Costs and process to get a freelance permit in the UAE and sponsor your own visa.

The UAE is hands down one of the most open and pro-business economies in the gulf region. As such, various options are available for foreign workers and investors to gain residence visas and carry out business in the UAE.

an aeriel view of the burj khalifa, dubai
An aerial view of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai (Image credit: Whatson.ae)

The UAE very early on recognized the importance of providing innovative immigration options for talented foreign workers and investors to immigrate to and reside in the country, enabling them to participate in the local economy.


In a region where foreign employees are often greatly restricted by their local sponsor’s authority, the UAE has always stood apart as a country that allows its expatriate workers to exercise great freedoms such as freely switch local sponsors, switch jobs, own real estate, sponsor family members and even sponsor their own visa by means of business ownership or investment.


One such option that is attractive to many expatriates is the ability to sponsor their own visa as a freelancer/ self-employed professional.

An aerial view of Abu Dhabi skyline.
An aerial view of Abu Dhabi skyline.

How can you sponsor your own visa in the UAE, as freelancer?

Whilst there are a few different ways to go about doing this, the quickest and most practiced way is to obtain a freelance business license from one of the many freezones in the UAE and obtain a visa for yourself via that business.


Such freelancer packages usually include the setting up of a freezone entity limited to one owner and one visa package.


Such packages are also limited to certain professions and practice areas that are deemed suitable for freelancers (such as creative services, business consulting services, fitness trainers, social media personalities, etc.)


Certain activities that require more substantial business setups (such as trading) may not be available with such packages.


Once such a freezone entity is set up, you can proceed to sponsor your own visa via that business. This is a relatively straightforward process that your PRO or business setup advisor can assist you with.


A traveler pictured in Al Ain, UAE
A traveler pictured in Al Ain, UAE (Image credit: Visit Abu Dhabi)

What are the benefits and limitations of such freelancer packages?


Benefits:

  • This is usually a quick and easy setup.

  • Minimal costs, often less than setting up a full fledged company.

  • The ability to reside and work in the UAE, as a self-employed professional


Limitations:

  • You cannot hire employees or sponsor employment visas. Such packages are limited to having a sole owner and worker- yourself.

  • There may be certain limitations on sponsoring family members too.

  • Such packages are only limited to certain activities such as creative services, business consulting services, fitness trainers, music artists, social media personalities, and so on. One may not practice activities like trading that warrant more substantial setups.

  • Such packages are only marginally cheaper than other freezone packages that allow you to hire employees and sponsor more visas. Should you have the intention of hiring in the future, it is advisable that you pursue a more substantial setup with higher visa quotas.

  • Working as a freelancer may restrict your ability to do business with certain clients who may prefer to work with more established companies.

  • Doing business as a freelancer may hinder your ability to open a bank account, as they usually prefer to open accounts for businesses with more substance.


An aerial view of Dubai Airport Freezone
An aerial view of Dubai Airport Freezone (image credit: DAFZA)

What are the costs involved to obtain a freelancer license in the UAE?

Depending on which freezone you chose, the costs could be between AED 20,000 to AED 30,000.


This includes licensing costs, documentation costs, immigration charges, visa fees, and PRO charges for the entire process.


However, there are some special packages available under specific conditions.


If you are a businessowner between ages 18 and 30, Ajman Freezone has a freelancer package for young business-owners starting from AED 5,000 only.


From time to time, other freezones too run various offers aimed at incentivizing specific fields or segments of talented professionals to set up their freelance practice. To know more about current offers, please reach out to us.


flag island in sharjah
Flag Island, Sharjah, UAE (Image credit: Timeout Sharjah)

Conclusive thoughts:

A UAE freelancer license and self employed visa is a great option for those who intend to do business as freelancers and sole practitioners in the UAE.


To know more about the processes and costs involved, please get in touch with us.

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