At Nabbesh we’ve been hearing many questions lately from our community members regarding the “rules” of setting-up as a freelancer in the UAE, and we have been listening to you!

Many of our community members in the UAE are expats who want to earn extra cash, but at the same time, want to make certain they are doing it legally!  Our Nabbesh community of nearly 30,000 come from many different backgrounds in the freelancing world, and although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, we compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions to give you insights into the UAE’s rules on freelancing.

Frequently Asked Questions on Freelancing in the UAE

1. May I legally freelance in the UAE?   

Yes, you may freelance in the UAE!  However, it is important to distinguish between part-time work and freelancing.  Freelancing is working for yourself, where you are essentially a company made up of one person, which is perfectly legal as long as you are licensed to do so.

2. So, I need a license?

Yes you do!  You will need to secure a Trade License pertaining to your business activity from your selected Licensing Authority, and adhere to their stipulations.

3. What kind of license do I need?

The kind of license you need depends on the nature of the business you are looking to conduct.

There are two main ways of setting-up a business in Dubai and different license options for both, which a business setup specialist can explain in detail. The first is through the Dubai Department of Economic Development and the second is through one of the many Free Zones (e.g., Fujairah). 

a. Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) Business Setup

The main license types in the DED are:

1. Commercial (51% Emirati owned; 49% foreign owned), and; 

 2. Services/Professional/Consultancy (100% expat owned with a local Emirati service agent).  

b. Free Zone (FZ) Business Setup

For the free zones, both of the above license options apply, but the main differences are 1., an Emirati partner is not required, and 2., FZ businesses are 100% expat owned.

4. What are other benefits of setting-up through a Free Zone?

The general benefits of setting-up through a FZ are that companies can remain 100% foreign-owned and benefit from being “tax free” for 50 years, according to Article 15 of Law No. 1 of 2000 of the Emirate of Dubai.

Visas

5. If I’m not a resident, may I obtain a residency visa through one of these license options? 

Yes, you may!

6. May I freelance if I’m on my husband’s visa?

Yes, you may!  You would first need to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your husband as well as a labor card issued from the licensing authority/immigration office of the Emirate where the freelance company has been registered.

7. I’m working full-time but I’m interested in turning my hobby into a business.  May I obtain a license even if I’m sponsored by my employer?

Yes, you may!  Most (not all) licensing authorities would request you to provide a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your employer in order for you to start your own freelancer company.

8. How long will it take to get a freelance license and setup my business?

On average the process can take anywhere from one week to ten days. 

9. Do I need to rent office space?

The majority of licensing authorities do require you to have some sort of office space within their jurisdiction, be it something minimal like a flexi-desk or a smart office, which is often already built into the price of the company setup package offered. These packages are typically catered to fit the needs of freelancers like yourselves. 

Some licensing authorities are even able to provide you with a Trade License without taking office space of any sort, however under this option you wouldn’t be able to secure any residency visas on the company, so this option is best suited to a freelancer who already has a residency visa be it through their spouse, parent or current employer.

10. Do I have to get a freelance license through a business setup specialist or can I do it myself?

You certainly can do it yourself, however most of our community members have testified that using a business setup specialist was a wiser, more sensible and efficient option, as setting up a company in the UAE can be a very time consuming and draining process.  

There are so many facets to consider when setting up a new business in the UAE, like obtaining your trade license, applying for your visa, getting business cards printed and setting up your bank account. The business setup specialist takes care of all the admin, allowing you to focus your attention on developing and growing your business.

To learn more about special licensing options and discounts available to Nabbesh users through our partners, e-mail us at support@Nabbesh.com

Disclaimer: The information contained within this blog post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.  The information contained here may not necessarily relay the most up-to-date regulations by the government of the UAE.  Nabbesh always recommends you check with your local authorities to make certain you are compliant with current regulations.

Update:

11 – Where Can I find freelance work?

Click here to browse freelance work opportunities on Nabbesh.

10 Comments

  1. thank you so much ! i’m freelancer in real estate business and i was really asking all that questions to my Lebanese lawyer but even lebanese lawyers don’t know that much details about the freelancing jobs 🙂 was beneficial

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  2. Businesses that are looking to expand into the UAE will find that there are two different ways for them to set up their company. One of which is within Free Trade Zones and the other, outside of these zones. The difference between the two is that within Free Trade Zones businesses are permitted to have full ownership, and businesses outside the Free Trade Zones will need do make an agreement with a local company or business man who will be then given fifty one percent ownership of the business. Free zone company formation

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