How to set up your own company in Bahrain

So after seeing all of the questions and threads here; plus, with recent experience of helping friends set up a company in Bahrain, I thought I would pen down the steps.  Hope it helps.

First off, this relates to setting up an SPC (Single person company) or WLL (With limited liability, can have more than one partner).  Depending on the activities you choose, you can get investor visas for each of the partners (and they can sponsor their dependents also on these visas) plus anywhere from 2 to 4 normal employment / work visas. Example given for basic set up with simple activities such as management consultancy.  You need to put a deposit or capital to finance your company. The requirements have been reduced and in fact, there is no strict requirement.  Most people choose to open it with 1000 BD.

There are other company types but I will not talk about them as they are more complex and have much higher capital requirements

You can choose to do all of it yourself or engage an agent / consultant to do the leg work for you.  A consultant will usually charge around 800 BD for the whole thing.  Personally, I would only ever recommend the use of a consultant if you are not based in Bahrain and need someone to do the legwork.  In any other situation, it is simply not worth it as they are not really worth the cost; being just glorified delivery boys vs. people who can really advise you.

Some key terms below:
CR: Commercial registration.  The certificate with unique number for your company.  Has the name, number, activity license and so on.  Every business needs one to operate in Bahrain
Activities: The nature of business of your company.  Important to choose the right activities because:
a)    From March 2018, there is an annual fee for license for each activity of around 100 BD.  In the past, people used to add as many as they wanted with no additional cost (Edit/Update Jan'19: This has now been revised to 100 BD for the first 3 activities and thereafter 100 BD for each new activity)
b)    Some activities have additional approval or office requirements and if you don’t research well, the process will take longer
Sijilat: The Ministry of Industry and Commerce website which is very user friendly.  A must for setting up and maintaining your company
Ekey: The primary login method for all government eservices in Bahrain.  Comes in standard and advanced. Standard you can sign up for on the internet. To convert it to advanced, you need to go to one of the counters for the purpose with your CPR and give finger prints.  Takes 5 mins and is essential to access Sijilat
LMRA: Labor Market Regulatory Authority.  Not linked to company formation but you need to register your company here if you want it to be able to sponsor visas

So the steps are:

1)    If you have chosen to go with a consultant, you (and all partners) would need to give him a power of attorney.  He will handle it but you need to go to MOIC offices in Bahrain Financial Harbor and sign in front of a notary public.  All partners need to go.  If you are doing it yourself, skip to step 3
2)    The POA is finalized in a few days and the consultant can collect it on your behalf
3)    Login to Sijilat website with your (or consultant does it) Ekey and apply for a new CR.  You need to have three unique names for your company in English and Arabic, partner’s details (CPR/Passport), the chosen activities, the authority levels (Solely or Jointly), shareholding of each partner, roles of each partner etc.  Company names are important as they cannot have religious or political connotations in addition to not copying other company names or the Ministry will reject them
4)    If everything checks out fine and partners pass security check; your application will be approved.  Takes anywhere from 1 day to a few weeks
5)    At this stage you get a CR which shows “Active without license”.  This means your company is active but cannot carry out activities without a license
6)    At this stage, you need to upload draft “Memorandum of Association” which is in essence the charter for your company showing ownership, capital being deposited, shares of all partners etc.  It must be in line with the company law. Standard formats are available easily.  The Ministry will approve the draft and then you (and all partners) need to again appear in front of the notary in MOIC to sign these.  Scan and upload them into the Sijilat application
7)    Now to get a license, you need to have two things:
a.    Address for your business.  This can be a virtual or physical office depending on the activities listed in the CR.  The cost is anywhere from a 100 BD per month to 300 BD per month.  You need to upload a lease contract or do online approval if you use an approved “incubator” service
b.    Bank account for the company or essentially a capital deposit certificate from the bank.  This is the tricky bit as most banks create a lot of hassle to open “Company in formation accounts”.  They either have high capital requirements or charge account opening fees.  The process varies from bank to bank. You will have to take all company documents i.e. tentative active CR, a board resolution on company letter head stamped nominating authorized parties, lease contract, passports, cpr copies etc etc.  Then you have to make the capital deposit as per your MOA.  If all goes well, the bank will issue a capital deposit certificate. Important point to note is that you cannot operate the account until you go back to the bank and show all partners as being on the visa of the new company. The account will remain dormant till then
8)    Upload the bank letter and lease agreement.  You should get approval and your CR will show as active.  Congrats your company is ready for business
9)    Go to LMRA with a board resolution nominating responsible and authorized persons, passport copies, CPR, lease agreement, copy of active CR, electricity bond etc and apply at the counter to register your company
10)    This is where it depends on your luck.  LMRA will register your company but may not issue logins for EMS (Expat Management System which you need to apply online for permits) until the partners start getting on the visas for the company
11)    Depending on above, either apply for an investor visa through EMS or at the LMRA counter.  After a time period ranging anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, you will get your visa and will be able to get your passport stamped.  You might have to do a medical if you haven’t done one in Bahrain before (i.e. you are not moving from a Bahrain employer to own company but setting up shop in Bahrain from outside)
12)    Update CPR (need residential address or agent with address) and approach bank to show them permit and let them take details in CPR reader.  Your account will be activated (all partners need to do that)
13)    If you didn’t get an EMS login in step 10, go to LMRA counter again and request that. It really is essential for you to keep track of all labor related requirements online and pay the monthly and visa fees
14)    That’s it as a summary!!

