Your 2022 Guide to Freelance Visa in Dubai

Some to study in world-class universities and gain international exposure, some to make their entrepreneurial dreams true, and some to simply live a high-quality life before they retire in a city that looks new every day. A whole host of people from the world over migrate to Dubai, the city where dreams turn into reality in the blink of an eye. Thanks to the approachable visa system of the country and of course, the business-friendly policies!

If you ask me what is the best, cheapest and most effortless way to get a residency in Dubai without the need of a sponsor then my answer defo will be – a freelancer visa. Keep reading to know the answers to your other freelance visa-related questions such as what type of freelancer visa is suitable for me, how much it will cost me, how will it benefit me, how can I obtain a Dubai freelancer visa, and can I apply for a Dubai freelancer visa from my home country.

What is a freelance visa in Dubai?

Looking at the rising popularity of the ‘gig economy’ across the world, the UAE couldn’t help but launched freelance visas in 2019. As the name suggests, the UAE freelance visa is one of the most popular visas in the UAE, which allows the holder to self-sponsor themselves and work in the areas permissible. In words of one syllable, it’s your ticket to freedom! Freedom to live in your favourite country, freedom to utilise your talent and skills your way to make money, freedom to work when you can, freedom to work from the comfort of your home or even car, freedom to travel wherever, whenever you want!

Is there any difference between a freelance permit and a freelance visa?

Although both the official documents serve a similar purpose, a freelance permit in Dubai is for those individuals who are already residing in Dubai on their spouse’s or parent’s visa. And because they are already sponsored, they don’t require a freelance visa like unsponsored individuals to work as a freelancer in Dubai or any other emirate of the UAE. The freelance permit or licence is granted under the TECOM Group, which enables the holder to work as an independent contractor and is renewable each year. The freelancer permit is ideal for those who are living in Dubai on dependent visas, such as housewives and single parents.

On the other hand, those who aren’t sponsored by their parents or spouse and are willing to work as a freelancer in Dubai must apply for a freelance visa in Dubai. The freelancer visa is a renewable residency permit that allows the beneficiary to live and work in the emirate for up to three years. A freelancer also needs a work permit to become a full-fledged freelancer. Such a work permit in the UAE can be issued by a few licensing authorities – mainly free zones. Almost every Emirate has a free zone that can dispense a freelance permit and a visa.

Table of Difference: Freelance Visa Vs. Freelance Permit in Dubai, UAE

ParametersFreelance VisaFreelance Permit
Visa TypeA UAE residency visa allowing one to live in the countryA licence allowing the licencee to work as a freelancer. Issued to those who already have the UAE residency
Validity3 years1 year
SponsorshipNo sponsorship is requiredPrior sponsorship is a must to be eligible for a freelance permit
NOCNOC is required from the current sponsor (if there is any). For visa renewal, it is not required, though.The applicant needs to present a No Objection Certificate from the current sponsor
SectorsFreelancer eligibility in Dubai can be obtained in three vital sectors:
1. Education
2. Media
3. Tech
4. Creative Industries
A freelance permit in Dubai can be registered under these sectors:
1. Media (Dubai Media City),
2. Tech (Dubai Internet City), and
3. Education (Dubai Knowledge Park)
4. Design (Dubai Design District)
InterdependenceFreelance visa holders might need a work permit to function to work legally as a sole practitioner in the UAEFreelance permit holders don’t need a freelance visa to act as a freelancer in the UAE
Cost (new & renewal)3-years Freelance Employment Visa in Dubai: AED 4,960 (Normal) or AED 6,340 (Express)
1-year Freelance Permit: AED 7,500
1-year Establishment Card: AED 2,000
Dh7,500 (According to Dubai Development Authority aka DDA)

Who issues freelance visas and/or freelance permit in Dubai?

The issuing authority for freelance visas/permits differs from sector to sector. For instance, Dubai Internet City issues freelance permits for the Tech sector, Dubai Design District for the creative sector, Dubai Media City for the media sector and Dubai Knowledge Park for the education sector.

Who can apply for a freelance visa in Dubai?

