Many expats in the UAE are hesitant about going freelance despite the attractions of being your own boss.
Here, we answer the key questions about freelancing.
Is freelancing permitted in the UAE?
Freelancing is permitted in the UAE as long as you obtain the requisite permits and approvals.
What are the key permits and approvals I need to work as a freelancer?
In order to work in the UAE, whether as a freelancer or otherwise, you need both a residence visa and a work permit.
What is the easiest route to take to become a freelancer?
One of the paths to becoming a freelancer is to apply for a freelance work permit and residence visa (if not sponsored by your spouse or father) from a free zone. The free zones that currently offer a freelance permit include Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Design District, Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 and Fujairah Creative City. Note that your profession would have to be related to the activity of the free zone. The freelance permit identifies you as a sole practitioner and enables you to conduct your business in your birth name as opposed to a brand name. The free zone will generally provide you a shared office space and a shared PO box.
Another option is to set up a company in any free zone which would essentially allow you to legally conduct your business in the UAE.
What are the costs involved?What documents do I need to submit to the free zone?
It depends on the free zone that you intend to establish yourself in but expect your set-up costs to range from Dhs10,000 to Dhs20,000. Note that you will have to renew your licence on a yearly basis, which would be in the region of your set-up costs.
The documents you will have to typically submit include a business plan, a copy of a no-objection certificate (NOC) from your current sponsor (if any) and a copy of your passport.
If I have a freelance permit from a free zone, can I contract with mainland or onshore companies?
There isn’t any strict prohibition on being engaged by a mainland/onshore company. However, there may be fine print involved depending on your activity and the free zone in which you are set up in.
If I have a residence visa sponsored by my husband/father, can I freelance? Can I also work temporarily for a company?
You will still need a work permit if you wish to freelance. It is possible to obtain a temporary work permit from the Ministry of Labour if you are to be employed by a mainland company for a maximum six-month term. Additionally, for a part-time job involving work for a fewer number of hours than normal working hours at a company, you could avail a part-time work permit through the company you intend to work for. For both a part-time or a temporary work permit, you will need an NOC from your current sponsor.
If I have a full-time job, can I freelance for other companies in my free time?
You will need a part-time work permit from the Ministry of Labour along with approvals from both your current employer and part-time employer.