservation or application for incorporation of a legal entity is lodged on the Online Registry Solution.
Yes. In addition to renewing the company's commercial licence annually, the company must meet other annual obligations with ADGM including:
- Maintain physical office address in ADGM at all times.
- Data Protection Renewal: ADGM Data Protection is required to be renewed annually before expiry. The cost of Data Protection renewal is USD 300.
- Annual Return Filing: Confirming the company’s details are up to date, accurate and complete (not to be confused with the entity's annual account filing).
- Annual Accounts Filing: Includes financial statements disclosure, the level of disclosure and requirements for audit depends on the company's revenue. Accounts must be filed annually regardless of the level of activity of a company.
- Please note that that the company has an obligation to notify the Registration Authority within the specified timeframe (as stated in ADGM Companies Regulations 2015) of any changes to the company’s information, including but not limited to, change of name, amendment of articles, change of address, appointment/cessation/change in details of directors and officers and changes to company’s share capital, shareholders and beneficial owners.
There is a dual-licence agreement in place between ADGM and Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (DED) that allows certain categories of tech startups that are established in ADGM to apply for, and receive, a DED licence without requiring an additional office space. However, ADGM will need to review your business plan and the type of activities before guiding you on whether they fit within the Tech Startup Licence criteria and are eligible for a DED licence application.
Startups looking to sell products need to seek legal advice to establish whether their activities require other Abu Dhabi or wider UAE approval or regulatory approvals.