Getting a Freelance Visa in Dubai
So, does the freelance lifestyle sound like a perfect fit for you? Then a freelance visa is your next step! Obtaining a freelance visa in Dubai allows you to conduct business in the UAE and legally provide professional services to clients. Many UAE Free Zones issue freelancer licences, including:
- Dubai Internet City
- Dubai Media City
- Ajman Free Zone
- Dubai Knowledge Park
- Fujairah Creative City Free Zone
- Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone.
Freelance licences are available at affordable rates, which allow you to work across a wide array of business activities. Some of these industries include consultancy, events management, education, film production, new media and entertainment.
A freelance visa in Dubai can be registered under three sectors:
- Media (Dubai Media City),
- Tech (Dubai Internet City), and
- Education (Dubai Knowledge Park).
How much does a Freelance Visa cost?
Freelance licence packages start from AED 7,500 per year, however this cost will vary depending on the free zone in which you register. Keep in mind, there may be additional costs that apply if a freelance visa is required under the Dubai Development Authority. This permit is valid for three (3) years, is eligible for renewal every three (3) years and includes an immigration card and insurance.
If you’re sponsored by a parent or a spouse, you do not need to cancel your residence Visa. The total price for a freelance permit varies from AED 10,000 to AED 20,000, depending on several factors. This price range depends on whether a 1-year or 3-year visa is needed. Furthermore, if you need a UAE residence visa or an operational permit to work legally as a sole practitioner in the UAE, these factors can also increase the total cost.
Getting your Freelance visa in Dubai
To obtain a freelance visa, the following documents are required:
- An updated application form
- Passport copy
- Passport-size photo
- An updated curriculum vitae (CV)
- Academic certificates attested by the UAE Consulate or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Two professional references (with contact details)
- Work offer or a letter of intent (detailing your personal/professional background and work experience)
- No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor (if required)
The concerned free zone authority will review your application and supporting documents.
Why become a freelancer?
For thousands of people it’s a long-held dream – throw off the shackles of your nine-to-five and become your own boss as a freelancer. With the UAE’s work environment changing, more and more people are attracted to working for themselves. Now that freelance visas in Dubai are more accessible and affordable, this dream could soon become a reality for many entrepreneurs. Quoting a report from Algorithm Research, Dubai remains the focal point of freelancing in the UAE, hosting more than 65% of freelancers in the region.
Most freelancers work in the fields of graphic design, social media, health and fitness, architecture, websites and software development. Men represent 62% and women account for 38% of the UAE’s freelance workforce. The majority of freelancers are aged between 21 and 30 years old.
Advantages of Freelancing
From location freedom to optimal work satisfaction, there’s many advantages to becoming a freelancer in the UAE. Some of these include:
- Having better work flexibility
- The freedom to explore as many income opportunities as you can
- The right to choose the projects you want to work on
With these advantages, it’s easy to see why many professionals in the UAE are considering getting a freelance visa in Dubai.
Protect yourself from illegal freelancer visa solutions
You might have seen online advertisements from certain companies offering a “freelancer visa” or opportunities to make “easy money” without leaving your home. These companies promote easy freelancer Visa packages on company websites, social media platforms and target aspiring freelancers.
Be cautious when considering freelancing opportunities online or offline. Avoid becoming a victim of freelancer scams and watch out for these warning signs:
- Visa shops promising work or permanent residency in the UAE in exchange for a payment. This is not legal.
- Operators who encourage you to lie, omit or fabricate information in your application.
- Visa shops that require you to buy and sell their products with the promise that you will earn money fast and easy.
- Online freelance platforms that try to gain access to your personal email and social accounts.
Tips for Protecting Yourself from Visa Scams
Aside from being cautious, there are other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself from potential freelance visa scams. Here’s a few tips to ensure you’re choosing the right freelance opportunities as an business owner in the UAE:
- Do your research and make sure that the job offer is legitimate and worth pursuing. A good place to start is by searching the company’s name on the National Economic Register (NER) website to confirm their details and legitimacy.
- Any contractual agreement between the freelancer and the company needs to have valid information, business details and terms that satisfy both parties while contributing to their respective interests.
- Business contracts can be tricky, especially when you are working as a freelancer. Be meticulous with every project agreement and transaction, ensuring all details, especially payment terms, are crystal clear.
- When confronted with a scammer, cut off the contact and report the scam to the State Audit Institution. You can report fraudulent activities via their website.
Setting up your Freelance Business
Freelancing means working for yourself as an independent contractor. It’s completely legal in the UAE as long as you hold the necessary licence. This means you’ll be working as a sole practitioner and conducting business in your own name. You will need to obtain a freelance permit rather than a trade license. This article explains the difference. This is slightly different to establishing a startup company. It’s common for entrepreneurs to start out freelancing and upgrade to a company setup once they grow to a certain size.
