In recent decades freelancing has gained much ground. An unprecedented range of professionals sees freelancing as a long-term, full-time career option. Many countries have taken specific measures to legitimize, popularize, and facilitate freelancing to attract talented freelancers. The UAE seems to have taken this initiative to a whole different level.
The UAE took 4th place among the best countries to work in as a freelancer. This was reported in the UK Business Site Expert Market 2018 study. UAE ranked after Hong Kong (1), USA (2), and South Korea (3). The superlative ranking of the UAE is owed largely to government incentives. The UAE offers many opportunities to freelancers, including foreign professionals.
The Middle East’s premier job portal Bayt.com estimates the average monthly income of freelancers in the UAE to be in the range of $4,000. Steve Ashby, the founder of Businessmentals, a Dubai-based consultancy firm for freelancers, observed: “a rise of people freelancing in the UAE” in 2019. He attributed the rise to the “UAE government providing reasonably priced freelancer licenses.”
Labor law in the UAE mandates foreign professionals to have permits to work as freelancers. Having a freelancer permit allows one to get legal support. It also builds credibility with clients. To become a licensed freelancer, one must apply for a Trade License from the Department of Economic Development. Applicants must pay a one-time fee roughly equivalent to $4,350. This amount includes the permit, Establishment Card charges, Visa processing fees, and Health Insurance Premium.
Those who plan to work in any free trade zone such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi must complete additional registration procedures. Dubai has 27 free zones, all with differing procedures and fee structures. Many are specialized by profession. For example, Dubai Internet City only issues freelancer permits in the tech sector. Similarly, Dubai Media City only issues permits for media professionals. Dubai Knowledge Park specializes in welcoming experts in the education sector. Some of these permits require applicants to invest a minimum startup capital or rent office space.
The UAE offers many licensing solutions. Each comes with its own set of merits and demerits. News correspondent Rosanna Lockwood suggests shopping around for freelancer licenses. She remarks on how “…getting licensed is not a cheap or an easy thing to do but, as a result, it sorts the serious freelancers from the rest.”
The UAE government recently launched a fantastic initiative for individuals wanting to work as freelancers in Dubai. The Dubai Creative Clusters Authority partnered with the TECOM Group and rolled out their GoFreelance package. The package lets freelancers working in the media, technology, and education sectors easily apply for permits and visas. A freelancer permit under the GoFreelance package costs about $2,040 annually. A 3-year visa under TECOM would cost roughly $885. A permit takes 7-14 days to issue after an application is approved and all documents verified. Visa approval takes 14-21 days after the issue of a freelancing permit. This is all done online. Any aspirant from any country can apply online.
The most attractive aspect of freelancing in the UAE is the absence of income tax. Freelancers are not required to get their books audited either. They keep what they earn. Having a freelancing visa and permit in Dubai has additional benefits. The UAE government allows freelancers to work as independent contractors for firms all over the UAE. A Dubai freelancing permit also allows freelancers to sponsor family members and bring them to the Emirates. However, they cannot sponsor employees in this way.
Large numbers of ex-pat freelancers live and work gainfully in the UAE. Most of them can send money online as remittances to their families in their home countries. Higher earnings and tax savings in the UAE allow ex-pats to give better lives to their loved ones.
A few things to remember.
For ex-pat spouses living in the UAE, freelancing can be a great option to keep busy while earning extra cash. Notably, UAE law requires female spouses to furnish No Objection Letters from their husbands. The letter states that a husband expressly allows his wife to work as a freelancer. Expats in the UAE whose residencies are sponsored by their employers require similar No Objection Letters. These letters are only required once, at the time of applying for a freelancing permit.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.