Points to note:
1)    For some nationalities and activities, it may take longer due to misuse e.g. people set up a company and sell employment visas.  The posts you see about people being offered visas for money
2)    Your CR is renewed every year and after an initial wait period; to get it renewed, you need to continue to have a premises plus submit audited financials.  In addition, MOIC and LMRA may do periodic inspections of your company.  If there is a violation e.g. you have an address which you didn’t bother to renew and doesn’t exist after a year; your CR could be suspended
3)    Make sure to pay the monthly LMRA fees. Variable depending on number of visas.  If you don’t pay, your work permits are cancelled

This is by no means completely detailed and is intentionally given as a summary.  Also note that laws and practices can change so do your research as well.

EDIT:  Section below added after receiving queries from people.

1) If you don't have a CPR then you NEED to get an agent / lawyer to do it for you. This is because you cannot login to Sijilat without an Ekey and you cannot get an Ekey without a CPR. The only exception is if you are a GCC national / have a GCC ID registered in Bahrain.  The site is used to deal with almost all company related matters with MOIC e.g. change address, open new company, add branch, delete CR etc etc, and is absolutely essential
2) The owners of the company get investor visas (You can choose from two occupations at time of application i.e. investor or businessman. Doesn't make a difference and you can always change it later by paying 10 BD).  These allow you to sponsor your family and domestic staff.  If you have two investors then you get 2 visas and so on. The investor and dependent visas don't count in the limit of visas you are allowed to have and are also not subject to Bahrainization requirements. Work visas are labor visas subject to limit and localisation requirements.  Initial start ups such as the one I explained above get 2 of these if you are with an incubator and up to 4 if you move to a physical address. Others with activities like, say, contracting get 10 visas but it is more difficult to set up because this has been abused in the past to sell the so-called "Free visas".  Beyond that, it depends on workload and is subject to bahrainization i.e. you have to hire bahrainis.

Excluding dependent visas; you will pay a 5 BD monthly fee for each investor and work visa
The cost of the visas (2 years, paid upfront) is 344 BD for investor/work visa (144 BD is mandatory health insurance) and 90 BD is visa fee for each dependent
Additional fees which are one-time are 5 BD for each visa issuance and 5 BD for registering new establishment.  Full schedule you can see on LMRA website

3) There are two levels of access in EMS system.  One is responsible (can add authorized and update the CR details with LMRA) and second is authorized (can do everything except remove responsible or add authorized or edit CR details).  You can add authorized to either do only data entry or only payment or both.  This can be done online by the responsible person.  You need to create a request, upload CPRs of both, scanned form for "Add Authorized Person" from LMRA website and company board resolution saying the same.  Usually it is approved within hours and login/password sent to the authorized person.  Make sure to have correct phone numbers and emails as you will get communication from LMRA on important stuff

4) Bank account opening continues to be a big hassle for company in formation accounts.  Even more difficult if you are coming from outside Bahrain and don't have bank accounts here.  You may be asked for bank statements stamped by your bank as well as bank reference letters

5) The first year after company formation, you are exempt from uploading any audited financial statements.  But you need to upload from second year onward so you need to have accounts and then get these audited. Anyone can prepare accounts but auditors must be the ones which are registered with MOIC

