FreelancersFreelancing

How to get a freelance visa in the UAE

10 Mins read

There has been a significant shift in careers by many people over the last couple of years. More and more people are embracing the freelancing culture as it offers them more freedom. For starters, you get to choose a lot regarding how you operate your businesses. You get to become your own boss as you decide what type of clients you want to work with, how your working day looks, what kind of projects you get to work on, etc.

Furthermore, you also have the chance to work from anywhere in the world, without being confined to traditional work environments. But as more people continue embracing this financial freedom, it would be prudent to understand that there are various set regulations for different parts of the world regarding the operations as a freelancer.

Although this is mostly an online transaction, you still have to conform to the local laws. For instance, to become a freelancer in the UAE, you may be forced to get a freelance visa. To work in Dubai or the UAE, in general, you need a residence visa and a freelance work permit.

Getting this will enable you to work smoothly without any issues with the state. If you wish to keep things with your business on the low, getting a freelancer permit will do.

However, a time will come when you need to upgrade to a trade license, which becomes easier once you already have the freelance permit.

This article will take you through the various types of freelancer visas in the UAE and how you can get them.

What is a freelance visa in Dubai?

 A freelance permit in Dubai is a license that allows one to work as an independent contractor, a freelancer, or a sole practitioner. Such a permit is necessary, as it will enable you to establish yourself as an ‘individual,’ having opened a business under your own name, and not as a startup company.

In most cases, the permits are provided under the TECOM Group, and you have the chance to renew it annually. In many parts of the UAE, a freelancer permit is required by those who are on their spouse’s or parents’ visa and only need a license to work as a freelancer.

However, those that do not have a freelance visa can also apply to get it. This is basically a residency permit that allows one to live and work in the UAE. Unfortunately, there is a caveat to this as you can only get a freelance visa in the UAE if you work in a government-approved field and that the activities you do are in line with those fields.

Who can apply for a freelance license in the UAE?

Unlike in other parts of the world, a freelancing license is only given to those that work in the media, education, and tech (IT) sectors. Here’s a list of top professions from the three categories of work that are eligible to apply for a freelancing permit in the UAE.

  • Those who work in the film and media industry, such as actors, editors, producers, technicians, makeup artists, screenwriters, etc.
  • Journalism
  • Photography
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Customer Service
  • E-Learning, Guest Lecturing, Education Advisor.
  • Web design and development
  • Branding
  • Graphics Designing
  • Copywriting
  • Guest blogging and content writing
  • Mobile App Development
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Computer-Aided Design, 3D Modelling
  • Language Translation and Interpretation
  • Legal Services

Also, note the different places that you can easily get these permits. For instance, in Dubai, you can only get a permit if you’re working in the tech sector from Dubai Internet City. The Dubai Knowledge Park will get you a permit in the education sector, while those in the media sector can get their licenses from Dubai Media City.

Top benefits of a freelance visa in the UAE

Besides viewing it from a legal perspective, meaning you are more likely to have a better experience dealing with legal matters, there are many other benefits of getting a freelance visa in the UAE. Some of them include:

  1. Government support – this is a government program, and you get many benefits such as having a cost-effective license issued freely at some zones, all thanks to the increasing freelancing trend.
  2. Legal standing – whenever you get a freelance permit, you will gain more credibility from your clients and also have legal support for your job identity.
  3. Flexibility – freelancing is probably the most flexible type of job available in the market. Working as an independent contractor allows you to have multiple clients across the region or anywhere else. You will also have the freedom to work from anywhere within the United Arab Emirates.
  4. Lower setup costs – for starters, you don’t need an office space to pay when you are a freelancer. You can easily work from home or in a shared working space; hence the setup costs become lower. The licenses are also quite affordable, meaning you can even offer your services at a lower price while still making ends meet. 
  5. Market test – as previously mentioned, many people like to take a freelance visa first before they upgrade to a trade license. Other people would prefer to test the market first before they invest by setting up a company, which would ultimately have higher costs. The freelance permit allows them to test the waters and see what’s available to them before taking big steps to invest in a loss-making industry.

