Freelance Visa in Dubai

Introducing

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

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:

The UAE Data Act, which acts as the first law at the federal level and was developed in partnership with major technology companies. Its purpose is to protect privacy by giving personal control over the storage and dissemination of all personal data with the ability to preserve the privacy of residents or institutions in the UAE
The “10×10” programme aims to increase UAE exports by 10% year-on-year in 10 global markets, including the United Kingdom, China, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Indonesia and Poland
Launch of the investment portal invest.ae. The portal will contain information on the local investment environment and on the creation of bank and business accounts
Launch of the investment portal invest.ae. The portal will contain information on the local investment environment and on the creation of bank and business accounts
PyCon Summit. In 2022, the UAE will host the largest programming summit ever, aimed at bringing together the private and public programming sectors
The launch of the Green Visa, which will become available to highly qualified individuals, investors/entrepreneurs, and new students. This visa will allow them to work in the UAE without corporate sponsorship and to support their relatives and/or children under the age of 25 (from 18 to present). Residents will also receive a grace period of 90 to 180 days in the country after it is revoked upon retirement. Currently, that period is only 30 days

What Is A Freelance Permit (License) and 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?

There are different permissible professions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Abu Dhabi

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.
Dubai

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:

Actor
Animator
Aerial Shoot Photographer
Audio/Sound Engineer
Artist
Brand Consultant
Cameraman
Commentators: Radio, Events, Sports
Choreographer
Composer
Television
Content Provider
Creative Director
Copywriter
Director: Music, Film, Television, Theatre
Critics: Music, Film, Theatre
Editor: Audio, Video
Editor: Publishing
Furniture Designer
Events Planner
Illustrator
Graphic Designer
Lighting Specialist
Journalist
Marketing Specialist
Market Analyst
Music Director
Media Planner
New Media Specialist
Musician
Photojournalist
Photographer
Presenter: TV, Radio
PR Specialist
Producer
Print Media Specialist
Scriptwriters
Social Media Specialist
Set and Exhibit Designer
Special Effects Producer
Social Media Influencer
Wardrobe Stylist
Translator
Web Designer
Web Developer
Writer

Freelancers in education sector can choose only one position. Dubai Knowledge Park issues the freelance permit. The following activities are permissible:

Executive Coaching
Researcher
Education Advisor
eLearning Advisor
Trainer

Tech-sector freelancers can choose only one activity. Dubai Internet City issues the freelance license. The following activities are permissible:

Web, Mobile, Software Development and Architecture Freelancer
Data Science and Analytics Freelancer
IT and Telecommunication Networking Freelancer
Customer Service Freelancer

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:

Concept Designer
Apparel Designer
Costume Designer
Fashion Designer
Fashion Artist
Fashion Stylist
Hair Stylist
Image Consultant
Interior Designer
Make-Up Artist
Jewellery Designer
Personal Shopper
Object Designer
Textile Designer
Wedding Planner
Visual Merchandiser

How to Get a Freelance Permit and Visa in The UAE?

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:

Fill out an application form and submit your application through the GoFreelance website in order to join the freelance community. It is necessary to attach copies of your passport and visa (if you have one) in PDF format
Receive email approval. It may take 5-7 days
Visit the business center in Dubai Internet City, Dubai Knowledge Park or Dubai Media City and show your original passport and sign the required documents. Then complete the payment for your freelance license. It will cost AED 7,500 (USD 2,050) per annum
When a freelance permit is issued, you will receive authorization via email. The processing time is usually 10-15 working days

Documents for A Freelance License

The following documents are necessary for the application of a freelance permit:

Resume/CV
Recent photograph
Passport and visa copy (valid for at least 8 months)
Bank reference letter
NOC from your UAE sponsor

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:

Normal – AED 3,330 (USD 906)
Express – AED 3,900 (USD 1,062)

The cost of the residence visa if you are applying from within the UAE will be:

Normal – AED 4,960 (USD 1,350)
Express – AED 6,340 (USD 1,730)

Benefits of Having A Freelance Visa in The UAE

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

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.
FAQ’s
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:

Web development and design
E-learning and guest lecturing
Copywriting and guest blogging
Sales and Marketing
Graphic Design
Mobile App Development
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Branding
Computer-aided design and 3D modeling
Language Translation and Interpretation
Legal consultancy

Summary

UAE nationals, residents and non-residents can apply for freelance licenses in the country
Freelancers can work and cooperate with any company in the territory of the UAE
A freelance visa in the UAE is issued for 3 years with the possibility of extension
Holders of a freelance visa can sponsor their families, but not employees
Freelancers in the UAE can work in only certain sectors: media, education, tech and design
The process of obtaining a freelance visa in the country includes getting the freelance permit, the establishment card, the freelance employment visa and a residence visa
There is no legislated minimum income threshold in the UAE for obtaining a freelance visa. But in order to live here and feel as comfortable as possible, it is recommended to have an income of not less than AED 15,000 (USD 4,100) per month

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