Jul 26, 2023

Should I Open my Virtual Asset business in the UAE?

Opening a virtual asset business in the UAE offers many advantages and opportunities.

Here are some of the reasons why choosing the UAE to open and operate your virtual asset business from is something you should seriously consider:

1. The UAE has a very forward-looking regulatory environment and has been proactive in creating a favourable regulatory framework for emerging technologies, including virtual assets. In 2020 the UAE released its first regulation around crypto (“Regulation of Crypto Assets”) and since then additional regulations have been released, providing clarity for virtual asset businesses operating from the UAE, in addition, the UAE created VARA (the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority – which provides oversight for virtual asset business operating within Dubai and are not in its financially regulated free zone, the DIFC) and mirrored the license activities of VARA with its Department of Economy and Tourism (the licensing authority of onshore companies), offering a supportive environment for businesses operating in the virtual asset space.

2. In general, the UAE has fostered a business-friendly environment, with minimal bureaucracy, choices of different free zones and licensing authorities, tax advantages and ongoing incentives to foster more business into the region. During COVID, the UAE came up with a residency visa for remote working and has the Golden Visas, which allows up to 10 years of residency. DWTC (Dubai World Trade Centre), DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre), DAFZA (Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority), IFZA (International Free Zone Authority), DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) and ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Markets) are some of the free zones in the UAR which provide specific incentives for companies operating in the virtual asset space and want to come to the UAE.

3. The UAE’s strategic geographical location acts as a gateway between the East and the West. It’s the ideal location for businesses aiming to cater to the global market with access to a very diverse customer base, seamless options for connectivity with international markets and numerous growth and expansion plans.

4. The UAE has a thriving and robust investor community with loads of investment opportunities with angel investors, VCs, family offices and private equity groups (who are always seeking opportunities to invest in emerging technologies). Funding and financial support is required by any growing business and in the UAE, there is certainly a lot to choose from.

5. The UAE boasts an advanced and highly developed technological infrastructure which includes advanced telecommunications networks, data centres and digital payment solutions.

6. The government of the UAE is always actively promoting innovation and technology-driven businesses. Initiatives such as the Dubai Future Foundation, Reg-Labs (DWTC, DIFC and ADGM) and low-cost tech and innovation licenses (to facilitate easier entry into the market for businesses operating in either of these fields) support the growth of emerging technologies in the region, incubation, acceleration and co-working programs are readily available, funding support is easy to obtain in comparison to other jurisdictions and there is always a network of industry experts and mentors who are willing to support and help the business grow.  

Its worth noting however, that while the UAE has everything available to it to become the next Silicon Valley, its important for any business coming to the UAE to understand the UAE’s regulatory requirements, compliance obligations and take into account other legal considerations (especially as they relate to the operation of a virtual-asset related business). Seeking professional advice to ensure local laws and regulations are complied with, is crucial for the success of any business and a sustainable (and scalable) venture in the UAE.

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