Considering the enormous benefits of investing in Bahrain, you might have already decided to establish your business in the Kingdom. After crossing the first hurdle of finalizing the business idea, your next challenge is registering the company. It involves lots of paperwork and legal formalities. Let us simplify it for you.
- In Bahrain, commercial registration (CR) is the first step to launching your startup.
- A commercial registration certificate is a legal document that businesses and investors receive as soon as they register their organization with the Ministry of Industry & Commerce (MoIC).
- You must be one of the business partners
- You have to be represented by a registered professional body or a person with a notarized power of attorney and a Bahrain smart card/CPR.
A commercial registration certificate is a legal document issued to investors upon registering their establishment with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism. There are two types of commercial registration certificates issued:
- Commercial Registration Certificate without license: Issued before obtaining approvals/licenses for activities.
- Commercial Registration Certificate with License: Issued after obtaining approvals/licenses for activities.
Obtaining a Commercial Registration without a License is the first step in legally registering a company in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It facilitates a faster and easier business setup process for investors. Having a CR without a license allows investors to perform initial tasks such as leasing commercial space, approaching banks, engaging with vendors, securing a commercial name, and other tasks that do not require a business license.
Once you fulfill the criteria, you can go ahead with the registration process. The Bahraini government simplified the entire process for the founders by introducing Sijilat, the online commercial registers system.
When registering your business, you will encounter various licensing entities. This section will familiarize you with the key entities involved in the registration process.
Ministry of Industry & Commerce (MoIC)
MoIC plays a major role in establishing a business in Bahrain. The first step in registering your startup is with MoIC, the licensing entity for all business activities. MoIC’s initiatives aim to make Bahrain attractive to businesses and competitive for investors. They have introduced the online platform Sijilat, which simplifies the registration process for founders. Another initiative is Sijili, a virtual commercial registration that supports small individual enterprises. These measures have reduced bureaucratic obstacles and administrative controls, providing a better experience for founders. MoIC actively works with and supports startups by simplifying the registration process, checking incubators, promoting startups, and being involved in the ecosystem.
Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB)
The financial stability of a country is crucial for startup success, and CBB ensures that Bahrain offers a stable business ecosystem. As the sole regulator of Bahrain’s financial sector, CBB covers banking, insurance, investment business, and capital markets activities. CBB’s consistent policy approach and efficient regulatory framework create an ideal operating environment. They regulate the sector through a comprehensive package of laws and regulations. Foreign investments in startups require approvals and compliance with CBB regulations. CBB follows international best practices, resulting in Bahrain being home to over 400 banks and financial institutions. They also support innovation and startups through initiatives like the Regulatory Sandbox.
Ministry of Health (MoH)
MoH provides comprehensive health services to Bahrain’s citizens and residents. They adopt the latest health technology systems to offer high-quality services. MoH is the licensing entity for healthcare-related business activities. If your business involves activities like packaging food, cosmetics, or herbs, you will need to approach MoH for licensing and approval.
National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA)
Established in 2010, NHRA is an independent regulatory body responsible for overseeing healthcare provision in Bahrain. They ensure the appropriateness, continuity, efficiency, and safety of health services. NHRA regulates health regulations in both the government and private sectors. They develop policies for the health systems and healthcare, and handle regulatory procedures for licensing healthcare facilities and professionals. NHRA has the final say in licensing pharmaceutical factories.
Ministry of Education (MOE)
The Ministry of Education is responsible for all matters related to education and educational services. Startups in the education sector need to obtain a license and approval from MOE. Even providing educational services to students in foreign educational institutions requires a licensed office approved by MOE. Bahrain’s qualitative education system, developed by the ministry, contributes to the talented workforce in the country.
A business activity determines the goods and/or services provided by an establishment or company. Each activity has its own terms and conditions, and investors may need approval from relevant government entities before engaging in the activity.
A commercial name is the legal term for the name that an establishment or company uses to operate. The name must be registered with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism. When choosing a commercial name, it is important to follow certain rules. Make sure you:
1. Choose a new, unique, and innovative name.
2. Register the name in Arabic or any acceptable foreign language, along with its Arabic translation.
3. Ensure that the name respects public order and morals.
4. Select a name that is related to the company’s activity.
Make sure you avoid:
1. Avoid choosing a name that is already owned by a third party.
2. Do not select a name that violates public morals, customs, traditions, or religious beliefs.
3. Avoid copying a name from an international brand.
4. Do not include any political connotations in the name.
If you’re looking to obtain an authentic hardcopy of the Commercial Registration Certificate in Bahrain, you have the option to visit the Bahrain Investors Center located at Bahrain Financial Harbour. While it’s worth noting that an electronic version of the certificate holds the same official status, some individuals may prefer having a physical copy on hand.
