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Work from home with your own freelance permit and residence visa in the UAE. Image Credit: Stock Image

Many of us dream of starting our own business or at least being masters of our own time, the captains of our ship. But, are often caught in the wheel of daily work and life. However, there are those who break free and make a conscious effort to do so, and what better place to pursue your dreams of economic independence than in the UAE!

You can either set up your own company by getting a trade licence or a freelance permit.

Well, there are quite a few but the most basic being that with a trade licence, as you succeed and grow, you will have the ability to hire people, whereas on a freelance permit, you are the sole practitioner of your craft. So, freelance permit is the way to go if you want to keep costs low and stay small. And then there is the option to work part-time, which is a whole different story. Additionally, a freelance permit can always be upgraded to a trade licence later.

To work as a freelancer in the UAE you need a residence visa and a freelance work permit.

Now you could already be having a residence visa if sponsored by your parent or spouse. In case you are not, you can apply for it from a free zone authority.

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, Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone authority or RAKEZ, and Ajman Freezone .

There is a caveat to this freelance permit option, it is only available for people working in the fields of media, education or IT.

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Media is one of the sectors that freelance permits are available for in the UAE. Image Credit: Stock Image

How to get a freelance permit in Abu Dhabi?

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Abu Dhabi skyline. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

You can get a freelance permit from twofour54 freezone in Abu Dhabi in five simple steps.

Start with logging on to their website: https://www.twofour54.com/en/business-setup/how-to-set-up-a-business/freelance

Fill in the online application. You will need the following to complete the form:

  1. Passport Copy
  2. Passport-size photo
  3. Updated CV
  4. 2 professional references (with contact details)
  5. Work offer or a letter of intent from a twofour54 business partner.
  • Introduction – personal/professional background, work experience
  • Work – work you have done within the Media Zone Authority - Abu Dhabi or work you plan to carry out and the contacts as references
  • Liabilities – financial overview of expected income

The freezone authority will review your application, references and documentation.

Once done, they will contact you within three working days with feedback. Upon approval of your application, they will then initiate a meeting to complete the licensing and residency process. Sign and return your documents and make the necessary payments.

The Media Zone Authority has waived all licences fees for the first two years in the media zone, meaning you only need to pay for the visa registration process application and health insurance.

You will be issued with a sole proprietor’s business licence (all fees are waived for the first two years) and an employment visa valid for two years (for non-GCC nationals), which will be converted into a residence visa.

They also help applicants with finding housing, medical cover, applying for Emirates ID, etc.

How to get a freelance permit in Dubai?

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Dubai Media City - one of the freezones in the UAE. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Currently, registration is open under three sectors for freelance visas in the Emirate: Media (Dubai Media City), Tech (Dubai Internet City) and Education (Dubai Knowledge Park).

For Tech and Education, you can choose one activity and for Media you can choose up to three activities, such as Photographer, Animator, Graphic Designer. For the full details and application, you can log on to: https://gofreelance.ae/

Click on the Freelance option.

During the application process, you will be required to upload the following documents:

  1. Application Form
  2. Resume/CV
  3. Passport/Visa Copy
  4. Bank Reference Letter
  5. No Objection Certificate from UAE Sponsor is required to complete the freelance process
  6. Portfolio or Sample of Work (media sector only)
  7. Credentials and Certificates (education sector only)

Additional documents may be required.

Apply and submit your online application. When your application is approved, you will receive an email notification. You can then go to one of the business centres in Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City or Dubai Knowledge Park to personally sign documents and pay the fee.

Shortly afterwards you’ll receive your freelance permit via email.

The fee for the freelance package is Dh ,520 per year (including Dh 20 Innovation Dirham and Knowledge Fee), which is inclusive of the Freelancer Permit and allows access to the Business Centre.

If a visa is required, they will help you through the process.

A person who oversees the business and financial decisions for a motion picture including obtaining resources, creating scripts, and overseeing production

How to get a freelance permit in Ras Al Khaimah?

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Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Here the freelancer visa is available from the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone or RAKEZ authority.

Their freelancer permit starts from Dh6,100 and includes access to modern business centres, a range of support services, and a UAE Residence Visa.

Who can apply?

Actor, Editor, Animator, Announcer, Art Critic, Artist, Audio Technician, Chief Editor, Choreographer, Composer, Correspondent, Cinema and TV Director, Theatre Director, Events Coordinator, Events Manager, Film Developer, Film Producer, Programme Organiser, Instrumentalist, Journalist, Light Technician, Literary Writer, Literature Critic, Make-up Technician, Market Research Analyst, Marketing Coordinator, Motion Picture Photographer, Music Critic, Musician, News Editor, News Producer, Orchestrator, Social Media Influencer, etc.

For the full list, log on to: https://rakez.com

Step 1 – Submit your documents

  • Passport copy
  • Valid UAE Residence Visa copy (if applying for a permit without visa)
  • Sponsor’s No Objection Certificate (if applying for a permit without visa)
  • Portfolio/sample of works or qualification certificate

Step 2 – Make the payment

  • As cash at any of the RAKEZ offices in Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi
  • Or a cheque addressed to Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, submitted to any of the RAKEZ offices
  • You can also do a bank transfer to the account detailed in your invoice
  • Or pay online by following the cutomised link in your invoice

Step 3 – Receive your freelancer permit

How to get a freelance permit in Fujairah?

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Creative City Fujairah. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

The freezone authority in this emirate is called the Creative City Fujairah. You essentially need to log on to this link to get the details: https://www.creativecity.ae/about/packages

There are essentially two options available:

  • Commercial Plus One
  • The Commercial Plus One is the smallest company set-up with two-visa availability, and suitable for single individual owner.

Services include:

  • Trade licence validity from 1-3 years
  • Establishment card (1-3 years)
  • Up to 2 visas

Processing time:

  • 1 working day
  • Flexi-Desk facility (online support, internet access, signboard, PO box, conference room subject to availability and booking, PRO services)

Freelancer company:

This package is ideal for start-ups with 4 visas, providing all the advantages of a regular company set-up.

Services include:

  • Trade licence validity from 1-3 years
  • Establishment card (1-3 years)
  • Up to 3 visas

Processing time:

  • 1 working day
  • Flexi-Desk facility (online support, internet access, signboard, PO box, conference room subject to availability and booking, PRO services)
  • You can either message them on the website, call on (+971) 9 207 7666 or email info@ccfz.ae
  • They are open Saturday to Thursday: 9am - 5pm

How to get a freelance permit in Ajman?

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Ajman Free Zone. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Ajman Free Zone (AFZA) offers Freelance Licence package in UAE. This package comes at a fee of Dh6000 plus visa, Emirates ID and health insurance cost.

You can apply from a number of categories and includes a visa valid for three years, along with Business Hub facilities.

For the Freelance Licence, you must have a valid passport, visa copy, no objection certificate from the sponsor (only if you are a resident in UAE) and a passport colour photograph. A range of job categories are available, which can be found once you start filling in your application.

Steps to apply:

  • Click the following link: https://www.afzindia.com/invest-in-ajman.html
  • It will take you to a page that tells you about the various packages available including freelance licence.
  • Choose it. Fill the application, and hit submit button.
  • Usually, it is supposed to take about one working day to process, if approved. And you are in business!