How to Get Freelance Visa in the UAE

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UAE or the United Arab Emirates has always been a hub for international business and commerce. However, in the past few years, the nation has come across a surge in a different kind of workforce, i.e, freelancers in UAE. This shift is driven by a growing global trend towards flexible work arrangements and the UAE’s recognition of the potential this segment holds for its dynamic economy. To cater to this ever-changing and evolving economy, the UAE introduced a much sought-after freelance visa program that will offer a path for skilled individuals to establish themselves in the country.

A Brief History of Freelance Visas in the UAE

Before 2018, freelancing was hardly a thing in the UAE. There was barely any scope of independent work, making it challenging for freelancers to get residency and operate legally in the nation. After much thought, the UAE government came up with a series of reforms to streamline the process.

In 2018, the shift came with the introduction of the “Freelance Permit”  by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization or the MOHRE. This freelance permit gave the freelancers legal recognition and the ability to get residency visas. The program started in specific free zones such as Dubai Media City and twofour54 Abu Dhabi but the success it garnered paved the way for a nationwide rollout.

Two years later, the UAE took a step forward towards the launch of the “Green Visa” scheme which offered freelancers a longer residency option. The visas were valid for up to five years. This came with relaxed eligibility criteria compared to the permit that launched two years prior. This made UAE an even more attractive destination for budding freelancers.

Types of Freelance Visas in the UAE

The two main types of freelance visas available in the UAE are:

  • Freelance Permit: This visa, typically valid for one or two years, is obtained through specific government authorities or free zones. Eligibility requirements can vary depending on the issuing entity, but generally include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification, proof of work experience, and meeting specific income thresholds in some cases.
  • Green Visa for Freelancers: This visa offers a longer residency period of five years and caters to freelancers with a higher income bracket (AED 360,000 or approximately USD 98,000 annual income for the past two years). It provides greater stability and allows for easier sponsorship of dependents.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Freelance Visas

Several factors have contributed to the UAE’s embrace of freelance visas:

  • Economic Diversification: The UAE is actively seeking to diversify its economy beyond oil dependence. Freelancers bring a wealth of skills and expertise, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in key sectors like technology, creative industries, and consulting.
  • Global Talent Acquisition: The UAE is well aware of the global talent pool and the competitive advantage of attracting skilled freelancers. By offering freelance visas, the UAE positions itself as a destination for top international talent, fostering a more dynamic and knowledge-based economy.
  • Alignment with Modern Work Trends: The rise of the gig economy and remote work has created a demand for flexible work arrangements. The UAE’s freelance visa program caters to this trend, positioning itself as a hub for the modern workforce.

Benefits of Obtaining a Freelance Visa in the UAE

For skilled freelancers, obtaining a UAE freelance visa offers a multitude of benefits:

  • Legal Framework: The visa provides a legal framework to operate your freelance business within the UAE, ensuring peace of mind and avoiding potential complications.
  • Tax Advantages: According to the UAE’s Corporate Tax Regulations, any taxable earnings surpassing AED 375,000 will be liable for Corporate Tax. This taxation framework extends to freelancers and self-employed independent contractors in the UAE once their income exceeds the AED 375,000 threshold.
  • Lifestyle Advantages: The UAE offers a high standard of living, with excellent infrastructure, a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and a diverse cultural scene.

How to Obtain  a Freelance Visa in the UAE

The process for obtaining a freelance visa in the UAE can vary depending on the chosen visa type and issuing authority. However, a general step-by-step approach looks like this:

  1. Eligibility Check: Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for the chosen visa type (e.g., educational qualifications, income requirements).
  2. Freelance Permit Application: Apply for the freelance permit through the relevant government authority or free zone. This typically involves submitting documents like your passport, CV, educational certificates, and business plans.
  3. Establishment Card: Obtain an Establishment Card, which acts as a business license for freelancers.
  4. Medical Insurance: Secure valid health insurance coverage as mandated by UAE regulations.
  5. Visa Processing: Finalize the visa application process by paying fees and submitting required documents to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

Freelance Visa v/s Freelance License

The UAE offers two crucial components for freelancers: The Freelance License (Permit) and a Freelance Visa.

Freelance License grants a person the legal right to work as a freelancer while Freelance Visa provides residency within the UAE. Business Setup Consultants can streamline the application process for a Freelance License, making it less overwhelming for aspiring freelancers.

Important Considerations 

  • Freelance Visa Costs: The cost of obtaining a freelance visa can vary depending on the chosen visa type, processing fees, and additional expenses like medical insurance and establishment card fees.
  • Sponsoring Dependents: The Green Visa allows sponsorship of dependents (spouse and children) for an additional fee.
  • Free Zone vs. Mainland: Freelance visa options are available in both the UAE mainland and specific free zones. Each offers advantages and considerations. Free zones may have lower entry costs but might restrict business activities to specific sectors. Researching both options is crucial before making a decision.
  • Local Business Partner: While not always required, some freelance visa applications might benefit from having a local business partner, particularly for those without a proven track record of freelance work.

Obtaining a freelance visa in the UAE has opened doors to so many great opportunities. But that is just the first step, the next crucial step is to find the right freelance platform. Gone are the days of endless cold-calling and relying solely on personal networks. We have freelance platforms that can help you with the tedious process of finding freelance work.

The UAE’s embrace of freelance visas has helped independent workers tremendously. With its strategic location, tax benefits, and commitment to attracting global talent, the UAE has become a highly attractive destination for skilled freelancers. 

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