6) To register company in LMRA you MUST have an EWA / Municipality account in your company name or an electricity bond document (if you are in an incubator office where electricity is part of rent and is in the name of the incubator - they should give the scan document to you)

7) Investor visa application in EMS is slightly different from a work visa application. Besides the standard first two pages of passport and CPR (same for both); you have to upload company CR extract from Sijilat website, electricity documents, CR.  The fields are not defined as such so you upload in whichever fields are free.  All files must be JPG (and not JPEG) and less than 200K in size

8) The visa flow works like this on submission:

LMRA - 2/3 days for verification
CIO - Records passed into database, almost instant
NPRA - Immigration.  Takes anywhere from 2/3 days to 2/3 weeks or even longer.  Security checks and other matters. Status shown is AWAIT GDNPR.
EMPLOYER - You.  Application comes back for payment.  Log into EMS and pay
NPRA - Routed back to immigration for final issuance.  Status shown is AWAIT IMM
LMRA - For final issuance of visa
EMPLOYER - You.  At this stage, you can log into EMS and print the work visa.  Take that with you along with passport for stamping

EDIT Dec'18: Recent changes

This is fairly recent but is a very important change.  Now, if your company does not have an address i.e. you got one at the time of registering the company but didn't keep it (didn't renew lease) and an inspection happens, your CR gets a violation and a month after that, it gets deleted and all the visas linked to it, cancelled.  This is in response to the abuse by people of the address requirements i.e. they would get an address for a month, register a company and then leave it and then do the same process again at the time of renewal.  There has been a significant step up in inspections, especially for companies, when they pass their second year (and / or change address before that).   So be careful as many people have found themselves without visas because of CR getting deleted.

EDIT Apr'19: MOIC FAQ
MOIC has recently put a very good FAQ related to this topic on their website as well as the user guide for the Sijilat system.  Link below.

https://www.sijilat.bh/PFL/011.FAQs%20English.pdf
https://www.sijilat.bh/PFL/009.System%2 … nglish.pdf

Very useful and interesting information. Thanks.

Thank you XTang for taking time and sharing this useful info.

PS: post is now sticky.

Hi thank u very much.. useful info. So is it possible for an expat to start up an own business (with necessary investment) in bahrain without any partnership with a local citizen ?
This part is confusing. When I did some research about this, some websites are telling that a partnership with a local Arab is required. Somewhere it says it is not mandatory. Please reply... your help in this is highly appreciated. Thank you.

Smeena :

Hi thank u very much.. useful info. So is it possible for an expat to start up an own business (with necessary investment) in bahrain without any partnership with a local citizen ?
This part is confusing. When I did some research about this, some websites are telling that a partnership with a local Arab is required. Somewhere it says it is not mandatory. Please reply... your help in this is highly appreciated. Thank you.

Depends on type of company and type of activity. In the above example for WLL and management consultancy: yes you can.

OP has detailed the process in excellent way.  :one

To add to what XTang said: For example.

- Majority of Trading and Import/Export CR would require 51% Bahrani partnership
- Majority of services businesses; for example, a car workshop would require 51% Bahrani partnership.
It really depends on what you do. The Sijilat website (https://www.sijilat.bh) has all the information that you'd need.

One warning though, for people who are planning. If you hire an agent to facilitate the legal procedures, take extreme precautions. Police stations records here are flooded with fraud cases, and sadly there are hundreds of victims.

Thank you very much XTang. i get the point now. Its clear. Thanks for your reply. Very kind of you.

Hi,

I would like to add few things, i recently got my CR, but i started the whole process in september,

13th September : I got the CR without license
19th December : I got the active CR

In 3 months there was alot of issues, like NOC, MOIC asked me for the NOC from my previous company, bank account was not easy, some banks ask for 6 months bank statement, so if you don't have any account in bahrain, it will be difficult to create one.

Don't try to put too much capital, it will be headache to create bank account then

I applied my Investor visa on 21st december, on 24th the status changed "waiting for NPRA" till this morning no change, then i went to Passport office, and the guy changed the status to "awaiting for the payment"

The whole process is simple but you should prepare everything and you should think about everything otherwise it will take alot of time

Thank you Haseeb91 for sharing the info. with us.

interesting topic

Reply removed as I added it to the main thread in the beginning for ease of reading.

