How To Freelance In The UAE As A Non- Citizen Or Resident : Requirements And Procedures 

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The United Arab Emirates is among the top industrialized regions globally. It remains the most preferred trade destination in the Middle East by extension around the world. To become a freelancer in the UAE is not a preserve for the citizens. In every leading industrial capital around the globe today, skilled labor is a vital component for production. There is no industrial center that can attest that ultimately it has the best-qualified personnel and does not require any additional or complementary labor. With the rate at which the Emirates has developed and continues to thrive, there is a big market for seasoned experts in various fields to provide the necessary skill set, which will enable the economic transition and conform with the world’s leading economies. Therefore, a window of opportunity opens up to freelancers from around the world.

The UAE is on the verge of industrial evolution and is seeking to digitize all sectors of the economy. Several projects are on course to completion, as many more initiatives are underway. Multibillion constructions, operations in the telecommunications industry, information, communication, and technology sector are just a few to mention. Therefore, making the market ripe for professionals and experts from various fields who can help steer the projects successfully while working as freelancers. Apart from the flexible working schedule, a freelancer can build a reputation and set up a company in the UAE. 

Below are things to acquire that will enable you to do a freelance job in the United Arab Emirates.

Freelancing In The UAE; Requirements For Non-residents  

Freelancing is a practice widely acceptable in the UAE. Foreigners and non-residents can fully engage. There are many great opportunities in the offing besides numerous benefits and freedom associated with freelancers. However, there are things to guide you into becoming a freelancer that you need to follow before being fully integrated into the system as a freelancer. Read below on what is necessary to factor before joining the freelancing world based in the UAE and gain more insights. 

Obtain A Permit

Freelancing has become exceedingly common, and licenses can now be obtained from various free zones or through the Department of Economic Development (DED). The permits allow experts to offer specialized skills based on their fields of expertise as consultants, even if they hold full-time jobs. When applying for a license as a freelancer in the UAE under the free zone, consider:


  • updated resume
  • Visa (in the case is available)
  • certificates and credentials
  • Reference letter from the bank (can be a local or international bank)
  • Passport
  • Non-Objection certificate of sponsor or employer (applies to those work permits and residency visa)
  • Portfolio (either online or in PDF – for media-related activities)
  • Recommendation letter by the current or former employer (applies to those work permits and residency visa)
  • A business plan
  • Any other additional documentation is required depending on the free zone.


  1. Choose a free zone where you work. It is essential that when choosing a territory, confirm with a local freelance business consultant to ascertain if indeed there are freelancers permitted to work within the area. Not all free zones issue freelance permits.
  2. Submit an application to the relevant free zone authority for approval. Append passport, letter of recommendation or reference, and a business plan.
  3. Upon approval, you will receive a confirmation letter from the authority. Sign the letter and resubmit along with the rest of the documents above for final approval.
  4. Make all necessary payments as required—for example, freelance permit fee, sponsorship fee, employee visa, etc.
  5. Sign the free zone sponsorship agreement and collect your permit.

However, when applying for a permit under the Department of Economic Development, you should consider the below.

DED is a government entity mandated with issuing licenses to corporates or individuals seeking to trade in the mainland outside the free zones. It offers permits in three broad categories namely;

  • Professional license – given to people who provide professional services, create crafts, and other artisanal works
  • Industrial permit – applied by entities seeking to be engaged in industrial activities or manufacturing
  • Commercial license – given to entities that will be involved in trading of any sort.

To apply for a permit under the DED, consider the requirements and procedure below.


  • updated resume
  • Visa (in the case is available)
  • certificates and credentials
  • Reference letter from the bank (can be a local or international bank)
  • Passport
  • Non-Objection certificate of sponsor or employer (applies to those work permits and residency visa)
  • Local Service Agent Agreement (LSA)
  • Recommendation letter by the current or former employer (applies to those work permits and residency visa)
  • A business plan
  • portfolio of your work


  1. Select your preferred business activity. Choose which category based on the above that it is represented.
  2. Choose a legal form of the business based on the activities and setup requirements. A legal way can either be a sole proprietorship, partnership, civil company, etc.
  3. Acquire a trading name by choosing a suitable name and paying the necessary fee.
  4. Apply for an initial approval certificate.
  5. Sign a Local Service Agent (LSA) / Corporate Agent agreement with a UAE national who will represent your business with regard to licensing and compliance.
  6. Establish your business location by acquiring a physical address for it.
  7. Get licensing approvals. Check if your activities require approvals by any government body.
  8. Collect your business permit after paying all the required fees.

Visa Requirements

Visa is a necessity for any foreigner working and living in the UAE. Many people have been visiting the region for business and leisure. As a result, more space for expression has opened up, and visitors can do things they couldn’t do more than a decade ago. For a freelancer to get a visa is either through the licensing agent or by sponsorship. A sponsor can either be a spouse or an employer. However, if you choose to rely on the sponsor, then you must obtain their no-objection certificate (NOC), allowing you to operate under their sponsorship. Below are the requirements and the visa application process.


  • CV/Resume
  • Passport 
  • Bank’s reference letter
  • Sponsor’s NOC (If you are currently living or working in the UAE)
  • Portfolio or Sample of Work (applies to media sector)
  • Credentials and Certificates 

It’s important to note that visa applications can be directly online, or they can be through the authority issuing permit.

Costs and Timelines

Cost and timeline may vary depending on where and when a freelancer chooses to make an application. Generally, a permit may take between 7 to 14 days and a visa 14 to 21 days. The costs largely depend on the authority issuing the documents. Other costs to put into account are emirates ID, medical expenses, and establishment card. These costs are annual, so it is necessary to consider when budgeting.

Office Space

Most licensing agents make it a requirement for a freelancer in the UAE to have office space within their jurisdiction. As a result, some are offering packages that include the cost of renting an office. However, this requirement may vary from one agent to another. It is advisable to read and understand what the agents offer before making a final decision. It is also important to note that if your license is under a particular free zone, then you must operate within the confines of that zone. But if you have a Department of Economic Development License, then you can rent an office anywhere within the mainland without any restrictions. 


Being a freelancer in the UAE gives a lot of room for flexibility and growth. Given that you can work for more than one establishment. After gaining a reputation, then you can move on and register your company. However, when choosing the type of permit suitable for your job, bring into account the variety of activities you will be engaged to perform. If your engagements cover a broad market, then you can select a mainland license instead of being registered under a free zone. The significant difference while dealing in a free zone, is that your activities have been limited within a particular jurisdiction, unlike when on the mainland, where there is the freedom to do business anywhere within and beyond the UAE.

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