Freelancing in the UAE – Getting a Freelance License
The world is filled with various opportunities and Dubai is at the center of it all. There is no such thing as impossible in a city that keeps defying all odds to stand out as a reference point in all aspects of life. Globally, freelancing has gained significant attention. even more, with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the need for freelance professionals hit the roof as the world saw the need to hire professionals with the ability to work remotely and deliver without flaw.
A freelancer could be an individual or an agency who has no legal or permanent ties to a particular company. This means that you get to set your work schedule, decide on which contracts to handle, agree on the fee that suits you, set the delivery time to your convenience and work from wherever you please. Before now, there was so much uncertainty surrounding hiring the services of freelancers. Even more, the UAE did not recognize freelancers but with this option becoming popular among the younger generations, the UAE and Dubai, in particular, have been swift to react in mapping out a niche for freelancers to thrive.
Today, there are millions of freelancers already signed up on popular freelance platforms such as UpWork, Freelancer.com and Fiverr. However, the Dubai approach is a step further in the right direction. The city offers license and special visas to expats freelancers who are looking to explore freelancing in a world that offers plenty of excellent opportunities. Sounds great right? Hence, if you are a freelancer looking to explore the endless business opportunities that Dubai has to offer, there are several things that you need to consider. In this article, we shall discuss what you need to do to get a freelance visa in Dubai, the various free zones available to freelancers and the available opportunities to look out for.
What you need to know before applying for a freelance license
If you are entirely new to the business formation process in the UAE, then you need to ensure that you get yourself acquainted with the various business zones as well as the business formation processes. While this article is focused on getting a Freelance License, here are a few things that you have to consider.
- Depending on the free zone, you might be provided with a Flexi-desk office but in general, having a physical office is not mandatory.
- You don’t need to submit your official account statement for auditing
- There is a need to get a Non-Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor if you are already working in Duba full time or you are sponsored by your spouse.
- You can only apply for a Freelance License from free zone authorities where these licenses are permitted
- The freelance License is only valid within the jurisdictions of the issuing free zone authority and cannot be used in other zones like offshore and mainland.
- Above all, you can choose to do this all by yourself. However, it is advised you get help especially if you have no idea about setting up a business in the UAE.
General procedure to obtain a freelancer license
If you are a freelancer looking to set up in Dubai or anywhere in the UAE, there is a general procedure to follow. Here is a general overview of the steps involved:
- Choose from any of the available free zones and apply for a freelance license
- Submit your application either online or at the respective office along with all the required documents
- Sign the customer confirmation letter and return it for further processing of your application
- Make all the necessary payments and send proof to the appropriate authority
- Collect the approved Freelancer License which will be issued after all the above steps have been completed
Generally, this procedure is similar for all the zones especially in terms of the required documents. However, every free zone has its requirements. Likewise, the fees and processing speed also differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Free zones that offer freelance permits in the UAE
As already mentioned, the UAE is always at the forefront of global development. The region is always seeking a new avenue to recruit the best brains and freelancers are not left out. To work as a freelancer domiciled in the UAE, you must possess a freelance work permit and a residence visa. If you are looking to get one, here is an overview of the various free zones that can offer you a freelance permit.
TwoFour54 Abu Dhabi
If you are a freelancer with a specialty in the media and entertainment industry then this is your best investor route to explore. TwoFour54 Abu Dhabi is a media-free zone that offers a freelance license to creative media freelancers looking to work in Abu Dhabi. If you are considering to set up in this media free zone then here is a list of some basic documents that you are expected to present for consideration:
- Offer letter or a letter of intent from an accredited partner of TwoFour54.
- Updated CV
- International Passport
- Two professional references
- Passport-size photo
Once your application is received, the free zone authority evaluates your application and all the accompanying documents. Usually, this takes a few days. Irrespective of the outcome of your application, you will be communicated within three working days in most cases. Upon approval, further communication and meetings may be required. It is important to state that the application is not free and the permits will only be issued upon confirmation of all necessary payments.