Thanks for the update,

I have a question regarding Account on evisa website for a CR,
i applied an account on evisa website, i filled the form etc, now i have to bring that document to NPRA, i don't know where exactly i should go in NPRA

Once it's done, can i apply e-visa for anyone? (for exemple my mother?)

Is there any way to apply depedent visa for Mother with investor visa?

Regarding the financial statements, i got the license for my CR on 19th Dec, so my 2nd year will be 2018 or 2019?

Thanks

I would like to work with suppliers and clients in Saudia, how can i get the business visa for KSA with my investor visa

Haseeb91 :

Thanks for the update,

I have a question regarding Account on evisa website for a CR,
i applied an account on evisa website, i filled the form etc, now i have to bring that document to NPRA, i don't know where exactly i should go in NPRA

Once it's done, can i apply e-visa for anyone? (for exemple my mother?)

Is there any way to apply depedent visa for Mother with investor visa?

Regarding the financial statements, i got the license for my CR on 19th Dec, so my 2nd year will be 2018 or 2019?

Thanks

Evisa sponsor:  Good luck with that but it will most probably not be approved.  These are meant for large organizations such as big companies, travel agencies and so on.  Everyone else has pretty much zero chance for getting that approved.  But try anyway at the NPRA main office in the evisa section; they will send you around a bit first.  Let me know what happens.  And yes theoretically, if you are an evisa sponsor, you can apply for an evisa for anyone.  But remember, if you mother is an older lady i.e. 60 or above, the evisa has a 99% chance for being rejected.  The application in her case even for a visit visa is directly with immigration on paper forms.  See below - same documents for visit or residence
Statements: Depends on application date.  But I think it will be 2019.  Read the WLL rules on sijilat website for exact date
Mother: Very tricky.  Has to be applied directly with immigration.  And is very difficult if your company is small.  Even for larger companies it is difficult.  I am going through the same.  My mother was on my sponsorship when I was in a large company in Bahrain and it took 3 months then with a few rejections to get it through.  Now I am trying through some connections that I have but the outcome is not assured.

The documents you need is a letter on company letter head giving her details addressed to NPRA requesting a residence visa - signed by authorized person and stamped, filled out immigration form and stamped with company stamp, copies of her passport, her son's passport and CPR, evidence showing that she has no income, is dependent on you for support e.g. if father not alive (death certificate copy) and medical certificate showing that she is fit to travel.  They can ask for other documents as well.

Thanks for the update,

My Father is alive, he can get visa on arrival but not my mother, she is not 60+ but i just wanted to get her cpr so she can come easily, but seems like it's not easy task

Regards

Unfortunately, it is not easy, as in Bahrain (unlike UAE) there is no specific provision for sponsoring parents - entirely at discretion of immigration.  I used to sponsor my mother and mother in law both in Dubai without any issues - just needed to show a good bank statement/job.

But it might not be as difficult for your mother as she is below 60.  No harm in giving it a try.

Which documents i'll need for that
Passport copy?
my Bank statement?
What else?

Haseeb91 :

Which documents i'll need for that
Passport copy?
my Bank statement?
What else?

As above but amended:

The documents you need is a letter on your company letter head giving her details addressed to NPRA requesting a residence visa - signed by authorized person and stamped, filled out immigration form and stamped with company stamp, copies of her passport, her son's passport and CPR, evidence showing that she has no income, is dependent on you for support and medical certificate showing that she is fit to travel.  They can ask for other documents as well.

Haseeb91 :

I would like to work with suppliers and clients in Saudia, how can i get the business visa for KSA with my investor visa

An entity in Saudi has to invite you.  They will send an invitation letter attested by chamber of commerce, copy of CR and other documents.  You can then take these, book an appointment with VFS Tahseel and go to the financial harbor to apply.   

And this is quite strange as most countries allow for investor visas for companies who want to go there to invest.  But in Saudi, someone MUST sponsor you to come.

Yeah That's really strange, how much it cost? some people told me 600bd some 800bd

Regards

Haseeb91 :

Yeah That's really strange, how much it cost? some people told me 600bd some 800bd

Regards

Depends on the time of the visa.  A 2 year, if I am not mistaken, is 800 to a 1000 BD.  A 6 month is cheaper but around 300-400 BD I think.  They raised the fees two years ago.  Not sure of the exact fees now but check VFS site or call them.

Alright Thanks

Getting the Saudi visa will depend on relationship with sponsor, are you working for them, do you have a contract, are you planning multiple entries etc.