If you believe that you are an expert in the field of your interest and want to make it your profession or source of income, then you are eligible to apply for a freelance visa in Dubai. Journalism, advertising, digital marketing, acting, writing, photography, teaching, yoga, dancing, singing, education advisory, customer service, web development, etc., there is a wide range of activities you may freelance. Visit GoFreelance to access the complete list of freelance activities that you are permitted to carry out with this visa type.

How can I get work or projects after getting the freelance visa and/or permit?

One of the ways to find freelance assignments or projects is GoFreelance package, an initiative of the TECOM Group in collaboration with the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority. As a member of the GoFreelance community, you also get access to exclusive opportunities to explore and bid on projects and expand your network through Marketplace, an online platform introduced to support you. You may also register on various websites such as Upwork and Truelancer which are popularly known for connecting businesses with independent professionals and agencies around the globe.

What are the benefits of having a freelance visa in Dubai?

It’s no more a secret that hiring freelancers in Dubai is quite inexpensive as compared to a full-time employee, and employers know that they can save up to 50% on operational costs by hiring freelancers in Dubai. Therefore, a freelancer visa is a win-win for both! So many people are switching from their 9-hours-routine jobs to freelancing for work-life balance. But this is just one of many reasons. When it comes to the merits of freelancing in Dubai, the world is your oyster! The affordability of having a freelance visa in Dubai and no requirement of office space to start a business allow more freelancers to enter the market. Not only, a freelance visa in Dubai is cost-efficient but also easy to acquire. Some of the benefits that you get to enjoy after getting a freelance permit and visa in Dubai are:

  • Flexibility to work for multiple companies
  • Freedom from mundane 9-to-5 job
  • Can be your side hustle
  • You are your own boss
  • Getting a corporate bank account organised is uncomplicated. Once you are set up in your free zone, you are able to access the most relevant bank to your industry needs
  • When you are freelancing, you don’t need to have a separate company name. Your name itself acts as the trade name or brand
  • No limit on monthly income
  • Access to the free zone’s business centre
  • The freelancing community is on the radar of the Dubai Government
  • Freelancers are not subject to frequent audits like other fully-fledged companies. Neither do they have to file structured financial reports etc. at a regular frequency
  • You can sponsor your family members to come and live with you. You might want to check up on the new family visa requirements in the UAE here
  • No need to rent an office space (Hello savings!)
  • Freedom to travel to your home country or any other country anytime
  • You have enough flexibility as you can work any time, anywhere
  • Some activities such as writing give you the freedom to work from anywhere in the world from the comfort of your home
  • No regular travel expenses & hassles
  • Affordable way to get 3-year residency in the UAE
  • You are able to offer your services at much lower prices, which means more business
  • Low setup costs as there is no need of office, business insurance, employees-related formalities, bookkeeping, etc.
  • Access to a huge market as the Emirate has no dearth of businesses, employers, companies and even tourists and residents looking for best and cheap freelancers in Dubai with great skills

Which free zone is best in the UAE for a freelance visa?

It is not about the best free zone, but about the right free zone when it comes to getting a Dubai freelance visa. Dubai boasts more than 35 free zones, and each free zone entices different clients. While some are designed for creative businesses, some are specific to technology, education or even medical services. Researching before choosing one is momentous as there are myriad factors you want to consider, such as your industry and place of residence, before embarking on your freelancer journey.

What are the disadvantages of working as a freelancer in Dubai?

They say, hope for the best, prepare for the worst! And for that, you must see both sides of the coin. Becoming a freelancer in Dubai could be your best career move but you should know the cons of obtaining a freelance visa as well.

  • You cannot sponsor employees with your freelance permit and visa
  • The freelance visa/permit is only for one person, and that is you. This simply means you cannot hire any employee to work for you. For that, you have to have a trade licence and so much more
  • You are required to have a certain aptitude for the freelance lifestyle. This includes being comfortable working alone, self-motivation and being relentless in networking and chasing bills
  • You need to have some sort of financial backup as it is likely that you may initially have to spend a few months to a year, networking and developing a portfolio
  • You have to keep track of the visa expiry date
  • You have to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing rules and regulations in the Dubai because you are the boss of your business
  • You have to be very careful about the project deadlines if you want more business through word of mouth
  • Freelance permits are open to individuals from only four sectors in Dubai
  • A freelancer cannot have Tax Registration Number (TRN) that are mainly required by larger corporations to be engaged. However, you can still get business from small to medium-scale businesses that do not need TRN
  • No proper office environment, which can cause distractions and low work efficiency. You may use your clients’ office or co-working spaces available in the designated free zone if required, though
  • Freelance visas and work permits are dispensed by free zones, which means they are restricted to that particular FEZ

If the advantages of having a freelance visa outweigh the disadvantages of having a freelancer visa in Dubai, then a freelance visa can be your best bet in Dubai.

