Getting a Freelance Visa in Dubai
Obtaining a freelance visa in Dubai allows you to operate in your personal capacity in the UAE and legally provide professional services to clients. Many UAE Free Zones issue freelancer licences, such as
- Dubai Internet City
- Dubai Knowledge Park
- Dubai Media City
- Ajman Free Zone
- Fujairah Creative City Free Zone
- Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone.
Freelance licences are available at affordable rates, allowing you to work across a wide array of business activities, ranging from consultancy, events management, and education, to film production, new media and entertainment. A freelance visas 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?
The cost of a freelance visa or licence depends on the free zone where you will register. Freelance licence packages start from AED 7,500 per year. However, additional costs may apply if you need a freelancer visa under the Dubai Development Authority. This is valid for three years and is renewable every three years, including an immigration card and insurance. If you are 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 and depends on factors such as whether you need a 1-year or 3-year visa and whether you need a UAE residence visa or an operational permit to work legally as a sole practitioner in the UAE.
Getting your Freelance visa in Dubai
To obtain a freelancer visa, you need to submit the following documents:
- Updated application form
- Passport copy
- Passport-size photo
- 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, documents and references.
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 leaning towards working for themselves now that a freelance visa in Dubai is more accessible and affordable for everyone. 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, and a majority of them are in the age bracket between 21 and 30 years old. Freelancing offers a wide range of advantages, including:
- 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 choosing to work as freelancers.
Protect yourself from illegal freelancer visa solutions
You might have seen online advertisements from some 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 other places where most aspiring freelancers look for opportunities. Be cautious when considering freelancing opportunities online or offline. Avoid becoming a victim of freelancer scams by watching out for these warning signs:
- Visa shops promising work or permanent residency in the UAE in exchange for a payment. This is not legal.
- Visa 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.
Aside from being cautious, there are other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself while looking for freelance opportunities and make sure you don’t get the short end of the stick in any project or agreement.
- A good rule of thumb when working with a freelance platform is to do some research and make sure that the job you are being offered is legitimate and worth pursuing. You can search the company’s name on the National Economic Register (NER) website and get their details.
- 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 and ensure 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.
Freelance Business Setup
Freelancing means working for yourself, as an independent contractor, and is completely legal in the UAE as long as you hold the necessary licence. You’re establishing yourself as a one-person company, working as an individual but doing 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 get established. It goes without saying that you need the right skills, passion, drive and business savvy to make a success of your plan. Freelancing can be stressful and lonely at the start, and isn’t for everyone. You need a strong idea and the determination to start getting clients on board and reeling in business. You aren’t alone though. Your decision to go it alone is actively supported by the UAE government, which has taken a number of steps to make setting up alone a viable choice for entrepreneurs in the country. These include:
- business support forums and accelerators for startups and solo-entrepreneurs
- positive encouragement for businesses that want to use freelance services.
A big step was the introduction in 2014 of the entrepreneur visa, which is available whether you’re offering your own services or establishing a new company. Before this, visa restrictions required foreign nationals to provide a definite offer of employment before entering the country to work. This is something many freelancers can’t do, either because they don’t yet have a pipeline of client work, or for other reasons such as their expat tax status. So, the entrepreneur visa has been a great boost for freelancing in the Emirates. And more and more free zones are starting to offer freelance permits. This not only cuts down on admin – you can apply directly to the free zone which will then take care of your business licence and registration for you – but also gives the budding freelancer access to great networking opportunities and other benefits. Most freelance permit packages allow freelancers to base themselves in the free zone, either renting office space or using a flexi-desk, surrounded by other businesses who themselves might need the freelancer’s 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. But provided you have a good plan, you’ve researched your potential clients and you’re armed with the right skills and market knowledge – and provided you don’t overstretch yourself in the early stages – you’ve got every chance of making a success of it.
What you need to know in advance
- 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.