The UAE offers a large number of opportunities for expats, ranging from working as a freelancer to starting your own businesses. Recently, there have been a number of special initiatives aimed at the facilitation of obtaining a freelance visa permit, as well as a reduction in costs. One of these initiatives is the "GoFreelance" package, which was developed by TECOM Group in cooperation with Dubai Creative Clusters Authority. The visa is available for freelancing in the UAE and includes media, education, tech and design sectors. We have prepared the following article, which contains everything you need to know about becoming a freelancer in the UAE, obtaining a freelance license and visa, permissible professions and much more.
Legislative Framework Regarding Obtaining A Freelance Visa in The UAE
A Freelance UAE's Visa
The introduction of a freelance visa in the UAE is part of the programme package of the innovative national initiative - "Projects of 50". National projects within the framework of this programme are involved in industries such as media and advertising, education, industrial production, development of internet technologies, personal data protection, and economic partnership.
The initiative set by the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's "Projects of 50" was released and timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country The launch of the initiative took place on September 5, 2021. Attractive conditions for freelancers and self-employed individuals within the framework of the initiative were well thought out and created with flexibility in mind as the programme plans to increase the innovative and technical potential of the emirate of Dubai.
Other programmes launched by the government as part of the "Projects of 50" include:
What Is A Freelance Permit (License) and Visa?
What Is A Freelance
Permit (License) & Visa?
The freelance license is a permit which allows freelancers to work as independent contractors. This type of permit must be renewed each year. Previously, such licenses were only issued to UAE nationals, however, The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) announced in November 2020 that UAE nationals, residents and non-residents can apply for a freelance licence in the country. The license was made for the creation of more job opportunities and diversification of the business sector in the region. Freelance licenses help businesses in the UAE because it eliminates the need to employ individuals of all specializations for periodic or contract work.
At the moment, due to the new resolution, freelancers can legally stay and work in the country. Applicants of a freelance license are not required to take any office space as UAE residents only need a freelancer's permission in order to start working.
Non-residents can apply for a freelance visa, which is renewable every 3 years. This type of visa will allow a foreigner to live and work in the country as a freelancer. The freelance visa allows cooperation with any companies within the country, including free trade zones such as Dubai Knowledge Park, Abu Dhabi's twofour54, Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone, Dubai Media City, Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone and more.
Freelancers can also apply for visas for their families. You can sponsor a daughter only if she has not married. You can sponsor a son only if he is under 25 years old.
Who’s Eligible To Get A Freelance Permit and Visa?
Who’s Eligible To Get A
Freelance Permit & Visa?
There are different permissible professions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
In accordance with the resolution there are 48 economic activities which can be practiced with a freelancer licence which were identified by ADDED. These include clothing, fashion design, calligraphy, natural and aesthetic flowers arrangement, event photography, photography studio, statistical consultations, videography, project design and management services, event management, drawing, gift packaging, web design, jewellery design, agricultural guidance, translation and marketing operations management.
Additionally, the licence covers consultation activities in the following areas: standardisation and quality management, computer hardware and software, information technology, real estate, economic feasibility studies, legal consultancy, technical installations, public relations, entertainment, pest control, architectural drawings, project development, administrative studies, procurement, human resources, green buildings, food safety, tourism, goods designs, heritage, maritime services and fine art.
Consultations related to handicrafts, marketing studies, lifestyle development, photocopying, parliamentary studies, gardening and landscaping, plastering, fitness, engraving, artworks, printing on textiles or clothes, sculpting, soap-making, decoration, printing services, banking and marketing services in the fields of energy, space and logistical consultations can all be practiced with the freelance license.
Freelancers in the emirate of Dubai can work in only certain industry sectors, including media, education, tech and design.
In media sector freelancers can choose no more than 3 activities. Dubai Media City issues the freelance license. The following activities are permissible:
Freelancers in education sector can choose only one position. Dubai Knowledge Park issues the freelance permit. The following activities are permissible:
Tech-sector freelancers can choose only one activity. Dubai Internet City issues the freelance license. The following activities are permissible:
Freelancers from the design sector in this sphere can choose only one position as well. The freelance license is issued by Dubai Design District. The following activities are permissible:
How to Get a Freelance Permit and Visa in The UAE?
How to Get a Freelance
UAE's Permit & Visa?
The process of obtaining a freelance visa in the UAE includes getting the freelance permit, the establishment card, the freelance employment visa and a residence visa.
Getting The Freelance Permit (License)
A freelance permit is issued in free zones. The TECOM Group and Dubai Creative Clusters Authority have together launched the GoFreelance initiative, where individuals can demonstrate their talent with the world in order to get exclusive job opportunities. They also can be able to participate in large-scale projects.