To obtain the hardcopy, there is a fee of BD20. This cost covers the administrative processes involved in issuing the document.
Once you have obtained the Commercial Registration Certificate, it is important to be aware of its validity period. The certificate remains valid for a duration of one year from the date of issuance. It’s essential to keep track of this expiration date to ensure compliance with the regulations.
To continue conducting business operations smoothly, it is necessary to renew the commercial registration annually. This means that before the expiration date of your current certificate, you must submit an application for renewal. The renewal process can be initiated up to 3 months prior to the expiration date, allowing ample time for the necessary paperwork and procedures to be completed.
By adhering to the renewal requirements and submitting your application within the specified timeframe, you can ensure the continuous validity of your commercial registration. This, in turn, enables you to maintain your business activities without interruption and in accordance with the regulations set forth by the relevant authorities in Bahrain.
If the owner of the Commercial Registration fails to renew it before the expiry date, the Registration Department at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce will delete the registration. However, the deletion of the registration does not absolve the owner and the registered management of their liabilities. Their liabilities will continue as if the registration is still valid.
Virtual CR (Sijili)
“Sijili” is a commercial registration that allows individuals to engage in commercial activities without the need for a physical commercial address. Its main features are:
- Enables commercial activities without the expense of a commercial space.
- Provides business flexibility.
- Offers freelancers a legitimate way to sign contracts with companies that mandate vendors to possess commercial registration.
To apply for Sijili, the applicant must meet the following criteria:
- Be a Bahraini national.
- Not work in the public sector
- If employed in the private sector, submit a “No Objection Letter.”
- Not have an individual establishment, Single Person Company, or be a director/partner in a company (unless registered as a shareholder only) at the time of application.
When using the Sijili platform, it is important to note that although a physical address is not required, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism still requires applicants to provide an official correspondence address for communication purposes. This ensures that the necessary information and updates can be efficiently delivered to the applicants.
It is worth mentioning that while Sijili offers a range of services to assist businesses, it does not provide support for obtaining work permits. Therefore, if you are looking to hire employees and require work permits for them, it is necessary to explore alternative avenues or consult the appropriate authorities to fulfill this requirement.
In terms of the cost involved, acquiring a Sijili commercial registration comes with a fee of BD 50. This fee covers the administrative and processing expenses associated with the registration process.
By keeping these important details in mind, individuals and businesses can effectively navigate the Sijili platform and understand the specific services and limitations it offers.
Now, there are 39 commercial activities allowed under Sijili:
- Computer consultancy and computer facilities management activities
- Computer programming activities
- Data processing, hosting and related activities
- Operation of websites web portals
- Software publishing
- Management consultancy
- Public relations
- Fashion design
- Interior design decoration
- Graphic design
- Photographic activities
- Translation and interpretation
- Jewelry design
- Other specialized design activities
- Motion picture, video, and television program activities
- Sound recording and music publishing activities
- Sports instruction — baseball, basketball, cricket, football, swimming or any sports instruction activity not specified elsewhere
- Horse riding Instruction
- Martial art Instruction
- Fitness / Yoga instruction
- Design of training programs
- Performing arts/drama school
- Other education
- Production of live theatrical performances and other stage productions
- Activities of sculptors, painters, cartoonists, etc.
- Activities of producers or promoters of sports events
- Personal event planners
- Repair of footwear and leather goods
- Repair of other personal and household goods
- Ironing of textile and fur products
- Washing and (dry) cleaning of textile and fur products
- Packaging activities – Packaging of food
- Other business support services
- Landscape care and maintenance service activities
- Packaging activities – packaging of cosmetics or herbs
- Manufacture of other metal products
- Apparel tailoring activities
- Manufacture of textiles
- Sale / Trade of souvenirs, craftwork, religious articles, stamps, coins, activities of commercial art galleries
If you have additional questions towards launching your startup in Bahrain. The Ministry of Industry & Commerce has put together a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions Document to answer all your burning questions.
Sijilat is an e-government service platform that revolutionizes the process of commercial registration and licensing in Bahrain for businesses and entrepreneurs. This digital platform is an initiative by the Bahraini government to promote transparency, speed, and efficiency in the processes involved in starting and operating a business. Sijilat aims to offer a multitude of benefits to businesses and investors. Here are some of the key objectives and advantages of this service:
- It’s an integrated online portal that involves all business licensing entities, making it easy to navigate.
- You can get your commercial registration instantly, so you can start doing business right away.
- The portal automatically routes your application to the appropriate licensing entities, saving you time and hassle.
- It provides an easy classification of commercial activities, so you can find the right fit for your business.
- You can track your application progress at any time, day or night.
- Sijilat is available around the clock, seven days a week, so you can access it whenever you need it.
You can find information on all activities and business licenses, including their criteria, requirements, and conditions, making it easy to understand and comply with regulations. Sijilat is a user-friendly solution for your business licensing needs in Bahrain. Give it a try and see how easy it is to start your business!
Eligibility Criteria for Applying to Sijilat
To apply for Sijilat, the following individuals or entities are eligible:
- Business Partners: Any individual who is a business partner can apply for Sijilat. This includes individuals who are involved in a business partnership with a registered entity in Bahrain.
- Registered Professional Bodies: Registered Professional Bodies can also apply for Sijilat on behalf of their members. They need to provide a letter of authorization to demonstrate their authority to act on behalf of their members.
- Individuals with Notarized Power of Attorney: Individuals who possess a notarized power of attorney can apply for Sijilat. This means that a person has been legally authorized by another individual or entity to act on their behalf in matters related to Sijilat. Along with the power of attorney, the applicant must also possess a Bahraini Smart Card.
Accessing & Using Sijilat
To access the Sijilat Portal, you will need an advanced eKey, which is a highly secure system that grants users access to e-government services, including Sijilat. If you don’t have an advanced eKey, there are alternative options available. One option is to apply for the eKey through a professional body or an individual who possesses a notarized power of attorney and an advanced eKey. They can initiate the application transaction on your behalf.
To obtain an eKey, you can also visit an e-government service center. At the center, a representative will guide you through the process of creating an eKey. As part of the authentication process, you will be required to verify your biometrics, specifically your fingerprint. For more detailed information about the eKey, you can refer to the official website at www.ekev.bh.
In case you forget your eKey password, you can visit an e-government service center where a representative will assist you in recovering it. The e-key service centers are conveniently located at the Bahrain Investor Center, specifically on the 2nd floor of the Bahrain Financial Harbor. These centers serve as accessible points for individuals seeking assistance with their eKey-related needs.
The duration for registering a company varies based on several factors, including the type of establishment (individual or company) and the nationality of the investors (local or foreign). For individual establishments and companies that are fully owned by Bahraini, CC, or American citizens, the registration process can be completed within minutes. However, in some cases, it may take up to a maximum of 3 working days, depending on the information provided.
On the other hand, for companies with foreign investors (excluding those from GCC and America), the registration process may take up to 10 working days. It’s important to note that this timeframe is influenced by additional requirements and procedures involved in the registration of foreign investment.
It’s crucial to understand that registering a company does not include the process of obtaining a license. The duration for obtaining a license is determined by the specific activity selected for the company. Different activities may have varying requirements and processing times, which can impact the overall timeline for obtaining the license.
In summary, the time required to register a company in Bahrain depends on the type of establishment and the nationality of the investors. While individual establishments and those fully owned by Bahraini, CC, or American citizens can be registered swiftly, companies with foreign investors may experience a longer registration process. It’s advisable to consider the specific activity chosen for the company, as obtaining a license for that activity may involve additional time and requirements.
eKey is a convenient way to access government services online without having to enter your credentials at each step. Introduced by the Information & eGovernment Authority in 2017, eKey provides a solution to this issue. With an eKey, such as on Sijilat or other government portals, you can quickly accomplish tasks.
eKey is a single-sign-on system for accessing Government eServices. It serves as your identity, created based on your credentials. It functions as a single password to log in to the government portal.
When you log in with the eKey, you don’t need to enter your credentials every time you use a service. The government assures state-of-the-art security for your identity, addressing any safety concerns. There are two types of eKey:
If you have a standard eKey, you only need to enter your personal number and password when accessing eServices. The best part is that you can create a standard eKey online, and it will be available for immediate use. However, please note that standard eKey does not include fingerprint verification. Consequently, it provides limited access to services. To gain full access, you can upgrade your standard eKey to an advanced eKey at any time. Simply visit the nearest eGovernment eService Center. How to apply:
1. Go to the official eKey portal: [www.ekey.bh](www.ekey.bh)
2. Click on “Create my eKey.”
3. On the next page, click on “Register Now for a Standard eKey.”
4. Enter your number, date of birth, block number, and smart card expiry date. If you are unsure about your block number, you can confirm it by visiting the Bahraini Municipal Map.
