Freelancing is more popular than ever before. Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are throwing off the traditional shackles of the office and going it alone around the world.
It is estimated that one in three workers in the US is freelance, while the UK has seen freelancer numbers increase by around a third in recent years. With the events of the past 12 months forcing many of us to get used to working from home, we can expect those figures to increase further in the years ahead.
It’s easy to see why so many are turning to the freedom of freelancing. When you become your own boss, you can set your own schedule, take on the tasks you want and have total control over your career. It has the potential to be a lucrative career path too. A recent survey found that, across almost every industry, freelancers earn more than their traditionally employed counterparts.
Here in the UAE, freelancer numbers are also on the up, with marketplaces such as Nabbesh ever increasing in popularity. This is undoubtedly due to the UAE’s welcoming business environment and a straightforward license and visa application process.
Here’s a quick guide to get started as a freelancer in Dubai, UAE.
How to get a freelance visa in Dubai 2021
Before obtaining your freelance visa in Dubai, you’ll need to secure a trade license, also known as a freelancer permit.
To make your application, you will need to provide some documentation such as your passport and a few examples of your work, along with your completed application form. You can apply to set up in the mainland via the Department of Economic Development (DED) or in a Dubai free zone.
There are plenty of free zones within Dubai and the UAE that issue freelance licenses or permits, including Dubai Media City (DMC), Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP), Dubai Internet City (DIC), and Ras Al Khaimah Economic Free Zone Authority (RAKEZ).
Besides fast and affordable incorporation, free zone companies benefit from the ability to repatriate capital and profits and zero currency restrictions. This approach is usually the most cost-effective when setting up as a freelancer in the UAE.
While possible in Dubai, freelancing is a little different from many other places in the world. For one, all freelancers must be licensed regardless of the activities they intend to carry out. Those activities must fall into a permitted category, and they must be stated on your business licence.
Freelancers are permitted to work in the following fields:
- Media: including actors, journalists, writers, composers, translators, web designers and more.
- Technology: including data science, analytics, and web development.
- Education: including advisors, tutors, trainers, and researchers.
Freelance permits are much more affordable than full trade licenses, allowing you to get started with minimal overheads. You also have the option to convert your permit to a full license at a later date.
To ensure that your license activities align with your intended business practices, it’s best to work with a company formation specialist at this stage.
With your freelance permit secured, you can then make your visa application.
Making your freelance visa application
You can apply for your freelance visa in Dubai online, via your chosen free zone or with the assistance of a UAE company formation expert.
In every case, you will need to provide some or all of the following documentation:
- Colour photograph
- Passport copy
- Bank reference letter
If you are applying for a license to work in the education sector, you will also have to submit proof of your qualifications. Any foreign certificates will need to be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the UAE consulate in the country of origin.
If you are applying to work in the media, you may be required to provide a portfolio or brief samples of your work.
The visa process comprises four steps:
- Entry permit: This allows you into the UAE.
- Status change: This activates your permit and allows you to work in the UAE.
- Medical test: This involves a chest x-ray, blood test, and biometric capturing.
- Visa stamping: Your residency visa is stamped in your passport by Immigration.
Applications usually take between 14 and 21 business days.
As a UAE residency visa holder, you can also sponsor dependants for their visas too. This could be your spouse, a child or parent, or domestic staff such as a housekeeper or driver.
What is the cost of a freelance visa in Dubai?
Freelance visa costs in Dubai can vary depending on whether you make a standalone application or go via a free zone. The number of visas you require will also increase costs, though some free zones offer discounts on multiple applications.
If you’re looking for the cheapest freelance visa in Dubai, it’s best to shop around. Making your application with a company formation expert such as Worldwide Formations (WWFL) can be an excellent way to keep costs low.
Our 100% legal freelance permit and residency visa costs just AED 17,500 if obtained via a one-off payment. Alternatively, you can pay across three years – just AED 9,995 in year one and two more payments of AED 4,985 in year two and year three.
Get your freelance visa with Worldwide Formations
When setting up as a freelancer in the UAE, getting the right guidance beforehand is key. That’s why it’s always advisable to undertake the above steps with the assistance of a registered company formations agent to eliminate any potential hassles that might arise.
With more than 15 years of experience in company incorporation, Worldwide Formations can help you get your business up and running within a matter of weeks. We’ll manage the entire process on your behalf and correspond with all relevant authorities for you. All you need to do is wait for the green light to start doing business.