The procedure of obtaining the freelance permit includes the following steps:
Documents for A Freelance License
The following documents are necessary for the application of a freelance permit:
Note: Those who apply for a freelance permit in the education sector must provide proof of academic qualifications certified either by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the UAE Consulate in their country of origin. And those who apply for a freelance license in the media sector must provide a portfolio or sample of your work.
If you live in the country on the visa of your spouse or parent, then it is necessary to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor. If you are a full-time working professional, you need to obtain a permit and a Certificate of No Objection (NOC) from your employer in order to start freelancing in the UAE.
Getting The Establishment Card
After receiving the freelance license, you will be able to enter TECOM’s business service platform - AXS. Government corporate services are available on this platform. And here you can apply for the establishment card. The cost of the card constitutes AED 2,000 (USD 544) and is obligatory to renew it every year. A freelance permit and a UAE mobile number are necessary in order to apply for the establishment card.
Getting A Freelance Employment Visa
You can apply for a freelance employment visa after receiving an establishment card. The cost of this visa is AED 5,000 (USD 1,361). The necessary documents needed for this include an original passport, establishment card, passport photo, valid medical insurance and your visa (if applicable). The freelance employment visa must be renewed every 3 years.
Completion of Residency Visa Process
After the submission of your freelance visa application, you will receive an entry permit after 5-7 working days. The entry permit is valid for 60 days from the issue date. Freelancers have to complete several residency visa procedures in the emirate of Dubai, including a medical examination. After the completion of these procedures, the residency visa will be stamped and you will be able to live and work as a freelancer in the UAE. This visa is valid for 3 years from the date of issue.
The cost of the residence visa if you are applying from outside the UAE will be:
The cost of the residence visa if you are applying from within the UAE will be:
Benefits of Having A Freelance Visa in The UAE
Benefits of Having A
Freelance UAE's Visa
Having a freelance license and visa in the UAE has several advantages, as you can work for multiple companies with flexible schedules, so you can avoid the typical 9-to-5 working hours. No office space is required for freelance work.
You will also be able to work as an independent contractor for companies across the whole country. The business centre of the chosen free zone in Dubai will be available for you. Moreover, a freelance visa in the UAE allows you to sponsor family members, however freelancers will not be able to sponsor their employees.
In addition, the majority of the UAE population are active internet users and high-speed internet is available throughout the country, which is only a plus for freelancing in the UAE.
Comparison of The UAE Freelance Visa with Others Countries from Antigua, Barbuda and The Republic of Malta
Comparison of UAE Freelance Visa with Others from Antigua, Barbuda and Malta
It is actually very easy to get a freelance visa in the emirate of Dubai, where the applicant only needs to provide a small number of documents and pay a couple of fees. You can apply for a work permit and obtain a visa all online and a freelance visa in the UAE is granted for 3 years with the possibility of extension. The advantages of obtaining a freelance visa in the UAE also include a tax-free regime, a favorable investment climate and reliable banking.
Visas for freelancers also exist in countries such as Malta or Antigua and Barbuda. A Nomad Residence Permit in Malta, unlike the United Arab Emirates, is issued only for 1 year with the possibility of extension, and in Antigua and Barbuda - for 2 years, which is also less than the validity period of a freelance visa in the UAE.
Another significant difference is that freelancers in the UAE can work with any company within the territory of the country. In Malta and Antigua and Barbuda, freelancers can only work with companies located outside the states. Moreover, to obtain a freelance visa in Malta, the applicant has to provide a large number of documents and go through a difficult application approval process. For example, a gross monthly income threshold of an applicant in Malta constitutes EUR 2,700 (AED 11,350, USD 3,100). In the UAE, the government does not set a minimum financial threshold for those who want to apply for a freelance visa, so you can earn as much or as little as you like.
How Much Tax Will I Pay While Living & Working As A Freelancer in Dubai?
Residents of Dubai, as well as other emirates of the UAE, are exempt from income taxes. The only tax that will need to be paid is 5% VAT, but only if your income from activities in the UAE exceeds AED 375,000 (USD 102,100) per year.
What Is The Minimum Financial Threshold for Obtaining A Freelance Permit and Visa in The UAE?
There is no minimum financial threshold for obtaining a freelance visa. For a comfortable stay in the country, the minimum amount of recommended monthly earnings constitutes no less than AED 15,000 (USD 4,100).
Does A Freelancer in The UAE Have to Provide Financial Reports at The End of The Year?
In the UAE, a freelancer is not required to provide financial reports at the end of the year. The main thing is to renew the freelance permit in the country on time.
What Are The Most Popular Freelance Professions in The UAE?
Some of the most popular freelance professions in the UAE are: