The Kingdom of Bahrain is a uniquely gifted and poised economy with an open market policy and one of the highest valued currency units (the Bahraini Dinar, BHD). Being a member country of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the relatively small kingdom maintains supportive relations with its larger neighbors and is not currently involved in any international disputes. The high income economy, and to a larger extent, the city of Manama are home to heavily invested components of the global financial and tourism industries.
The Kingdom of Bahrain collectively expressed an interest in accelerating economic development in October 2008 when His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa launched Bahrain’s “Economic Vision 2030” plan to foster commerce. The Bahrain Investors Center (BIC), a dedicated agency within the Kingdom’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, was created and tasked with attracting business in conjunction with the semi-private Bahrain Economic Development Board. The Bahrain Economic Development Board’s international representatives are located in various parts of the world and serve as the first point of contact for any foreign commercial entities seeking to explore commercial prospects within the Kingdom.
Representatives of general partnerships and corporations seeking to do business in the Kingdom of Bahrain should provide the completed Company Commercial Registration (CCR) application form, available online for citizens of GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) through the Sijilat Commercial Registration Portal, or at the BIC agency, located on the second floor of the Harbor Gate building, in the Bahrain Financial Harbor district of Manama city.
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Requirements include power of attorney for a registration agent if one is enlisted, drafts of the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the Declaration (if the application is for a one person company) or a resolution from a board of directors, in addition to a commercial lease agreement obtained by the municipality’s representative at the BIC (in place of a lease agreement, the address of the representative law firm can be used for up to three months). Applications should also include copies of any commercial agency, distribution, franchise, or licensing agreements. Foreign applicants should also include a copy of their passport and visas in addition to an auditor’s report and a reference from a licensed bank anywhere in the world, or from any of the financial auditors and law firms within the Kingdom. Citizens of the Kingdom (or the GCC) would only be required to present a copy of their Central Population Registry (CPR) identification card in place of a passport and visa. An additional requirement, as described the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, would be a feasibility study in the case of a commercial registration for a public shareholding venture.
Applications at the BIC can be processed within seven working days: approvals must be obtained from various ministry representatives, each of which require between one and three working days. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism requires one working day for the preliminary approval of a commercial registration, for which a municipality approved lease agreement is a prerequisite, and the municipality representative at the BIC requires three working days to approve the lease. Upon obtaining the lease approval from the municipality and preliminary approval from the ministry, the memorandums and articles should be notarized by the Ministry of Justice’s representative at the BIC, then submitted to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism representative for the subsequent issuance of the commercial registration certificate.
Prior to the issuance of a certificate of registration by the BIC, an account must be opened at a commercial bank based within the Kingdom and a capital deposit certificate issued. With the capital deposit certificate, the municipality approved lease agreement, and the notarized Memorandum of Association, the BIC will then issue the commercial registration certificate within one working day. The commercial registration of a company is completed when the certificate is issued, after which the newly-minted company is obligated to publish its incorporation notice in the official gazette and register itself and its employees with the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI). With the time-frames (recommended by the World Bank financial institution) for interactions with the various ministry and municipality representatives, in addition to the opening of a capital account, publishing the incorporation, and registering employees for social insurance, a company commercial registration (or CCR) application can be expected to take as little as seven working days.
Commercial registration in the Kingdom of Bahrain is also available online to GCC citizens. Sole proprietors should include the completed Individual Commercial Registration (ICR) and commercial name application forms, available at the BIC. Applicants should also include copies of their CPR card, a proof of residency within the Kingdom such as copies of a rental contract, and if the applicant is employed: a signed “no objection” certificate (NOC) provided by the employer.
An additional consideration for married female applicants, as described by the World Bank, would be a signed approval from the husband to leave the residence, as the Kingdom’s family law entails forfeiture of alimony if the applicant leaves home without permission. In contrast to the conventional understanding of the risks of operating in the region, the Kingdom of Bahrain has defined itself as a progressive society in the Middle East, with His Majesty King Hamad granting women equal political rights as of 2002.
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