Updated 27th November, 2023
Get A Freelance Visa Dubai
So, does the freelance lifestyle sound like a perfect fit for you? Then, getting a freelance visa in Dubai (and a freelance permit) 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.
Freelance visas are available at affordable rates, allowing you to work across various business activities. It is important to remember you will also require your UAE residency visa. Some of the industries you will be eligible to work in include consultancy, events management, education, film production, new media and entertainment.
First, one must secure a freelance permit or license from the relevant free zone authority, which varies depending on the chosen field of work.
This comprehensive guide aims to streamline the process, providing step-by-step instructions to navigate the application procedures, legal requirements, and information on which free zone you might want to set up your freelance visa.
How To Apply For a Freelance Visa in a Free Zone
- Choose Your Field: Decide on the field in which you wish to freelance, such as media, education, technology, or design.
- Apply for a Freelance Permit: This is the first crucial step. Apply for a freelance permit in your chosen field. The permit acts as a license to operate as a freelancer in the UAE. Various free zones offer these permits, such as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Ajman Free Zone, Dubai Knowledge Park, Fujairah Creative City Free Zone, Dubai Design District, and Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone.
- Gather Required Documents: Prepare necessary documents, including passport copy, your CV, bank reference letter, academic certificates attested by the UAE Consulate or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, credentials, portfolio of work (if applicable), two professional references (with contact details), and sponsor’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) if you are already a UAE resident.
- Submit Your Application: Apply for the freelance permit through the respective free zone authority or through the gofreelance.ae website, depending on your field.
- Receive Your Freelance Permit: Once approved, you will receive your freelance permit, allowing you to work legally as a freelancer in Dubai.
- Apply for a Freelance Visa: With your freelance permit, you can now apply for a freelance visa. This will enable you to reside in the UAE while working as a freelancer. The application usually requires your freelance permit/license, passport, medical insurance, UAE phone number, and passport-sized photos.
- Undergo Medical Tests: As part of the visa application process, you will need to undergo a medical fitness test and obtain health insurance.
- Visa Issuance: Once your application is approved and all fees are paid, your freelance visa will be issued, allowing you to live and work in the UAE.
- Visa Renewal: Keep in mind that freelance visas need to be renewed periodically. The renewal process and fees vary depending on your work area and the issuing authority.
UAE Free Zones
Many UAE Free Zones issue freelancer licences. To choose the right free zone for your industry, consider the following:
- Dubai Internet City: This is a technology park created to foster innovation in the IT sector. It serves as a regional headquarters for many global technology companies and is a hub for software development, business services, and IT support.
- Dubai Media City: Established to boost UAE’s media footprint, it houses global and regional media companies. It’s a thriving space for media production, advertising, communication, and media services.
- Ajman Free Zone: Known for its cost-effective setup solutions, it offers a range of facilities for businesses across sectors, including trading, services, and industrial.
- Dubai Knowledge Park: A dedicated zone for human resource management, professional learning, and educational excellence. It’s a hub for academic institutions, training centres, and HR companies.
- Fujairah Creative City Free Zone: Catering to the creative industries, it provides a platform for media, events, consulting, education, communication, and marketing professionals to flourish.
- Dubai Design District: Known as d3, this district is dedicated to the design and fashion industry. It is a creative ecosystem fostering emerging local talent and providing a home for international design, luxury, and fashion brands.
- Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone: Offering cost-effective business solutions, it caters to a wide range of sectors, including industrial, trading, and services. It’s known for its ease of doing business and diverse facilities.
The best part about joining a free zone is that they typically offer tax exemptions, including no personal income tax!
How To Apply For a Freelance Visa in Dubai Mainland
Applying for a freelance visa in Dubai’s mainland, outside of the free zones, involves a slightly different process. Here’s a general overview of how you can apply:
- Choose Your Business Activity: Identify the sector or field in which you wish to freelance. This could be in sectors such as media, education, technology, etc.
- Obtain a Freelance License: Unlike free zones, where the license is issued by the free zone authority, on the mainland, you need to obtain a freelance license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai. This involves submitting the necessary documents and fulfilling any specific requirements for your chosen sector.
- Apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC): If you’re already a UAE resident under a different visa category (like an employment visa), you’ll need to obtain a NOC from your current sponsor.
- Fulfil Legal Requirements: Ensure that you meet all the legal requirements, such as having a valid passport, qualifications for your freelance activity, and other necessary certifications.