There are other reasons that come into play. For instance, one becomes self-sufficient when working independently. Once you are your own boss, it becomes easier to build your own brand. It is also much simpler to balance your day, allocating just enough time for both work and other activities such as hanging out with loved ones, entertainment, self-development, etc.

How to apply for a freelance permit in Dubai

Unlike a couple of years back, applying for a freelance permit and visa in Dubai has now been made a simple process. Before you get the freelance visa, you’ll first have to apply for a freelance permit or license that would get you registered as a freelancer in the Emirate.

Depending on the field you wish to take, you can apply in the three sectors: Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, and Dubai Knowledge Park). For those in the tech and education sectors, you can choose one activity that you’ll be taking part in.

Those applying for Media can pick up to three activities. For instance, you can choose to become a freelance photographer in Dubai, a freelance graphic designer, and an animator. You’ll be legally allowed to work in all these fields, as long as you get the right permit.

Today, thanks to the GoFreelance permits, you do not need to wait long hours in queues to make an application. Instead, you can do it online by logging on to https://gofreelance.ae/.

Once you’re logged in, click on the Freelance option.

While at it, you should have with you a couple of documents needed to make your application go through. Some of the required documents are:

  • Application Form
  • Resume/CV
  • Passport/Visa Copy
  • Bank Reference Letter
  • No Objection Certificate from UAE Sponsor
  • Portfolio or Sample of Work (for the media sector only)
  • Credentials and Certificates (for the education sector only) may have to be certified by the ministry of foreign affairs or the UAE consulate from the country of origin.

These might not be the only required documents, so it would be prudent to be ready with any other important files during the application process. Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll get an email confirmation once it has been approved. This phase often takes anywhere between 10 and 15 days.

Thereafter, you’ll be required to head to the respective business center and personally sign the documents and pay the fees. You’ll then receive the freelance permit in your email.

In most cases, the required freelance package fee is Dh 7,500.

No Objection Certification

No Objection letter is a letter that declares that your sponsor in Dubai is fine with you obtaining a license to practice Freelance jobs. If you’re in Dubai on either your parent’s or spouse’s visa, you’ll need to avail a No Objection Certificate when applying for the permit.

Likewise, you’ll also need to get one if you’re working already and your company sponsors your visa. Remember that it wouldn’t be mandatory for you to avail the NOC document when renewing your freelance work permit in Dubai, as it is a one-time-only requirement.

A freelance visa in Dubai

Soon after getting your freelance permit in Dubai, you will get access to TECOM’s business service platform. The platform, known as the AXS, was launched together with the DDA (Dubai Development Authority). Having access to this platform allows you to get numerous government services much easier.

Through the same platform, you can also apply to get an establishment card. This will help you look for a freelance employment visa under the Dubai Development Authority (DDA). Although getting this card comes at an additional cost, it is usually valid for up to three years.

Residency visa in Dubai

When you wish to work as a freelancer in Dubai, you may have to get a residency visa first. Luckily, you’ll get an entry permit within 5 to 7 working days after submitting your freelance visa application.

The entry permit is valid for three months since the time it was issued, and you’ll be required to undergo further visa procedures such as a medical test. Once you’ve gone through all the required steps, your residency visa gets stamped and will be valid for three years from the time you were issued with it.

The cost of a freelance visa in Dubai

You’ll come across three different costs depending on the permit you want. There are different price tags for a freelance permit, establishment card, and freelance visa.

Here’s an approximate breakdown of the costs that you may incur:

  • A freelance permit in Dubai valid for a year – AED 7,500
  • An establishment card valid for one year – AED 2,000

A freelance employment visa in Dubai is valid for three years and is usually categorized into two:

  • Normal visa costs AED 4,960
  • Express visa costs AED 6,340

Applying for the same permit outside the UAE would cost a little cheaper. The approximate pricing would be AED 3,300 for the Normal visa and AED 3,900.

These costs for a freelance employment visa include the charges required for an Emirate ID, visa stamping, and a medical test.

How to apply for a freelance permit in Abu Dhabi

The process for applying for a freelance permit in Abu Dhabi isn’t much different from the process in Dubai. The steps are simple, and you can get a freelance permit from twofour54 in Abu Dhabi by:

The first thing you need to do is by logging on to their website at https://www.twofour54.com/en/business-setup/how-to-set-up-a-business/freelance.

