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Getting a Freelance Visa Dubai (2024)

Apr 25, 2024 | Entrepreneurship, Featured Posts, UAE Company Setup

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.

It is important to remember you will also require your UAE Residency Visa if you are a non-national. Some of the industries in which you will be eligible to work include consultancy, events management, education, film production, and new media and entertainment.

This comprehensive guide aims to streamline the process, providing step-by-step instructions on navigating the application procedures, legal requirements, and information on which Free Zone you might want to set up your Freelance Visa.

How to Get a Freelance Visa in a UAE Free Zone

  1. Choose Your Field: Decide on the field in which you wish to freelance, such as media, education, technology, or design.
  2. Select a Free Zone: Ensure you choose a Free Zone that offers freelancer licenses. Check out the list we have created under the heading ‘UAE Free Zones’.
  3. Secure a Freelance Permit: 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 online application systems.
  4. Gather Required Documents: Prepare necessary documents, including a copy of your passport, 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 the sponsor’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) if you are already a UAE resident.
  5. Submit Your Application: You can apply for the Freelance Permit through the respective Free Zone authority or you can buy a Free Zone Package with us at Virtuzone. Just fill out the contact us form and we can decide which package best suits your needs.
  6. 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, passport, medical insurance, UAE phone number, and passport-sized photos. Similarly to the Free Zone Permit, this can be done through the Free Zone’s website or through us at Virtuzone.
  7. Establishment Card: Depending on your chosen Free Zone, you may need to apply for an establishment card. This card is necessary for managing visa-related formalities, especially if you plan to sponsor visas for dependents or require additional operational permissions. The fee will be AED 2000 annually.
  8. Undergo Medical Tests: As part of the visa application process, you will need to undergo a medical fitness test and obtain health insurance.
  9. 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.
  10. Visa Renewal: Remember 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 and Freelance Visa Costs

Numerous UAE Free Zones provide freelancer licenses, though not every zone does. Below is a list of Free Zones that offer Freelance Permits and Visas, each catering to specific industries. When selecting your Free Zone, it’s important to consider the industry specialization and the particular services and facilities that will best meet your business requirements. Also, consider the cost structure, including license fees, visa expenses, and any necessary deposits. Assessing the overall environment and networking opportunities each Free Zone provides is essential for ensuring it matches your professional aims and potential for growth.

Dubai Internet City

Dubai Internet City is a technology park created to foster innovation in the IT sector. DIC is ideal for freelancers specializing in software development, IT services, and tech innovation. It provides a vibrant community and access to major technology companies for potential collaboration and client acquisition.

Prices start from AED 7500.

Dubai Media City

Established to boost the UAE’s media footprint, Dubai Media City houses global and regional media companies. DMC is perfect for freelancers in media production, advertising, and journalism. It offers networking opportunities with leading media firms and access to state-of-the-art production facilities.

Prices start from AED 7250.

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone (RAKEZ)

Offering cost-effective business solutions, the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone (RAKEZ) caters to a wide range of sectors, including industrial, trading, and services. RAKEZ is attractive for its cost-effectiveness and ease of doing business. It’s an excellent choice for freelancers across various sectors, providing flexible workspace options and straightforward licensing procedures.

Prices start from AED 11,500.

Ajman Free Zone

Known for its affordability and flexibility, the Ajman Free Zone is suitable for a wide range of freelance activities, including trading, services, and industrial. It offers a simplified setup process and lower overhead costs, making it accessible for startups and individual professionals.

Prices start from AED 11,000.

Fujairah Creative City Free Zone

Catering to the creative industries, the Fujairah Creative City Free Zone provides a platform for media, events, consulting, education, communication, and marketing professionals to flourish. Specifically suited for freelancers in media, advertising, and graphic design, the zone offers a supportive environment with relaxed capital requirements, enabling easier setup and growth for creative freelancers.

Prices start from AED 17,850.

Dubai Design District

Known as d3, the Dubai Design District is dedicated to the design and fashion industry. d3 fosters a creative ecosystem ideal for designers, fashion artists, and creatives looking to tap into the high-end market. It offers infrastructure, inspiration, community events, and retail opportunities to showcase freelance work.

Prices start from AED 70,000.

Dubai Knowledge Park

Dubai Knowledge Park supports freelancers specializing in educational services, training, and HR consulting. It provides a hub for academic and professional development with collaboration opportunities with educational institutions.

