Freelancing in Dubai: Options, benefits and requirements

The job market is one of the greatly influenced sectors by the covid-19 pandemic crisis and has created significant opportunities for freelancing and company formation in Dubai. Unemployment rates spiked to numbers compared to 10 times of the Great Depression. Many countries witnessed a stark drop in productivity and unprecedented job losses. While millions have been furloughed or moved onto reduced hours, millions of others have lost their jobs entirely, with little improvement in sight. 

However, despite being a job killer, many lucrative freelancing opportunities have been created by the pandemic. This is augmented by the progressive, complete and partial, digitization of many jobs. Freelancing grants the freedom and flexibility to schedule working hours and navigate work contracts while making a handsome income.

With the rising popularity of the gig economy, Dubai is becoming a freelance hub connecting independent creatives in various fields with reputable brands at very little costs. The following sections outline the benefits of freelancing in Dubai, freelancing options and what are the requirements and paperwork needed to obtain a freelance visa in Dubai.

Benefits of freelancing in Dubai

In Dubai going solo, profession wise has its merits. To name a few:

  • Higher profits while working with reputed companies and organizations
  • Building personal brand
  • No office space requirements
  • Taking on multiple projects simultaneously
  • Freedom in scheduling and navigating contracts

In the current business climate, and the increasing activity of company formation in Dubai, corporations are increasingly outsourcing many activities. This, coupled with the flexible policy infrastructure is making it more attractive than ever before for freelancers to set up in Dubai. However, only professionals working in the field of media, technology or education are permitted to freelance in Dubai.

Freelancing in Dubai Options

When setting up to freelance in Dubai, one can opt for several career paths:

  • Media: Actors, journalists, film directors, editors, photographers, writers, animators, artist, audio/sound engineer, brand consultant, cameraman, choreographers, commentators, composers, content provider, copywriters, creative directors, critics, events planners, designers, journalists, lighting specialists, market analysts, marketing specialists, musicians, PR specialists, print media specialists, social media specialists, social media influencers, translators, stylists, web developers/designers plus other more specified roles.
  • Education: Educational advisor, eLearning advisor, executive coach, researcher, trainer
  • Technology: Web/mobile/software development and architecture, IT and telecommunication networking, data science and analytics, customer service   

What are the requirements

Freelancing in Dubai is permitted under two conditions: a residency visa and a freelancing licence. Applicants must prove their relevant skillset and if the freelance activity is similar to their employment role, permission from an employer is required before applying for the license. Following is an exhaustive list of the needed documents needed when filing for a freelance visa:

  • Resume
  • Passport copy
  • Bank Reference Letter (this can be from either your local or international bank)
  • Sponsor/Employer NOC (if you currently have a work permit and a residency visa)
  • Portfolio – PDF or online link (for media-related activities)
  • Credentials and Certificates (for related educational activities)

Other documentation may be required depending on the Free Zone

Obtaining a freelancing permit in one of Dubai’s freezones is relatively simple and straightforward. Freezone options include Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Design District.

Since the year 2018, a new scheme was set up by GoFreelance from Dubai’s Tecom Group, launched in partnership with Dubai Creative Cluster Authority. This allows UAE residents to apply online for a permit for AED7,500 only. Tecom freelancing permit has the added benefit of allowing applicants to sponsor spouses and other family members.

Set up your online application

Following are the steps to apply for a freelancing license in one of Dubai’s freezones: 

  • Select the desired freezone
  • Submit the duly completed application form along with a passport copy
  • Sign and send back the received customer confirmation from the respective authorities

Follow up on your application

After applying online, applicants will be notified via email after 10-15 working days. Applicants need to pay the application fees and sign the necessary documents in person in one of the freezones business centres. Only then, they will receive their freelance license via email. 

Sign up for your Dubai freelance visa

Recipients of the Dubai freelancing permit are granted access to Tecom, business service platform known as AXS, launched in partnership with Dubai Development Authority (DDA). AXS allows one to avail of a number of government and corporate services. 

The next step is to apply for an establishment card at the cost of AED2000. An establishment card allows one to apply for a freelance employment visa under DDA. Dubai freelance visa is valid for 3 years. Depending on the visa type (normal or express) and place of origin (within or outside the UAE), freelance employment visa costs range between AED 3330 and AED 6340.