- Medical Fitness Test and Insurance: Undergo a medical fitness test and acquire valid health insurance. These are prerequisites for a residency visa in the UAE.
- Apply for a Residency Visa: With your freelance license and other required documents, apply for a residency visa. This visa will allow you to live and work in Dubai legally.
- Visa Stamping: Once your residency visa is approved, you will need to get it stamped on your passport.
- Open a Bank Account: Finally, you may want to open a bank account for your freelance transactions, which is often easier once you have a residency visa.
How Much Does a Dubai Freelance Visa Cost?
The cost of obtaining a freelance visa in Dubai, including the cost of a freelance permit, can vary depending on several factors, such as the specific free zone or mainland authority, the type of freelance activity, and additional administrative fees. Here’s a general overview of the costs based on available information:
- Freelance Permit Cost: The cost for a freelance permit typically ranges from AED 7,500 to AED 20,000. This cost can vary depending on the free zone or the mainland authority issuing the permit. For example, a freelance permit in Dubai Internet City costs around AED 7,500
- Freelance Visa Cost: The cost of the actual freelance visa can vary. Some sources indicate that the application cost for a freelance visa is approximately AED 4,000 to AED 7,000, depending on the visa duration and other factors. Additional costs may include medical examinations, Emirates ID, and visa stamping charges.
- Other Associated Costs: Applicants should also consider other costs such as health insurance, establishment card fees AED 2000), and costs related to medical fitness tests, which can add to the total expense.
- Total Cost: The total cost, combining the freelance permit and visa, could range significantly based on the specific requirements and the chosen authority for the application. As an estimate, the total annual expense could be at least AED 11,525, excluding health insurance.
Why Become a Freelancer?
Want to work for yourself without the need to rent an office space?
For thousands of people, it’s a long-held dream – to 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 people are attracted to working for themselves. Now that a freelance permit in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is 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 for freelancers 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.
Beware of Illegal and Scam Freelance 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. If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. These companies promote easy freelancer visa packages on company websites and social media platforms which target aspiring freelancers.
Be cautious when considering these opportunities online or offline. Avoid becoming a victim of freelance visa scams in Dubai, and watch out for these warning signs:
- Visa shops that promise work or permanent residency in the UAE in exchange for 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 quickly and easily.
- 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, you can take other proactive steps to protect yourself from potential freelance license scams. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re choosing the right freelance opportunities as a 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
It’s important to understand your responsibilities as a freelancer in Dubai and educate yourself on freelance visas, health insurance and how to run your own business in the UAE.
Knowing you’re applying for the right free zone, understanding the tax system and choosing the best industry are all part of establishing a business. However, with the right information at hand, you’re sure to be set for success.
The role of a freelancer means working for yourself as an independent contractor. It’s completely legal in the UAE as long as you hold the necessary licence (freelance visa). 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 set-up once they grow to a certain size.
The UAE Government Supports Freelancing Entrepreneurs
It goes without saying that you need the right skills, drive, and business savvy to make your career plan successful. Going it alone can be stressful and lonely at the start, and perhaps it isn’t for everyone. Just remember, you’re not alone. The UAE government actively supports deciding to get a freelance visa in Dubai. Authorities within Abu Dhabi and the UAE endorse the success of local entrepreneurs.
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 greatly boosted 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 you need. Applying directly puts entrepreneurs in contact with great networking opportunities, benefits and resources to support their businesses. 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 that might need your freelancer skills and services. Typically, applying directly to the relevant free zone is easy and attracts 0% corporate and personal tax and 100% repatriation of profits.
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.
What Are The Advantages of Freelancing?
From location freedom to optimal work satisfaction, there are 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 ability to choose the projects you want to work on
- Freedom to work within the UAE – including Umm al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi
With these benefits, it’s easy to see why many professionals in the UAE want to get a freelance visa in Dubai. A freelancing career affords various luxuries to both UAE residents and travelling entrepreneurs alike.
7 Reasons To Get A Freelance Visa in Dubai
1. Applying Is Easy
Apply for your freelance permit in Dubai in two ways. Either directly to the Department of Economic Development (DED) or to one of the numerous free zones. Here, the application process is simple. To apply, your company name is simply your own name, and your licence is usually issued in 7-10 days.
