Anything you need to know about the DIFC free zone

Anything you need to know about the DIFC free zone

The Dubai International Financial Center is widely regarded as the most important financial center in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. The DIFC free zone differs from other free zones in the UAE because it has its court with independent regulations governed by English Common Law.

In addition to the features mentioned above, the DIFC has the following:

  • Access to English Common Law laws and courts (including an arbitration system);
  • Use of the DIFC Will and Probate Registry;
  • Access to a reputable and internationally recognized stock exchange with primary and secondary listings of debt and equity instruments;
  • Access to a wide range of regulated, non-regulated, and financial activity licenses;
  • A gateway to regional wealth and investment opportunities.

With over 65 significant funds domiciled in the DIFC and well over 2000 companies resident within its regulatory parameters, the DIFC offers a flexible and welcoming business environment for financial firms looking to expand their global footprint.

Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) Features

The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is a 110-hectare (272-acre) special economic zone in Dubai that was established in 2004 as a financial hub for companies operating in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) markets. The Dubai Financial Services Authority governs DIFC, an independent regulator exclusive to the Freezone, and its court system; DIFC Courts are distinct from the Emirate of Dubai's legal systems and the UAE's federal government. DIFC operates in English and adheres to the common law framework. The Freezone houses financial institutions, wealth funds, and Freezone-specific retail and hotel space.

DIFC is an independent free zone in Dubai that gives companies 100% ownership without needing a local partner. DIFC provides clients with a 50-year tax-free guarantee on corporate income and profits, which is supplemented by the UAE's network of double taxation treaties.

Independent jurisdiction

The DIFC is an independent jurisdiction under the UAE Constitution, with its own civil and commercial laws distinct from those of the rest of the UAE and its own courts. DIFC laws and regulations are written in English, and in the event of an ambiguity, English law takes precedence. Judges from other common law jurisdictions, such as England, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Ireland, sit on the DIFC Courts.

The DIFC's independent jurisdiction includes corporate, commercial, civil, employment, trust, and securities law matters. Other UAE or Emirate of Dubai laws, such as criminal and immigration regulations, remain in effect within the DIFC.

The DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre is an independent international arbitration center that operates under rules modeled after the London Court of International Arbitration.

The DIFC Authority is the DIFC's primary governing body. The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is the financial services regulator, and it regulates the conduct of financial services in and out of the DIFC. The DFSA is distinct from the UAE's federal Securities and Commodities Authority, whose jurisdiction extends beyond the DIFC's borders.

In 2021, Lord Angus Glennie was sworn in as a judge at the DIFC court in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. A year later, in July 2022, the Scottish judge came under fire from retired barrister and former chair of Amnesty International Ireland, Bill Shipsey, for turning a blind eye to the Emirates' "egregious human rights violations." Following the resignations of two former Irish judges from the DIFC court, Lord Glennie came under fire. Former Irish Chief Justice Frank Clarke and former President of the High Court Peter Kelly resigned days after being sworn in at the DIFC court in response to criticism from barrister and Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik.

Financial Trading

License applications from financial institutions in the sectors are considered. The units provide 0% income and profit taxation, 100% foreign ownership, no foreign exchange or capital/profit repatriation restrictions, operational support, and business continuity services.

One of the center's key components is a privately held financial exchange known as NASDAQ Dubai, which opened in September 2005 as Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) but was rebranded as NASDAQ Dubai in 2008. From Sunday to Thursday, the NASDAQ Dubai trading hours are 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (06:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. GMT). Ordinary shares of DP World and DEPA are among the companies listed on NASDAQ Dubai. The initial public offering of DP World was the largest ever in the Middle East, raising $4.96 billion; it was 15 times oversubscribed, and it is now one of the most valuable companies in the region.

DIFC FinTech Hive

The DIFC announced its initiative to accelerate the growth of financial technology in the region in April 2017. 'FinTech Hive at DIFC will connect innovators in financial services technology with the banks, financial institutions, and service providers within our dynamic ecosystem at DIFC,' said Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC. Ten participating developers will present their products to venture capitalists. According to FinTech Middle East, DIFC FinTech Hive has played a significant role in the UAE's emerging financial technology market. Bridg, Democracy, Beehive, and other new players in the emerging market were mentioned by the source. Facebook and Envestnet | Yodlee have also been announced as technology partners.

