How to apply for Freelance License in the UAE?

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The UAE’s booming economy and cosmopolitan yet diverse atmosphere make it a magnet for talented freelancers. If you are looking for freelancers in the UAE, this is a positive sign. UAE’s freelancing market has become far more competitive and inclusive compared to the past. Since the “Freelance Permit” by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) came in 2018, the UAE has continued to develop as a freelance hub for innovation and independent entrepreneurship. Whether you’re a consultant, contractor, or creative professional, a freelance license is your gateway to enter into a world of flexible opportunities. Freelancers in the UAE now have greater scope to work in niches of their choice, including media, technology, education, and more. A freelance license is all it takes to ‘legally’ offer your services in the UAE. While the application process might seem overwhelming, this guide will break it down for you.

What is a Freelance License? 

In layman’s terms, a freelance license in the UAE is a legal permit that allows you to operate as a self-employed individual, offering your services to clients in the UAE. It’s your official go-to to work as a freelancer. Here are some key points about a freelance license:

  • Legality: It ensures you’re operating legally and can freely enter into contracts with clients or service seekers.
  • Taxation: Depending on the specific license and your income level, you may be subject to certain taxes.
  • Activity Restrictions: There may be limitations on the type of freelance work you can do depending on your chosen license (mainland vs. free zone) and specific activity.
  • Visa Sponsorship (Optional): Some free zones offer visa sponsorship as part of the freelance license, allowing you to live and work in the UAE.

Additionally, if you’re not a UAE national, you’ll need to explore visa options that allow you to live and work in the country legally. Fortunately, many free zones offer packages that include both a freelance license and a residency visa, simplifying this process.

How Different is a Freelance License from a Freelance Visa?

The freelance license and freelance visa are two facets but they are distinct things in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Here’s a brief analogy to understand the difference. Governments can create a license as a freelance permit for your business as a service provider or seeker. By this, you can start and function your freelancing business lawfully if you register and receive the necessary approvals to operate. On the other hand (the contrast idea), a freelance visa is like a worker`s permit. It is a legal document which affords you the privilege of residing in the UAE and engaging in freelancing services duly paid for with a valid license.


  • Freelance License: This is basically a legal permit that permits you to freelance in the UAE as a legal worker.  It focuses on your business activity and ensures you comply with regulations related to your chosen freelance profession.
  • Freelance Visa (if applicable): Here, instead of a residency permit, a special document will be given to freelancers. It focuses on your immigration status and allows you to live and work in the UAE.


  • Freelance License: For operating legally while offering your freelancing service to your local clients in UAE, you will need to own a freelance permit.
  • Freelance Visa (if applicable): Freelance visa might not be obligatory but it gives you the right of residency to stay in the UAE as long as you are under a freelance umbrella. 

Obtaining the Permit:

  • Freelance License: You can obtain a freelance license directly from the relevant authority (DED for mainland or the free zone authority).
  • Freelance Visa (if applicable): In some cases, a freelance license can be obtained independently. However, to obtain a freelance visa in the UAE, you might need sponsorship from a free zone authority that offers them.

Understanding Your Options: Mainland vs. Free Zone

Several factors have contributed to the UAE’s embrace of freelance visas:

The first step is deciding where to base your freelance operations: the UAE mainland or a free zone.

  • Mainland Zone: Ideal if you target the entire UAE market and collaborate with local businesses/clients. The Department of Economic Development (DED) issues mainland freelance licenses. Benefits? You get to enjoy complete business ownership from scratch and the flexibility to choose your business activity. However, mainland licenses often involve higher costs and a slightly more complex setup process.
  • Free Zone: Free zones offer a haven for freelancers with specific benefits like tax exemptions and streamlined processes. Popular free zones for freelancers include Dubai Media City, Dubai Design District, Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone Authority or RAKEZ, and twofour54 in Abu Dhabi. Each free zone has its own regulations and application procedures. However, free zones may have limitations on your target market (you might be restricted to doing business within the free zone or clients within a specific industry) and may have specific business activity restrictions.

Some Basic Requirements for a Freelance License

While specific requirements may vary between emirates and free zones, some general documents are common across most applications:

  • Valid passport copy with residence visa page (if applicable)
  • Educational certificates attested by the UAE consulate or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for some professions)
  • Up-to-date CV or portfolio showcasing your skills and experience
  • No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your current employer (if already residing in the UAE)
  • 2 professional references (with contact details)
  • Passport-sized photograph
  • Business plan (may be required by some free zones)

The Application Process

Here’s a simplified breakdown of the application process:

  1. Choose your location: Decide between the mainland or a free zone based on your target market and desired benefits.
  2. Research-specific requirements: Contact the relevant authority (DED for mainland or the free zone authority) to confirm the exact documentation and fees required for your chosen freelance activity.
  3. Gather your documents: Ensure all documents are attested (if necessary) and translated into Arabic if required.
  4. Apply online or in person: Most authorities offer online application portals. Alternatively, visit the relevant authority’s office in person.
  5. Pay the fees: Application and license fees vary depending on your location and chosen activity.
  6. Await approval: Processing times can range from a few days to a few weeks.

Additional Considerations

  • Visa Sponsorship: If you don’t currently have a UAE residence visa, some free zones can sponsor your visa as part of the freelance permit process.
  • Medical Test: You may need a medical test for the visa application process.
  • Bank Account: Opening a local UAE bank account can simplify financial transactions.

While some general documents apply to most applications, specific requirements can vary significantly between emirates, free zones, and chosen freelance activities. Here’s how to ensure a smooth application process:

  1. Identify Your Authority: Contact the relevant authority – the DED for the mainland or the specific free zone authority for your chosen location.
  2. Targeted Research: Communicate your desired freelance activity to the authority. This makes sure they provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on required documents, fees, and any special approvals needed for your specific profession.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How to become a freelancer in the UAE?

A: To work as a freelancer in the UAE, you’ll need a residency visa and freelance work permission. If your parents or spouse has sponsored you, you may already have a resident visa. If you are not, you can apply for it through a free zone authority.

Q: How much does a freelancer permit cost in Dubai?

A: The permit costs AED 7,500* and has to be renewed annually. Permit holders may also apply for family and dependent visas.

Q: Can I get a freelance work permit in the UAE?

A: Yes, you can. You can also apply for a work permit if you are not currently in the UAE. Once you’ve filed your documents for a freelance work permit and the authorities have approved them, they can offer you entry permission, allowing you to enter the UAE. 

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