Prices start from AED 100,000.

The best part about joining a free zone is that they offer tax exemptions, including no personal income tax!

A freelancer obtaining their freelance visa in Dubai.

How to Get a Freelance Visa in Dubai Mainland

Applying for a Freelance Visa in Mainland Dubai, outside of the free zones, involves a slightly different process. Here’s a general overview of how you can apply:

  1. 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.
  2. Obtain a Freelance Permit: Unlike free zones, where the permit is issued by the free zone authority, on the mainland, you need to obtain a Freelance Permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation in Dubai. This involves submitting the necessary documents and fulfilling any specific requirements for your chosen sector.
  3. 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.
  4. Fulfill 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Apply for a Residency Visa: With your Freelance Permit and the necessary documents in hand, you are eligible to apply for a residency visa that will legally allow you to live and work in Dubai. Specifically, you will need to apply for a Green Visa. This visa has several prerequisites, including proof of a bachelor’s degree or a specialized diploma. Additionally, you must demonstrate evidence of annual self-employment income of at least AED 360,000 over the past two years or show proof of financial stability throughout your stay in the UAE.
  7. Visa Stamping: Once your residency visa is approved, you will need to get it stamped on your passport.
  8. Open a Bank Account: Finally, you will need to open a bank account for your freelance transactions.

A man completing an application form for a freelance visa.

Freelance Permit vs Freelance Visa

Freelance Permit (or License)

A Freelance Permit (or license) grants you the legal right to operate as a freelancer in the UAE. It is essentially a form of business licensing that allows you to work as an independent contractor or sole practitioner. This permit is issued by various free zone authorities or by the Department of Economic Development in different Emirates.

Freelance Visa

A Freelance Visa is a type of residency visa that allows you to live in the UAE while working as a freelancer. This visa is linked to your Freelance Permit, and in many cases, it is facilitated by the Free Zone that issued your Freelance Permit, although you may also apply for it through mainland authorities if they offer a freelance package.

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Setting Up Your Freelance Business in Dubai

Once you have secured your Freelance Visa and Permit, the next step is to set up your freelance business effectively. This involves several important considerations to ensure that your business not only complies with local regulations but is also positioned for success.

1. Choosing Your Workspace

  • Home Office: Many freelancers choose to start with a home office, which provides convenience and cost efficiency. Ensure that your setup meets any specific regulations stipulated by your licensing authority.
  • Co-working Spaces: These spaces are ideal for freelancers looking for flexible desk options and networking opportunities. Co-working spaces offer amenities like high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and, often, a vibrant community of like-minded professionals.
  • Flexi-Desks: Many Free Zones and business centers in Dubai offer flexi-desk services. This option provides you with access to a desk in a shared office environment, which can be used for a certain number of hours per week. Flexi-desks are a great way to maintain a professional business presence without the expense of a permanent office.
  • Virtual Offices: Virtual offices are an excellent option for freelancers who need a professional address without a physical office space. They provide a business address, mail handling services, and access to office facilities such as meeting rooms on an as-needed basis. This setup is particularly useful for creating a professional image while keeping costs low.

2. Building Your Brand

  • Logo and Website: Develop a professional logo and create a website to represent your freelance business online. Your website should include your portfolio, services, contact information, and testimonials.
  • Social Media Presence: Establish and maintain active social media profiles on platforms relevant to your industry. Regular updates and engagement on social media can help build your brand and attract potential clients.
  • Business Cards: Design and print business cards. These are essential for networking events and meetings with potential clients.

3. Networking and Marketing

  • Join Professional Groups: Engage with professional groups in your field. Many Free Zones host events and workshops that can be valuable for making connections.
  • Attend Industry Events: Regularly attend trade shows, seminars, and other industry events to stay updated with market trends and meet potential clients.
  • Online Marketing: To reach a broader audience, invest in online marketing strategies such as SEO, content marketing, and online advertising.

4. Financial Management

  • Open a Business Bank Account: Ensure you have a business bank account to manage your finances professionally.
  • Bookkeeping: Maintain accurate records of your income and expenses. Consider using accounting software or hiring a part-time accountant.
  • Set Clear Payment Terms: Establish and communicate clear payment terms with clients to avoid any confusion and ensure timely payments.

