Empowering the Freelance Economy

Dubai: new residency rules welcome freelancers and their families

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More freelancers could call Dubai their home thanks to an overhaul of the Emirate’s latest residency rules. Two new visas boast a no-sponsor-needed residency and are being highly praised for their flexible and long-term approach.

The five-year Green Visa offers amazing flexibility to skilled professionals, investors and entrepreneurs to stay in Dubai, even as a freelancer or self-employed.

The ten-year Golden Visa is being granted to those of exceptional talent: students and graduates, humanitarian pioneers and scientists to name a few. Faster processing times and digital entries are also a benefit of the latest overhaul of residency rules.

Can freelancers bring their families to Dubai?

The new visa changes in UAE bring excellent news for family members of residents, according to property site, Bayut:

Having a freelance visa and permit in Dubai also allows you to work as an independent contractor for companies across the UAE and allows you access to the free zone’s business centre. 

With the freelance visa in Dubai, you can also sponsor family members to come and live with you in an apartment or villa for rent in Dubai. However, bear in mind that you cannot sponsor employees with your freelance permit and visa. 

“Parents can now sponsor their unmarried daughter indefinitely and their sons until age 25. Previously, the cut off age for boys was 18. Green visa holders can bring any first-degree relatives who can stay as long as the Green visa of the resident remains valid.

“Moreover, children with disabilities will get a resident permit permanently regardless of their age.”

For those that wish to come to Dubai to start their job search, there is a catch. According to Bayut, anyone who has graduated from any of the best 500 universities globally and is classified in the first, second or third skill level (as listed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation) will be able to apply.

How long can I stay on a tourist visa in Dubai?

A new 5-year tourist visa is also part of the newly introduced visa rules, which means tourists no longer need a sponsor to apply. Visitors can stay for 90 days in a row, and the visa can be extended further. However, the maximum number of days of stay in the UAE is limited to 180 days per year.

Candidates must submit a six-month bank statement with a minimum balance of $4,000 (in any currency) with the application.

Fastest growing industries hiring freelancers in Dubai

According to a report by the Gulf Times, the fastest-growing industries for freelancers in 2022 include Digital Marketing (37 per cent), Information Technology (20 per cent), Customer Service (12 per cent), Accounting, Banking and Finance (12 per cent), HR and Recruiting (10 per cent) and Graphic Design (10 per cent).

Most in-demand freelancer skills

Respondents in a Bayt survey showed that the top skills freelancers must have, include include: time management (38 per cent), communication skills (27 per cent), ability to market themselves (19 per cent), leadership (9 per cent) and attention to detail (7 per cent).

The survey revealed that freelancers search for jobs on online job sites and professional platforms (69 per cent), social media (12 per cent), companies’ websites (12 per cent) and personal networks (2 per cent).

  • 7 in 10 MENA employers are planning to hire freelancers in 2022.
  • Digital Marketing (37%) and Information Technology (20%) are the fastest-growing industries for freelancers.
  • 87% of professionals believe that freelancers have experienced a surge in demand in the past two years.
  • The biggest motivations for taking up freelance work include earning extra income (40%) and exploring more career opportunities (23%).
  • 78% of respondents plan to do more freelance work in 2022.

Tips to consider before moving to Dubai as a freelancer

  • Consider trying out Dubai as a tourist before you move there permanently. Work as a digital nomad for existing clients back home.
  • Understand the laws of the Emirates when it comes to cultural differences and setting up a business. Study and ask what is accepted and what is forbidden.
  • Start making enquiries with recruiters, digital nomads and directly to clients you would like to work for to understand day rates and payment terms.
  • The cost of living in Dubai: your income v. those of the uber-wealthy locals. Your everyday surroundings could be very glamorous, but keep your head when it comes to realistically affording everyday living in Dubai. Find your balance. Will you have to home school your children or can you afford private schooling?
  • What you need to open a bank account in Dubai v. keeping a bank account open in your home country.
  • Understand the real estate market when it comes to deposits and rental agreements.
  • Pensions are still a developing consideration for Dubai, so set up something for yourself and understand any tax implications or lost home country government top-ups if you move overseas.
  • Understand tax obligation differences and status between being say a UK resident v. full-time Dubai resident.
  • Many freelancers are attracted to the tax-free status of the Emirates, however, you need a considerable amount of savings before they move to cover initial moving and living costs including Visa fees. Plus an added buffer when looking for work and waiting for payments to come through.

Sites that might be useful for your research:

Average freelancer incomes in Dubai

Day in the Life of a Digital Nomad in Dubai


Freelancer Marketplace

Recruitment agencies

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