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Freelance visa in Dubai: cost and requirements in 2024

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House in Dubai
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The UAE government is interested in attracting talented professionals from other countries to the Emirates. The immigration law of the UAE allows students, employees, entrepreneurs, property owners, as well as freelancers and remote workers to obtain resident visas.

At the moment there are two different types of freelance visas in Dubai:

  • Green Residence visa for 5 years;
  • freelance visa with a licence registered in the free zone;

The licensed freelance visa had existed in the UAE for a long time, while the Green Residence visa appeared only in 2022.

Moreover, the UAE government provides an opportunity for remote employees to get a residence permit for one year.

UAE Green Residence Visa for 5 years

The 5-year Green Residence was announced by the UAE Cabinet back in April 2022. This visa allows freelancers and self-employed people to get a residence permit without an employer or sponsor.

To apply for this kind of visa, one must obtain a freelance permit from the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, as well as have a higher education (bachelor’s or specialist’s degree). At the same time, the annual income generated from self-employment in the previous two years must be at least 360,000 dirhams (98,010 US dollars).

The law on this type of visa came into force in September 2022.

UAE Freelance Visa with a Licence

The traditional option for a freelancer who wishes to move to the UAE is to register as a freelancer in one of the UAE’s free zones and obtain a special licence.

With this licence, a freelancer can work in the free zones and provide services to both individuals and companies.

How to Get a Freelance Licence in the UAE

The procedure for obtaining a freelance licence is similar to registering a company in the UAE. The main difference is that a freelancer is not required to have their own office; also a freelance licence costs less.

A freelance licence is issued in one of the UAE’s free economic zones. The choice of a free zone depends on the field in which the freelancer works. For example, representatives of the media, design, education and IT sectors can apply for a licence in the following free zones:

  • Dubai Media City issues a licence to photographers, journalists, actors, and other media professionals;
  • Dubai Design District issues a licence to those, who are involved in design;
  • Dubai Knowledge Park issues a licence to those, who are employed in the field of education: teachers, scientists, trainers and others;
  • Dubai Internet City issues a licence to those, who are working in the IT industry.
Dubai internet city
agilard / Shutterstock

However, the list of free zones where one can get a freelance licence is not limited to the above.

It is also possible to obtain a licence in other emirates, for example, in the twofour54 media free zone in Abu Dhabi.

The licence is issued for one year. The cost of a freelance licence in Dubai starts from 7,500 dirhams (approx. 2,042 US dollars). The price depends on the free zone of choice.

Together with the licence, the freelancer also needs to receive an establishment card — a plastic card that contains information about the freelancer’s registration. The companies’ owners have the same card. An establishment card is issued for one year; its registration costs 2,000 dirhams.

After obtaining a licence and an establishment card, a foreigner can apply for a 3-year resident visa. Read more about obtaining a UAE residence visa in our article.

Emirates ID

UAE Remote Working Visa

Also in 2022, the UAE government made it possible for workers from all over the world to live in Dubai as part of the Virtual Working Programme. A remote working visa costs 2,451 dirhams and is valid for one year; however, it can be extended.

To apply for this visa, the foreigner needs a passport with a minimum validity of 6 months and health insurance covering the entire stay in the UAE.

An employee must meet the following requirements:

  • have an employment contract valid for one year with an employer in any country in the world;
  • have a salary of at least 5,000 US dollars per month;
  • provide a payslip for the last month and a bank statement for the previous three months.

This type of visa can also be obtained by the company’s owner, in which case, the owner will need:

  • to provide proof of ownership of the company for the span of one year or more;
  • to have an average monthly income of 5,000 US dollars per month;
  • to provide a bank statement for the last three months from the company’s bank account.

This visa is much easier and cheaper to obtain than a licensed freelance visa.

Comparison of the UAE Freelance Visas

Licensed freelance visa

Licensed freelance visa

Green Residence visa

Remote Working visa

Validity

1 year

3 years

5 years

1 year

Visa issuance cost

2,750 dirhams (749 $)

5,000 dirhams (1,361 $)

2,280 dirhams (620 $)

2,451 dirhams (667 $)

Licence cost

7,500 dirhams (2,042 $)

7,500 dirhams (2,042 $)

Not required

Not required

Establishment card cost

2,000 dirhams (545 $)

2,000 dirhams (545 $)

Not required

Not required

Health insurance cost

Included in the cost of the visa

Included in the cost of the visa

Varies depending on the number of dependants

From 500 $

Minimum income

Not important

Not important

From 360,000 dirhams (98,010 US dollars) in the last two years

From 5,000 $

Full registration cost per year

12,250 dirhams

(3,336 $)

14,500 dirhams

(3,948 $)

From 2,280 dirhams (620 $)

From 1,167 $

Dubai Freelance Visa Benefits

  • A freelancer can sponsor their family and take them to the UAE as well. Sponsorship in this context means that a foreigner generates enough income to be able to provide financial support for their family in a foreign country.
  • One cannot hire employees with a freelance visa.
  • Dubai tax residents do not pay taxes on their income. Only those earning more than 375,000 dirhams (102,094 US dollars) per year are required to pay a VAT of 5 percent.
  • A freelance licence can also be obtained by those foreigners who already live in the UAE on some other legal basis. For example, it can be issued by a family member of an investor who received a residence permit for the purchase of real estate. Or an employee of one of the local companies can obtain a freelance licence in addition to their main job. However, in this case, a written statement from the employer will be required, proving the employer has no objections to that.

Documents Required for UAE Freelance Visa

  1. Copy of the international passport.
  2. CV (Curriculum Vitae).
  3. Several 3×4 cm photographs.
  4. Health insurance.
  5. Bank statement.
  6. Diploma of Higher Education.
  7. Portfolio or examples of work (for creative professions’ representatives).

All documents must be translated into English and certified by the UAE Consulate.

How to get a freelance visa in Dubai: a step by step guide

Step 1. Register on the GoFreelance website

Create a profile on the GoFreelance website. You must specify the field you are working in: education, media, design or IT.

Step 2. Apply for a freelance licence

After registering on the GoFreelance website, a foreigner receives the credentials needed to log into the axs portal. This is a government website that connects the Dubai government with business representatives.

Step 3. Pay for the application

This can either be done online or in person in one of the free zones. A freelance licence costs 7,500 dirhams (2,042 US dollars). After the application is approved, the freelancer receives a licence by e-mail within 10-15 days.

Step 4. Apply for an establishment card

This can be done online on the axs portal. The card costs 2,000 dirhams (545 US dollars). It is issued to both freelancers and business owners in the UAE.

Step 5. Apply for a freelance resident visa

After obtaining a freelance licence and an establishment card, you can apply for a freelance resident visa. The freelance visa is handled by the Dubai Development Authority.

Step 6. Pass a medical examination

It is mandatory that all expats in Dubai undergo a medical examination at one of the certified medical centres in the UAE. This examination includes a blood test and an X-ray of the lungs. The authorities of the country need confirmation that the foreigner does not suffer from tuberculosis and is not a carrier of HIV.

Step 7. Issue Emirates ID

The foreigner must undergo a fingerprinting procedure in one of the state typing centres as well as get their photo taken there.

After 5-7 business days, the freelancer will receive a resident identification card (Emirates ID).

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