UAE: Freelancers in Dubai – License and Visa


published on 19 May 2023 | reading time approx. 2 minutes

Not only has the number of international companies increased significantly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in recent years, but the importance of freelance activities has also been rising. This is due to the unique business conditions, outstanding infrastructure, and tax advantages that the UAE offers, which have attracted a large number of international companies to establish their presences in the country for several years. As these companies con­tinue to expand, they increasingly depend on freelancers who offer a more flexible and cost-effective alternative to permanent employees. Additionally, the younger popu­la­tion in particular is seeking independence, flexible working hours, and the freedom to work without direct supervision.

Not only for these reasons, the UAE offers another attractive opportunity for working and an alternative to set­ting up one's own business. The introduction of the freelancer license has eliminated the unclear legal situation regarding work and residence permits. This license enables freelancers from various fields to offer their servi­ces on a consultancy basis and obtain a residence visa. Freelancers can be employed temporarily in a parti­cular company, providing greater flexibility for both parties. 

The TECOM Group in Dubai allows freelancers to apply for such a license in the free zones of Dubai Media City (DMC), Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP), Dubai Internet City (DIC), and Dubai Design District (d3), according to the specialized areas of media, education, technology, and design. The license is typically issued within 10 to 15 days of approval. Moreover, the Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ) has recently launched the Talent Pass, a free­lance permit for the arts, media, technology, marketing, culture, education, and consulting sectors. From a legal point of view, the identification of the relevant activity of the freelancer licence is particularly relevant here. The cost of the permit varies depending on the free zone, but it is considerably lower than the cost of setting up a company. 

Freelancers may be subject to VAT and may be required to register, but there are many benefits for them as well. For instance, they are not bound to a fixed workplace and can work either on the client's premises or any other location they prefer. Moreover, many free zones provide freelancers with flexi-desks or offer the option of utilizing their conference or office spaces.

While the holder of a freelance permit is not permitted to hire their own staff, they can still convert their free­lancing venture into a business and operate as a company with employees. Generally, the fixed costs for free­lancers are much lower compared to those associated with setting up a company, particularly in the early stages of the freelancing venture. This makes it much easier to get started in a particular sector and reduces economic risks.

The receipt of such a license is also a prerequisite for the mandatory work visa. This visa, which is valid for three years, can be obtained from the Dubai Development Authority (DDA) following the acquisition of the free­lancer permit. If the freelancer already holds a residence visa, for instance as an employee of a company or as the spouse of an employee, a clearance certificate from the current sponsor is required prior to applying for the freelancer permit.
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