What is the cost of getting a freelance visa in Dubai?

A freelance visa in Dubai doesn’t come alone, a freelance permit and establishment card also are tied up with a freelance visa if you want to become a full-grown freelance entity in Dubai and each of the document have separate costs. If you are applying for a freelance employment visa in Dubai with 3 years of validity from inside the UAE, it will cost you as low as AED 4,960 (Standard) and as high as AED 6,340 (Express). And if you are applying for the freelance employment visa in Dubai with similar validity from outside the UAE then it will cost you AED 3,330 (Standard) and AED 3,900 (Express). This must be borne in mind that the afore-mentioned cost for the freelance employment visa includes charges for your medical test, visa stamping and Emirates ID.

How to apply for a Dubai freelance visa?

There are two ways to apply for a freelance visa in Dubai, either by outsourcing or by DIYing. If you choose the first route, it will definitely take you to Adam Global Dubai, one of the reliable freelance visa service providers in Dubai, where your case will be assigned to an experienced freelance visa expert who will make sure you get your visa quickly and effortlessly. And if you opt for the second option, then you have to apply for the visa all by yourself. You yourself will be your PRO in this case.Just 3 easy steps and you will become a freelancer with one of the leading communities: Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Knowledge Park & Dubai Design District.

Step 1: First and foremost, you have to apply for a freelance permit or licence online, so you can get registered as a freelancer in Emirate. You can do that online through the GoFreelance website. Choose the option “Go Apply”, fill in the application form and submit the required documents that include:

  • Your resume/CV
  • Your recent photograph as per the UAE-approved specifications
  • Passport and current visa copy (valid for at least 8 months)
  • Bank reference letter
  • NOC from your UAE sponsor/employer
  • Industry-specific documents certified either by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the UAE Consulate in your country of origin. For instance, proof of academic qualifications if the chosen sector is Education or your portfolio or sample of your work if the selected sector is Media

Step 2: The next stepafter filing your freelance visa application online is to follow up on the same. The application progress will be notified to you via email. Your visa approval can take up to 10-15 days.

Step 3: Once approved, you will need to visit the business centre in the picked sector or free zone in Dubai to personally sign the documents and pay the fees. After the process is complete, you will receive your freelance permit in Dubai via email.

Step 4: After receiving the freelance permit, you need to get access to AXS, TECOM’s business service platform, launched in partnership with the DDA, which lets you avail a number of government or corporate services. Via this platform, you have to first apply for the establishment card and then for a freelance employment visa under the Dubai Development Authority (DDA), which is valid for three years. Remember, both these documents will bear an additional cost.

Step 5: Now that you have all three documents – freelance permit, establishment card and freelance visa – you are just one step away from your dream – complete the residency visa procedures in Dubai and voilà. Upon freelance visa application submission in Dubai, you will receive an entry permit within 5 to 7 business days. Once you receive the entry permit (valid for 60 days from the date of issue), you must complete certain residency visa procedures in Dubai, including your medical test and biometrics. When these procedures are complete, your residency visa will be stamped and valid for three years from the date of issue.

Now that you are a free bird, it is time to explore your community for opportunities! And remember, the most difficult step of any journey is the very first step. So have patience and stay motivated and disciplined.

Need professional help in getting a UAE freelance visa?

Acting, writing, photography, teaching, yoga, dancing, singing, etc. can be your hobby. But if you think that you are an expert in any of these fields at a professional level, then freelance visa in Dubai is your chance to convert your hobby or talent into a profession or business in Dubai. Meet our freelancer visa experts in Dubai at Adam Globalfor any kind of assistance in obtaining the right freelance visa in Dubai or any other emirate of the UAE. How about booking a no-obligation free consultancy with our freelance business setup consultants and sharing your requirements to know your options. It would be a pleasure to meet you!

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