On 22 January 2020, DIFC FinTech announced the launch of the 'FinTech Hive Scale Up Programme,' a startup accelerator program for fintech startups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region.


The Dubai International Financial Centre is home to four hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, and Four Seasons.

Art Galleries

The Dubai International Financial Centre also houses several art galleries exhibiting local and foreign art.

Caf├ęs and restaurants

The center has over 100 cafes and restaurants, including local and foreign chains serving a variety of cuisines.


The DIFC complex contains a variety of retail shops and convenience stores, as well as business services outlets. The Gate Avenue shopping mall extension, which includes an additional 185 retail, dining, fashion, and lifestyle concepts, opened to the public in 2018.

Important buildings

  • ICD Brookfield Place: ICD Brookfield Place Dubai is a four-acre property in the DIFC's central district. The asset reflects our commitment to creating best-in-class properties, with over 990,000 square feet of highly functional, column-free work space and 160,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Burj Daman Building: The Burj Daman Building is a mixed-use skyscraper comprised of two towers, one residential and the other commercial. The residential tower has 65 floors, and the commercial tower has 15 floors. The Rosewood Dubai Hotel is housed in Burj Daman and has 251 guest rooms, a few dining restaurants, a business center, a ballroom, a fitness center, and a spa with a rooftop swimming pool. The residential tower has units with 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms.
  • The Gate: The Gate is a global hub for leading financial firms that embodies the DIFC's core values of integrity, transparency, and simplicity. The structure is an iconic part of the master plan, which included a promenade ending in a triumphal arch modeled after the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe. The building frames the Emirates Towers and the World Trade Centre, which are located on the same axis.
  • DIFC Towers: The DIFC Towers are a pair of supertall vision skyscrapers in Dubai, UAE. DIFC Tower 1 will be 100 stories tall, while DIFC Tower 2 will be 75 stories tall. Three bridges will connect the two towers. It is planned that 85 percent of the towers will be office space, with the remainder being retail and apartment space. The DIFC towers will be Dubai's second office tower after the Lighthouse tower, incorporating wind turbines to reduce energy and water consumption by 65 and 40 percent, respectively. The buildings will be outfitted with a total of 4,000 solar panels.
  • Emirates Financial Towers: Emirates Financial Towers is a 27-story twin-tower commercial development located in Dubai's central financial district, the Dubai International Financial Centre.
  • Liberty House: Liberty House is a mixed-use 42-story building in Dubai International Financial Centre. The building has eight floors of offices, 32 floors of apartments, and six floors of parking. Retail space is available on the ground floor and concourse level. Liberty House DIFC apartments include studios, one and two-bedroom apartments, and duplexes.
  • Ritz Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC is an American multinational corporation that operates The Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel chain. The company operates 108 luxury hotels and resorts with 29,158 rooms in 30 countries and territories and 46 hotels with 8,755 rooms planned for the future.
  • Sky Gardens: The Sky Gardens is a 45-story tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dubai International Financial Centre. The building has a total structural height of 160 m (525 ft), 575 units ranging from studios to one, two, and three bedrooms, and seven luxury penthouses. Caddick Developments delivered Sky Gardens, which was completed in 2008. Construction began in March of 2005.
  • The Index: The Index is an 80-story, 328 m (1,076 ft) tall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The first four floors will be service floors, the fifth to the 29th will be offices, and the 31st to the 77th will be for residential use. The 73rd and 75th floors will be duplex penthouses, and the 77th to the 80th will be triplex penthouses. The tower is oriented along the east-west axis so that the floors are protected from the harsh desert sun and the climatic effects of the area by the eastern and western concrete cores. The concrete cores preserve the structure from the low angle, highly penetrating morning and evening sun, leaving only the south facade exposed to the high-grade, intense sharp midday sun. The south-facing facade employs extensive sun shades to reduce solar gain.
  • Park Towers: Park Towers is a DAMAC Properties project that consists of Tower A and Tower B. Park Tower A is a 49-story building with three basement parking levels. Seven podium levels, as well as commercial and residential floors, make up the 49 floors. Offices are built from podium 5 to the 11th floor, with the studio, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom residential apartments on the 12th and higher floors

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