In setting up a professional firm, 100% foreign ownership is generally permitted; however certain sectors and activities are restricted to either UAE nationals or have a UAE national shareholding requirement.
Professional firms may be in the form of a sole proprietorship or a civil company. Such firms may engage in professional or artisan activities but the number of persons that may be employed by such firms is limited. A UAE national must be appointed as local partner or local service agent for sole proprietorship, but he has no direct involvement in the business and is paid a lump sum and/or percentage of profits or turnover. The role of the local partner is to liaise with the government authorityto assist in obtaining licenses, visas and labour cards.
When there are two or more partners, the legal structure is a Civil Company. If the owner is a non UAE/GCC National, the civil company requires a Local Service Agent (LSA). In case of a civil company for engineering, one partner should be a UAE National with a minimum ownership of 51% and must be an engineer of the same type as the business activity the company is involved in. There is also a requirement that all the individuals involved in the company should have university level qualifications in the relevant field of business.