Freelance work permits in the UAE: What you need to know

Freelance work permits in the UAE

Freelance work permits in the UAE: What you need to know

With the recent market developments as well as the explosion of the online marketplace, there is a large part of the workforce seriously considering the “freelance” option for starting their businesses. For some, it may be the quest to fulfill their life’s calling, for others an informed choice culminating out of their years of experience and for others an entrepreneurial experiment without wanting all the trappings of a commercial enterprise.

Whatever the reason, increasingly many companies are looking to hire freelance workers in various fields mainly due to cost and fresh thought advantages. However, it is important that as an individual, you are aware of the do’s and don’ts while starting a business in the UAE.

 

  1. Is freelancing legally allowed in the UAE?

Yes! You may freelance in the UAE!  However, freelancing is vastly different from part-time work. Freelancing is essentially defined as an activity undertaken chiefly as a result of your skill or service based competence or expertise in a particular field, as long as you are licensed by the authority concerned to do so.

  1. Is a license required? Isn’t it expensive?

Yes, you do!  You will need to secure a Trade License pertaining to your business activity from your selected Licensing Authority. There are a variety of free-zones offering cost effective packages, even on an installment basis.

  1. Which free zones currently have a freelancer option?

Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Design District, Dubai International Academic City, Abu Dhabi Two Four 54, Fujairah Creative City, Umm Al Quwain FTZ currently offers freelancer permits. The type of activities, fees and modalities differ, though.

  1. What kind of license is needed?

The kind of license needed depends on the nature of the business to be conducted.

There are two main ways of setting-up a business in Dubai and different license options for both

The first is through the Dubai Department of Economic Development and the second is through one of the many Free Zones in different Emirates across the UAE.

  1. a) Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) Business Setup

The main license types in the DED are:

  1. Commercial (51 per cent Emirati-owned; 49 per cent foreign-owned), and;
  2. Services/Professional/Consultancy (100 per cent expat-owned with a local Emirati service agent).
  3. b. Free Zone (FZ) Business Setup

For the free zones, both of the above license options apply, but the main differences are:

  1. An Emirati partner is not required, and
  2. FZ businesses are 100 % expat owned.

 

  1. What are other benefits of setting-up through a Free Zone?

The general benefits of setting-up through an FZ are that companies can remain 100 per cent foreign-owned. Generally of lower cost, greater flexibility and easier to setup, mostly with a “single-window” process.

  1. If I’m not a resident, may I obtain a residency visa through one of these license options?

Yes, you may!

  1. May I freelance if I’m on my husband’s visa?

Yes, you may!  You would first need to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your husband as well as a labour card issued from the licensing authority/immigration office of the Emirate where the freelance company has been registered.

  1. I’m working full-time,but I’m interested in turning my hobby into a business. May I obtain a license,even if I’m sponsored by my employer?

Yes, you may!  Most (not all) licensing authorities would request you to provide a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your employer in order for you to start your own freelance company.

  1. How long will it take to get a freelance license and set up my business?

On average the process can take anywhere from one week to ten days.

  1. Do I need to rent office space?

The majority of licensing authorities does require you to have some sort of office space within their jurisdiction, be it something minimal like a Flexi-desk or a smart office, which is often already built into the price of the company setup package offered. These packages are typically catered to fit the needs of freelancers.

Some licensing authorities are even able to provide you with a Trade License without taking office space of any sort. However, under this option, you wouldn’t be able to secure any residency visas on the company, so this option is best suited to a freelancer who already has a residency visa be it through their spouse, parent or current employer.

  1. Do I have to get a freelance license through a business setup specialist or can I do it myself?

You certainly can do it yourself, however, using a business setup specialist is definitely a wiser, more sensible and efficient option, as setting up a company in the UAE can be a very time consuming and draining process. Also, the specialists are able to do the research for you and advise you the best options in light of their experience.

There is a multitude of factors to be considered when setting up a new business in the UAE, like obtaining your trade license, applying for your visa, getting business cards printed and setting up your bank account. The specialist takes care of all the admin, allowing you to focus your attention on developing and growing your business.

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