It’s easier to get a single entry for a specific purpose and can be as low as 130BD (for British) - much higher for other nationalities.

For a working visa need docs like degrees attested.

If it’s just a speculative trip for research maybe it’s different. You could even get help from a business group or your nations embassy or consulate. They can invite, sponsor and assist.

very clear thanks

Hi Xtang, Thanks for the very helpful summary on how to register a single person company for the purposes of a self sponsorship. Do you by any chance know of any good agents who could help with the process?

Sent you a private message.

Hi, X TANG,

Thanks for your details information please send me your agent contact details

Will send you pm.

Haseeb91 :

Hi,

I would like to add few things, i recently got my CR, but i started the whole process in september,

13th September : I got the CR without license
19th December : I got the active CR

In 3 months there was alot of issues, like NOC, MOIC asked me for the NOC from my previous company, bank account was not easy, some banks ask for 6 months bank statement, so if you don't have any account in bahrain, it will be difficult to create one.

Don't try to put too much capital, it will be headache to create bank account then

I applied my Investor visa on 21st december, on 24th the status changed "waiting for NPRA" till this morning no change, then i went to Passport office, and the guy changed the status to "awaiting for the payment"

The whole process is simple but you should prepare everything and you should think about everything otherwise it will take alot of time

Haseeb in which branch you go to update your application status

Xtang,

I just read online through https://www.offshorecompany.com/company/bahrain-spc/ that you need 50,000 BHD to start a SPC.

I know you mentioned an initial capital costing in your original post, but it was significantly less than this, so I am wondering if this is the 'published figure' rather than the actual figure?

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Simon.

The information is incorrect. What I have posted is the latest. The other thing is that it seems that these guys don't know what they are talking about.  If you go the self sponsorship route i.e. you are not sponsored by a company and you want to sponsor yourself - that is when you need to invest 100K in a company.  So you get a visa based on the money you put in Bahrain whether in property (50K) or a business (100K) and you sponsor yourself.  In this case which we are discussing, YOU set up a company and that company sponsors you - and you have to keep that company active for it to sponsor you.  It is an important distinction which most outsiders to the GCC do not get i.e. the sponsorship system and what it means.

Also this link is from an international consulting service who will charge you huge amounts so it could be that they are probably giving a higher figure to attract bigger investors. 

I have set up mine early 2018 as a WLL with only 1000 BD. Others in this forum have done it with even less for an SPC - some guys have done it for as little as 100 BD.  The problem is not setting it up with low capital; it is actually finding a bank who will open an account for very low capital companies as they don't take you too seriously then.

See this thread where we discussed this issue:

https://www.expat.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=779121

Apologies, but I forgot to say 'Thanks' for this information. It is much appreciated, XTang!

Thancks for your time . Very useful information.
Will start up in processing soon. But any issues for Lebanese expacts ? Or normal processing will be ?

Yes there are issues with Lebanese nationals for new visas.

Let me check what I will do . But if I pay and sponsor my self , and have a cr. After all costs, may visa will be rejected even like a investor... lets say per 100 , how much pourcentage to take the risk?

No one can predict but I have experienced close to 100% rejection for my company's Lebanese employees in the past. As a result, we used to get them visas in saudi while they lived in Bahrain.

Thanks XTang for this powerful topic.

Please I've some questions and thanks in advance for your help and valuable time

1- As you now have a legal company in Bahrain, can you do business in KSA or UAE? Is your access and travel to these countries easy and legal or limited?

2- In your Industry (Management Consultancy)  Is Bahrain market alone is enough? or limited somehow and Bahrain will be just a hub to access near markets?

3- Is there is a special limitation or constrains for Egyptians?

I really appreciate your time and help

Thanks bro

1) The company is allowed to do business anywhere.  However, to do business in other countries, you will have to abide by their rules.  GCC especially KSA is easier as there is CR recognition of Bahrain companies there after attestation
2) Bahrain is a hub to access nearby markets
3) No constraints in setting up companies.  Extra security checks for visas so takes much longer

Many thanks I appreciate your help and fast response

I've 2 quesions:
1. Do I as an expat government employee allowed to be a partner in a company to be established?

2. If I'm an expat government employee and has been told that my contract will end after 5 months and will not be renewed, can I be a partner in establishing a company before my service in government ends? Should I present any documents that proves that I'll be leaving the job soon?

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