2. Wide Range of Work Opportunities
Freelancing provides a range of industries in which to conduct your business in the UAE. Freelance permits are issued for almost all DED-listed business activities. However, 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. If technology and IT are your fields, then Dubai Internet City is where you’ll be set up for work. Dubai Knowledge Park specifically relates to the education sector.
3. No Office Space Needed
Freelancing gives total location freedom without being locked into either a mainland or free zone location. Renting office space is completely optional when it comes to freelancing. You can be your own boss, work from home, or rent a desk or office facilities from one of the many free zones. With a freelance permit, you can easily find the right balance that suits your lifestyle.
4. No Local Sponsor NOC Required
Another reason why freelancing in the Emirates is gaining popularity is that most free zones don’t require a No Objection Certificate (NOC). A No Objection Certificate is usually obtained from a local sponsor, institute or agency and is typically required by most government departments. This certificate is not required in many free zones and is applicable to both long-term UAE residents and new arrivals to the Emirates.
5. Sponsor Your Dependants
Freelancing may not always be a steady job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have family with you. Having a freelance visa in Dubai will allow you to sponsor your dependents. After securing a Dubai freelance visa and meeting certain salary requirements, you’re then eligible to sponsor family members. It’s also possible to sponsor employees if you’re establishing a company in the UAE. Women can sponsor dependants as long as they are working in certain defined professions (such as the medical sector) in addition to the minimum salary restrictions.
6. No Bookkeeping Requirements
Paperwork can be a time-consuming facet of running a business. Fortunately, freelancers in the UAE are not always required to submit official accounts or be subjected to auditing. This means entrepreneurs can focus more on building a successful business, earning money and expanding work opportunities- you just need your Dubai freelance visa.
7. Corporate Bank Account
Getting a corporate bank account organised is easy. The UAE is home to plenty of large, reputable financial institutions that readily welcome freelancers. Plus, once established in your free zone, the most relevant bank to your industry needs will be made available to you. To open a bank account and acquire a freelance license, you’ll also need your Emirates ID.
Once set up in a free zone, you’ll be put in contact with the most relevant bank to your needs as part of the standard setup service. Whether it’s Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City or Dubai Knowledge Park – there’s a free zone that’s perfect for you.
Upgrade From Freelancing To A Full Company
Some people want a freelancing life, taking on only the work they can manage. Others see freelancing as the first step on their entrepreneurial ladder to expand their business and establish a company of their own. When you’re ready to take the leap, there’s help available to you. Conveniently, upgrading a freelance business license to a company license is easy.
Get Your Freelance Visa With Virtuzone
The UAE is a great place to build your business, and Virtuzone can assist you with getting your freelance visa in Dubai. To obtain the correct and legitimate freelance permit in the UAE, it is crucial to work with a trusted and credible company. Virtuzone is a leading Dubai company formation specialist in the UAE. Virtuzone offers freelancers a suite of visa solutions and value-added business support services.
Our consultants will assist you in identifying the right free zone, applying for your residence visa and acquiring your freelance license. We can answer any questions you have regarding your Emirates ID and an employment visa – handling the entire process on your behalf.
Contact us today to learn more about getting your freelance visa in Dubai.
Is a freelance permit the same as a freelance license?
Yes, a freelance license and a freelance permit are essentially the same in Dubai. Both terms refer to the authorization required to legally work as a freelancer in specific professional sectors. This license or permit is necessary before applying for a freelance visa to live and work in the UAE.
Do I need a freelance permit to get my freelance visa in Dubai?
Yes, you need a freelance permit to obtain a freelance visa in Dubai. The freelance permit acts as your official authorization to operate as a freelancer in your chosen field. Once you have obtained this permit, you can then apply for a freelance visa, which allows you to legally reside and work in Dubai as a freelancer. The permit is a crucial first step in the process of setting yourself up as a freelancer in Dubai.
How long does the freelance visa process take in Dubai?
The processing time for a freelance visa in Dubai can vary, but it typically takes about 20-30 days once all required documents are submitted.
Can I work for any company in Dubai with a freelance visa, or are there restrictions?
A freelance visa allows you to legally work as an independent professional in Dubai. However, it’s important to note that your work should align with the activities specified in your freelance permit. While you can offer your services to various companies, these engagements must fall within the scope of your licensed freelance activities. Additionally, freelancers are generally expected to work independently rather than as full-time employees for a single company.