With the rise of the gig economy and people simply wanting to have more flexibility in their work, freelancing is getting more and more popular by the day. Besides setting their own targets and hours, freelancers, especially the so-called digital nomads, can work from practically anywhere in the world. One of the countries that have been popular among such freelancers is the United Arab Emirates.
Not only is the country open to freelancers, but the UAE also encourages the growth of such businesses. The UAE is looking to diversify from oil and now seriously invests in innovations, including by attracting talents in the form of freelancers. Its strategic geographic position has also attracted businesses and startups to set up shop.
Freelance permit vs visa
These documents might cause some confusion for some foreigners, as some countries require some work permits besides visas. In the UAE, it’s actually fairly clear.
If you are already a UAE resident, either on your spouse’s or parents’ visa, you may just apply for a freelance permit. If you already work full-time in the UAE, you may also get a freelance permit, as long as your primary employer allows it (and you can prove such). You do not need a specific and/or separate visa just to work as a freelancer.
To apply for a permit, you will have to prove that you have relevant skills to work in your chosen sector as a foreigner.
If you are not a UAE resident, you will need to apply for a freelance visa that will allow you to live and work as a freelancer.
As mentioned above, UAE welcomes both residents and non-residents to work as a freelancer in the country. There are specific sectors the emirates are opening their doors for, namely education, media, and tech. If you’re in these fields, you’re in luck!
Visa requirements and application process
As welcoming as it is to freelancers, you will still need to gather your documents to apply! Get ready, here’s what you will need:
- Visa application form, completed and signed
- Copy of your passport
- Visa photo according to the specifications
- An up-to-date curriculum vitae
- Your academic certificates attested by the UAE Consulate or Embassy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Two professional references, along with their contact details
- Work offer or a letter of intent. This is needed to prove your professional experience and background, as well as your intent to work in the UAE
What to do besides the visa
To set up your business, you will also need to have a permit. It is clear that residents go straight for their freelance permits, but non-residents also have to get freelance permits to legally work as a freelancer.
Other than that, you will also need an Emirates ID for your lawful stay. It is also needed to get government services and can be used as a document to pass immigration at several airports in the country.
For residents and expats, the requirements for the ID are:
- A valid passport
- A photo that fit the ID specifications
- Original birth certificate
Tips to work (and survive) as a freelancer
It is no secret that the freedom that comes with being a freelancer might also come with loneliness and uncertainty, especially in a foreign country. However, the UAE government and freelancing community understand this and provide ways to make business as a freelancer easier. For example, there are business support forums, accelerators, and other kinds of support for entrepreneurs. Businesses in the country are also encouraged to use freelance services.
The government also doesn’t make it difficult in the finance sector: setting up a bank account is easy despite your foreign status. What’s better, freelancers aren’t always required to go through audits and submit official accounts — perfect for fledgling freelancers.
As for loneliness, sponsoring family members is also possible, once your visa is secure and you meet the salary requirements.
Think you got what it takes to be a freelancer in the UAE and enjoy the sun year-round?