5. After submitting these details, an authentication code will be sent to your mobile number.
6. Call the National Contact Center at 80008001 or visit the nearest service center for verification.
7. Once verified, you can log in to your eKey account and start using it.
By creating an advanced eKey account, you will have access to all eServices, including highly confidential ones that require smart card and biometric verification. Due to the heightened security requirements, the process of creating an advanced eKey account involves rigorous measures. How to apply:
1. Visit the nearest eGovernment eService Center.
2. Provide the required information, such as your name, date of birth, and a valid mobile number.
3. During registration, present your smart card and biometrics.
You can complete the registration process in a single visit, which usually takes no more than 10 minutes.
Sijilat’s legal framework allows different categories of citizens to engage in commercial activities. This includes:
- Bahraini citizens: They can undertake all commercial, professional, industrial, and service activities through individual establishments or companies, provided they meet the necessary requirements.
- Citizens of GCC states: GCC citizens can also engage in similar activities through individual establishments or companies, except for certain activities that are prohibited.
- U.S. citizens: U.S. citizens can engage in most commercial activities through individual establishments or companies, except for certain activities that are prohibited.
- Citizens of other Arab or foreign countries: These individuals can engage in commercial activities through companies, except for certain activities that are prohibited.
Sijilat allows for the establishment and registration of various types of companies in Bahrain. These include:
Bahrain Shareholding Company (BSC)
- Minimum capital: The minimum capital required to establish a BSC is 1,000,000 BHD.
- Shareholders’ liability: The shareholders have limited liability, meaning their financial responsibility is limited to their investment in the company.
- Permitted activities: A BSC can conduct banking and insurance activities, but only with the necessary approvals.
- Founders and directors: A BSC requires a minimum of 2 founders and 5 directors.
- Financial statements: BSCs must submit annual audited financial statements.
With Limited Liability Company (WLL)
- Minimum capital: There is no minimum capital requirement for establishing a WLL.
- Partners’ liability: The partners in a WLL have limited liability.
- Prohibited activities: A WLL cannot conduct banking, insurance, or foreign investment activities.
- Number of partners: A WLL requires a minimum of 2 partners and can have a maximum of 50.
- Financial statements: WLLs must submit annual audited financial statements.
- Minimum partners: A partnership company requires a minimum of 2 partners.
- Partners’ liability: The partners in a partnership company have unlimited liability, meaning they are personally responsible for the company’s debts and liabilities.
- Prohibited activities: A partnership company cannot engage in banking, insurance, or foreign investment activities.
- Minimum capital: There is no minimum capital requirement for establishing a partnership company.
Limited Partnership Company
- Prohibited activities: A limited partnership company cannot engage in banking, insurance, or foreign investment activities.
- Partners’ liability: In a limited partnership company, joint partners have unlimited liability, while sleeping partners have limited liability.
- Minimum capital: There is no minimum capital requirement for establishing a limited partnership company.
- Minimum partners: A limited partnership company requires a minimum of 1 joint partner and 1 sleeping partner.
Simple Commandite Company
- Minimum capital: The minimum capital required to establish a simple commandite company is 20,000 BHD.
- Minimum founders: A simple commandite company requires a minimum of 4 founders.
- Partners’ liability: The partners in a simple commandite company have unlimited liability.
Foreign Company Branch
- Minimum capital: There is no minimum capital requirement for establishing a foreign company branch.
- Parent company’s responsibility: The parent company assumes all responsibilities for the branch.
- Permitted activities: A foreign company branch can conduct banking, insurance, and foreign investment activities, but only with the necessary approvals.
- Branch manager: A foreign company branch must have a branch manager.
- Financial statements: Foreign company branches must submit annual audited financial statements.
- Minimum capital: The minimum capital required for a holding company depends on its legal structure.
- Owners/partners’ liability: The owners or partners in a holding company have limited liability.
- Financial statements: Holding companies must submit annual audited financial statements.
- Minimum partners: The minimum number of partners in a holding company depends on its legal structure.