Freelancing is growing in popularity around the world. One in three workers in the US is freelance while 14% of Europe’s working age population are reported to be self-employed.
Here in the UAE, we are seeing a similar spike in freelance numbers. A recent survey found that one in ten UAE residents was either already freelancing or considering doing so.
It’s easy to see what draws so many to the freelance life. As the name suggests, greater freedom is a major benefit. Then there’s the potential for higher earnings, the ability to follow one’s passion and to create a stronger work/life balance.
That’s not to say freelancing is a walk in the park. It takes focus, hard work and determination. In the early stages, the hours can be long and the pay cheques infrequent. Succeed, however, and freelancing can be incredibly rewarding.
Getting set up as a freelancer is fast, affordable, and when done correctly, very straightforward. Here’s your guide to getting started.
How to set up in Dubai with a freelance permit
Step 1: Choose your business activity
Freelancing, while possible in Dubai, is a little different than in 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.
Some of the fields freelancers are permitted to work in are:
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.
It is important that you list every activity you intend to carry out when making your application. Failure to do so can lead to fines or even license revocation.
There are many to choose from so no matter your industry or the type of business you undertake, you are sure to find an activity that fits the bill.
Step 2: Choose a free zone
There are few free zones within Dubai and the UAE that issue freelance licenses or permits, including free zones that also offer office facilities, co-working space and visa eligibility as part of the license package.
Setting up in a free zone is arguably the most cost-effective way to do business in Dubai. As well as affordable license and service fees – along with the UAE’s 0% tax rate – you’ll also benefit from the ability to repatriate all profits to your country of origin.
Step 3: Apply for your freelance license
The next major step is to apply for your freelance license – otherwise known as a freelancer permit.
To obtain your permit, you will need to provide some documentation along with your completed application form. This will usually include a copy of your passport and residency visa (if you already have one), a bank reference letter and some examples of your work.
In all, you may be asked to provide the following:
- Resume / CV
- Passport copy
- Visa copy
- Reference letter from your bank
- Work examples
- Credentials and qualifications (if applicable)
You may also be required to provide a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor or current employer, though this is not required by all free zones.
Once your application has been approved – this can take up to 14 days – you will receive your freelance permit.
Step 4: Apply for your freelance visa
With your freelance license in hand, you can now make your visa application.
If you already have a residency visa through your employer, you will need to provide proof of this when you apply for your permit. In some cases, you may be required to request an NOC from your current employer.
Alternatively, you can apply for a visa in your own name as part of your freelancer permit application. The application process follows the same steps – entry permit through to visa stamping. You’ll also need an Emirates ID and will have to undertake a medical before your application is approved.
Visa 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.
Step 5: Apply to open your bank account
At this stage, you can also apply for your bank account. This isn’t always easy in the UAE, so it’s best to work with a local expert who can put you in touch with the right bank to suit your needs.
Freelance visa Dubai costs in 2020
Cost is often a factor when starting a new business – particularly when setting up on your own.
The good news is, if you’re looking for the cheapest freelance visa in the UAE, or even the cheapest freelance permit, there are plenty of cost-effective options available.
The total cost of setting up will depend on the nature of your business and your level of overheads. However, you can expect a UAE freelance permit to cost in the region of AED 7,500.
On top of this, there is the cost of your visa application and the immigration card.
This falls far below the cost of setting up here with a full business license – giving you the freedom to get started on a small budget and then upgrading to full license further down the line should you wish.
Setting up as a freelancer in the UAE
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.
Worldwide Formations helps entrepreneurs in the UAE with all their company setup needs. For more information, call us now on 800 FREE ZONE (800 3733 9663).