For the online application to go through, you’ll need to have a number of documents with you, such as:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A recent passport-size photo
  • An updated CV or resume
  • At least two professional referees together with their contact details
  • Work offer letter

The free zone authority will review your application, and you are likely to receive feedback from them within three working days. Once your application goes through, a meeting will be initiated to complete the licensing and residency process. You need to append your signature on the documents before you make the payment and return them.

If you’re applying for the freelance permit in the Media zone, you may only need to pay for your health insurance and the visa registration process. This is because the Media Zone Authority has waived all licenses and application fees for the first two years.

You get issued with a sole proprietor’s business license and an employment visa valid for two years, which can thereafter get converted into a residence visa. Apart from such perks, you also get assistance in looking for housing, finding medical cover, applying for an Emirates ID, and many more. Once you receive your visa, you can check the visa status online without any hassles.

How to get a freelance permit in Ras Al Khaimah

A freelance visa here is available from the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone or the RAKEZ authority. Freelancer permits start from Dh 6,100 but include various benefits such as access to a modern business center, a UAE residence visa, and a range of other support services, making RAKEZ one of the best freelance visas in the UAE.

People from different fields, more so in the media, can apply for a freelance permit from RAKEZ. Some of the ideal candidates are:

  • Actors
  • Editors
  • Film developers
  • Event managers
  • Journalists
  • Photographers
  • News editors
  • Musicians
  • Social media influencers

To access the full list of those that can apply for a freelance permit in the UAE, you can log on to https://rakez.com.

The application process is no different from the rest, but the requirements are pretty straightforward.

The first step is to submit your supporting documents such as:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A No Objection Certificate from your sponsor
  • A valid UAE residence visa copy
  • Qualification certificates or a portfolio showing your sample works

The next step would be to make the payment either by cash or by cheque addressed to Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone and submitted at any RAKEZ offices. Online payments and bank transfers are also accepted.

Soon after making the payment, you will receive your freelancer permit.

Conclusion

Getting a freelancer permit in the UAE opens up many opportunities as this is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Even if you’ve never tried out freelancing before, you can always test the waters by first going through some of the best freelance courses.

Once you have a freelance visa in Dubai, you are legally permitted to live and work in any part of the Emirate. There are also other perks, such as having your family around to enjoy life in the region.

Along with the technical aspects of finding a freelance visa, you also need to embrace and understand the aptitude for being a freelancer. You ought to have the necessary skills such as self-motivation & discipline, the comfort of working alone, being proactive in networking, etc.

From this post, you can easily tell that it is quite simple to apply for a freelance visa in this part of the world. However, you also need to have some financial backing when you do so. This is because freelancing makes you the sole proprietor of your business, meaning you’re the one in charge of networking and building a strong resume, even if it means not having made any significant profit for the first couple of months.

Finally, do not fret if you’re new to the market and still searching for freelance jobs. You’re in luck as there are hundreds of opportunities to grab with the right skill set as you join other freelancers in Dubai in this thriving gig economy.

Frequently Asked Questions on freelancer visa in the UAE

Q: What is the meaning of a freelance visa?
A:
This is some sort of residence permit in the UAE that permits you to live and work in the country. The visa also allows you to bring your family members into the country.

Q: Is freelancing allowed in the UAE?
A:
Freelancing is a recognized type of business in the UAE and is permitted in most free zones. To work as a freelancer in the UAE, you need to get the appropriate licenses.

Q: How can I start a freelance business in Dubai?
A:
To start a freelance business in Dubai, you need to get a visa, choose the field you wish to work in, pick a jurisdiction (one of the free zones or mainland), avail some documents during the permit application process, pay for the permit, and thereafter get a license. You’ll be legally allowed to start your freelance business in Dubai.

Q: How can I get a freelance visa in Dubai?
A:
To get a freelance visa, you first need to get a freelance permit. You can get the residence permit or visa after receiving the permit.

Q: Can I get visas for my family when I have a freelance visa?
A:
Yes. You can sponsor your wife and children to get a visa when you have a freelance permit and residence visa.

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