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New Kids on the (UAE Free Zone) Block: Sharjah Media City

Sharjah (one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates for the benefit of our international clients) is undergoing a period of intensive development with mega developments such as the US$6.5bn Aljada mixed-used development announced in September 2017 covering over 2.2 square kilometers and housing 70k+ people. In addition Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Eagle Hills announced just last month an additional 3 projects in Sharjah worth US$734m (Maryam Island, Kalba Waterfront and Palace Al Khan). Some of our clients are also currently working on exciting new F&B and cultural projects in Sharjah so there is certainly a lot happening in the Emirate.

The free zone itself - Sharjah Media City (or SHAMS as it is better known) - was established by Emiri Decree back in 2016 and has been issuing business licences since Q1 2017. High-level delegations from SHAMS are currently traveling the world selling the proposition so we decided to take a look at what the fuss is all about.

Some key stats on setting up in SHAMS are:

  • Location: Sharjah – located between Sharjah Airport and Dubai Airport

  • Target Sector: Creative and media industries but a wide range of licences are available

  • 100% foreign ownership permitted: Yes (pretty much a given with all the free zones)

  • Corporate Vehicles: Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Branch

  • Licence Categories: 4 main groups - Services, Trading, Industrial or Holding

  • Licence Cost: AED8-17k per year (AED 2,100 for additional classes – limit of 5 classes per group) exclusive of visas, immigration card etc.

  • Office Options:

  • Shared Desk Facility: Yes (AED 3,675)

  • Dedicated Desk Facility: POA

  • Shared Office Facility: POA

  • Dedicated Office Facility: POA

  • PO Box: Yes (AED 1,575)

  • Visas: AED 3,234 (3 years) - Up to 6 available for a shared desk facility

  • No Objection Certificate (NOC) required from existing employer: No

  • VAT Applicable: Yes – SHAMS offer a registration service to make it easy

  • National Media Council (NMC) Approval: Yes (NMC Fees + AED 3675) – required for companies needing approval/licences from the NMC under the UAE Media Law

  • Website:

SHAMS certainly looks to be offering a very attractive cost-effective alternative to the more established media focused free zones in the UAE such as Dubai Media City and TwoFour54. It is definitely an option worth considering for our media and creative start-ups and entrepreneurs – especially if they only want a virtual office or shared desk facility.

If you have any questions in relation to setting up in SHAMS or elsewhere in the UAE please email me at The Bench's corporate team has extensive experience in establishing companies in the UAE for clients ranging from individual entrepreneurs to major international companies and can smoothly guide you through the red tape.

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