5. Legal and Regulatory Compliance

  • Contracts: Use professionally drafted contracts for all engagements to protect your rights and clarify client expectations.
  • Insurance: Consider getting professional liability insurance depending on the nature of your work.
  • Licenses and Permits Renewal: Keep track of the renewal dates for your Freelance Permit and Visa to ensure continuous compliance and operation.

By carefully planning and setting up your freelance business, you can create a solid foundation that supports sustainable growth and success in Dubai’s competitive market.

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. Conveniently, upgrading a freelance business license to a company license is easy.

A co-working office space in the UAE for freelancers.

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Benefits of Freelancing in Dubai

1. Simplified Application Process

Applying for a freelance visa in Dubai is remarkably straightforward, whether through the Department of Economic Development (DED) or various free zones. The process is designed to be quick, typically taking 7-10 days, and involves minimal bureaucracy. Freelancers simply use their own names as company names during the application, streamlining the setup.

2. Extensive Work Opportunities

Freelancing provides a range of industries in which to conduct your business in the UAE. You can engage in nearly all DED-listed business activities with a freelance permit. Specific free zones like Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, and Dubai Knowledge Park cater to niche sectors like media, technology, and education, respectively, aligning with your area of expertise.

3. Flexible Workspace Options

Dubai’s Freelance Visa allows for total location flexibility. You have the option to work from home, rent a desk in a co-working space, or utilize office facilities in free zones. This flexibility helps maintain a balance that suits various lifestyles and work preferences.

4. No Local Sponsor or NOC Required

Most free zones in Dubai do not require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from a local sponsor. This autonomy is particularly advantageous for long-term residents and new arrivals, making it easier to start freelancing without navigating additional administrative hurdles.

5. Ability to Sponsor Dependents

Holding a Freelance Visa in Dubai enables you to sponsor dependents, allowing your family to join you. This benefit extends to the possibility of sponsoring employees if you decide to expand your business operations within the UAE.

6. Minimal Administrative Burden

Freelancers in Dubai enjoy a reduced administrative burden. Fortunately, freelancers in the UAE are not always required to submit official accounts or be subjected to auditing. This allows you to focus more on growing your business and less on paperwork.

7. Access to Corporate Banking

Setting up a corporate bank account as a freelancer in Dubai is straightforward, with numerous reputable financial institutions available. Once established in your chosen free zone, you’ll be guided to the bank that best suits your industry needs, facilitating financial transactions and business operations.

8. Government and Community Support

The UAE government actively supports freelancers with various initiatives aimed at fostering a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Business support forums, accelerators for startups, and positive encouragement for using freelance services are just some of the ways Dubai promotes freelancing.

By obtaining a Freelance Visa in Dubai, you not only gain the freedom to choose your projects and control your work environment but also benefit from a supportive infrastructure designed to help freelancers succeed. This makes Dubai one of the most attractive cities globally for freelancers seeking flexibility, opportunity, and a supportive business environment.

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.

A rented an office space in the UAE.

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 home. If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. These companies promote easy freelancer visa packages on their websites and social media platforms, targeting 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 permit scams. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re choosing the right freelance opportunities as a business owner in the UAE:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Get Your Freelance Visa With Virtuzone

It’s easy to see why many professionals in the UAE want to get Freelance Visas in Dubai. 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, working with a trusted and credible company is crucial.

Virtuzone is a leading Dubai company formation specialist in the UAE. We offer freelancers a suite of visa solutions and value-added business support services.

Our consultants will guide you through selecting the optimal Free Zone, securing your Freelance Permit, and applying for your Residence Visa. We are here to answer all your questions about your Emirates ID and employment visa and manage the entire process for you from start to finish.

Contact us today to learn more about getting your Freelance Visa in Dubai.

Young Male Freelancer enjoying work-life balance.


How Much Does a Dubai Freelance Visa Cost in a Free Zone?

The cost of obtaining a Freelance Visa in a Dubai Free Zone varies depending on the specific Free Zone and the package offered. Generally, the costs include the freelance permit (license) and the visa.

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 work as a freelancer in specific professional sectors legally. 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 is your official authorization to operate as a freelancer in your chosen field. Once you have obtained this permit, you can 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 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.

How Much Does a 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. There is also an additional AED 10 ‘Knowledge Dirham’ and AED 10 ‘Innovation Dirham’ to be paid.

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.

Is Dubai a Good Place to Freelance?

According to a report from Algorithm Research, Dubai remains the focal point for freelancers in the UAE, hosting more than 65% of freelancers in the region.

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