It goes without saying that you need the right skills, drive and business savvy to make a success of your plan. Freelancing can be stressful and lonely at the start, and it isn’t for everyone. Just remember, you’re not alone. Deciding to get a freelance visa in Dubai is supported by the UAE government, because they’ve taken an active approach to help entrepreneurs succeed in the UAE.
Starting a viable business in the UAE is supported by the government, including:
- business support forums and accelerators for startups and solo-entrepreneurs
- positive encouragement for businesses that want to use freelance services
The entrepreneur visa has been a great boost for freelancing in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Emirates. Because of this, more and more free zones are starting to offer freelance permits.
Apply Directly to the Relevant Free Zone
Save time, effort and stress by applying directly to the free zone which will then take care of your business licence and registration for you. This puts entrepreneurs in contact with great networking opportunities, benefits and resources to support their business. Most freelance visa packages allow freelancers to establish themselves in the free zone. You can either rent an office space or use a flexi-desk, surrounded by other businesses who themselves might need your freelancer skills and services.
Business registration and visa applications come at a cost, so you’ll need a financial buffer until you’re up and running.
The cost of living in the UAE – particularly Dubai – is famously high, so you’ll want to be confident your freelance business can support you in the long run.
However, provided you have a good plan, you’ve researched your potential clients and you’re armed with the right skills and market knowledge, you’ve got every chance of making a success of your business.
Obtaining a Freelance Visa in Dubai and starting your journey
- Quick, easy setup: You can apply for your freelance visa in Dubai in two ways: either direct to the Department of Economic Development (DED), or from one of the country’s numerous free zones. While neither route is especially difficult, the free zone option is probably easier, and comes with other benefits such as 0% corporate and personal tax and 100% repatriation of profits. The application process is simple: your company name is simply your own name, and your licence is usually issued in 7-10 days.
- Wide variety: One of the most enticing things about freelancing in the UAE is the wide range of fields in which you are allowed to operate. Freelance permits are issued for almost all DED-listed business activities, but if you wish to obtain a freelance permit from a free zone, your business activity must be related to the free zone’s area of focus. For instance if you want to set up in Dubai Media City Free Zone, you need to be working in the media or a related industry.
- No need for office space: Freelancing gives you total freedom so you don’t need to be locked into either a mainland or free zone location. Not only can you be your own boss and choose when you work and for whom, but you don’t need to be tied to an office. You can work from home if you wish, or rent a desk or office facilities from one of the free zones.
- No NOC required from local sponsor: Another factor behind the growing popularity of freelancing in the Emirates is that it’s possible to do so without obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from a local sponsor. The majority of free zones don’t require an NOC, whether you’ve just arrived in the UAE or have been here for some time.
- Sponsorship of dependants: Freelancing may not always be a steady job but that doesn’t mean you can’t have family with you. Once your own visa is secure, providing you meet the salary requirements, you’ll be able to sponsor family members too (or employees if you’re setting up a company). In general, though, it’s easier for a man to sponsor dependants than for a woman, unless she’s working in certain defined professions (such as the medical sector) in addition to the minimum salary restrictions.
- No auditing or book-keeping: Few of us like paperwork, especially if we have to do it all ourselves. Fortunately, freelancers in the UAE are not always required to submit official accounts or be subject to an audit – the ideal setup for the busy entrepreneur.
- Corporate bank account: It’s not just the licence and visa applications which are straightforward: getting your corporate bank account organised is also a breeze. The UAE is home to plenty of large, reputable financial institutions – both local banks and global names – that readily welcome freelancers. Plus, if you set up in a free zone, you’ll often be put in touch with the most relevant bank to your needs as part of the standard setup service.
- Upgrading to full company setup: There are some who never want to give up freelancing, and will only ever take on as much work as they can manage themselves. Others see freelancing as the first step on the ladder to expanding their business and setting up a company. The good news is that it is easy to upgrade your freelance business licence to a company licence. And there are many benefits to upgrading, including the fact that you can apply for multiple visas. Also, many free zones allow you to set up a company without the need for upfront share capital.
Get your freelance visa with Virtuzone
To obtain the correct and legitimate freelancer visa in the UAE, it is crucial to work with a trusted and credible company. As the leading Dubai company formation specialists in the country, Virtuzone offers a suite of visa solutions and value-added business support services to freelancers. Our consultants will assist you in obtaining the most suitable freelancer visa and will handle the entire process on your behalf. Contact us today to know more about our freelance visa solutions.