Dubai Freelance Permit
The Dubai Freelance Permit initiated kicked off in 2018 and TECOM was at the forefront of it. For freelancers looking to explore the Media, Education and Tech niche in Dubai, this is your only way in. In addition to the freelance permit, the initiative created the Go Freelance platform in partnership with the Dubai Cluster Authority to provide a pool of opportunities for freelancers. Members get to sign up, create a profile, explore a lot of posted freelance jobs and bid on the jobs they want. This was more or less an online marketplace but strictly for members with the license. About the license, the application process is fast and it is relatively affordable. If you’re looking to get the license then hers is a hit on what you need to do:
- Apply online and submit your application
- Provide and upload all the required documents
- Upon approval, proceed to make payment and upload the payment receipt
- The freelance permit will be sent via email in a few days
You can also get this license from the Internet City, Media City and Knowledge Village. Once you have received the permit, you can explore opportunities as an Artist, Data Scientist, Researcher, Brand Consultant, Marketing Specialist, eLearning Advisor, Executive Coach, IT and Telecommunications Expert, Software Developer and many more. In terms of cost, you need to budget about AED17000 to obtain a freelance license in Dubai. This is about the most expensive and it doesn’t come as a surprise at all.
Rakez Free zone Freelance Permit
Ras Al Khaimah is one of the popular free zones in the UAE that provides startup investors with an easy way out for setting up. If you are a media professional or an education expert then the Rakez Free Zone Freelance Permit is what you need. Of course, Dubai and Abu Dhabi rank as the top destination for most freelancers but if you are looking to skip the competition in getting the license from these areas then this is a great option for you. To get a permit in RAK, you need to provide the following key documents:
- Copy of your passport
- Portfolio or sample of your works
- CV and accompanying certifications
- A No objection certificate and a Valid UAE residence Visa if you are applying without a Visa.
It only takes three simple steps:
- Submit your document
- Make the payment
- Receive your freelance permit
It is as simple as it looks. Once your application is formally received, it will be processed in a few days. Upon approval, of course, it is not free although it is relatively cheaper. Once payment is made, your RAK Freelancer Permit will be available in a few days. The payment amount starts from AED6100 which is quite pocket friendly compared to other free zones.
Ajman Free Zone
The Ajman Free Zone freelancer package is one of the most cost-effective options in the entire emirates. For as low as AED 6000, you could be on your way to pursuing your dream as a freelancer in the UAE. The license offers you an investor visa valid for 3 years and 100% ownership of your business. Also, this amount only gets you the Freelance License and the subsequent renewal cost is AED5000.
This option is available to freelancers in over 40 niche that includes education, IT, management consultancy, personal care, beauty, media consultancy, project manager, writer, sports trainer and many more. In addition to the relatively cheap fees, the application process is simple and fast. Some of the required documents include:
- A Passport-size colour photograph
- A Valid passport
- Copy of your Visa
- NOC from the sponsor if you are already a resident in the UAE
- Work portfolio and certifications
Fujairah Free Zone Freelance License (Creative City)
Fujairah Free Zone offers several business licenses packages for investors looking to start up a business in the region. It doesn’t matter whether you are an established business, multinational company, startup or freelancer, there is a special package to get you started. For freelancers, the most popular is the “Freelance Company”. This package is not for a single person. Of course, if you are a single person looking to get a Freelance Permit in the Creative City Free Zone, there is a special package for you. However, if you are looking to save cost as well as enjoy some other amazing benefits, then the Freelance Company package is your best bet. This package is ideal for small business setups and some of the benefits include:
- Fast processing time is usually 1-2 business days
- Trade license validity of 1-3 years
- Up to 4 Visas
- Get 1 Visa free of charge
- Enjoy up to 3 freelancing activities
If you are a new freelancer looking to explore new opportunities in the UAE then this content is for you. Depending on your location of preference, the application processes differ slightly. Likewise, the cost of applying for a freelance permit and subsequently, a freelance visa also differs. The freelance visa allows freelancers to reside in the UAE while working remotely for other companies not necessarily situated in the region. Likewise, the license is also open to people already residing in the UAE. However, the application process and requirements take a different shape. In most cases, all you need to do is get the accompanying NOC or permission from your sponsor while applying and you will be issued a license. If you are completely new to this, as we have mentioned earlier, you should get help so you don’t make mistakes.