Freelancing in Dubai: How to Obtain Licences, Visas and Comply with New Tax Laws?

New regulations and tax requirements for freelancers in the UAE's dynamic economy

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Swastik Pal

Published on June 18, 2024, 11:14:58


freelancing in dubai

Dubai, with its vibrant economy and entrepreneurial spirit, is an attractive destination for freelancers looking to start their own business.

If you're considering transitioning to freelancing in Dubai, understanding the process of obtaining a freelance license, visa, and navigating the tax obligations is crucial. This article will guide you through the steps to get started and ensure you stay compliant with the UAE's tax laws.

To understand the legal framework, consider the provisions of Article 8 on the Implementing Regulation of Federal Decree-Law No. 33/2021 Regarding the Regulation of Employment Relationships. This law recognises self-employment or freelancing as an independent and flexible work system where a natural person generates direct income by providing services for a specified period or task, without being considered an employee of the individuals or establishments receiving the services.

How to Get a Freelance License and Visa in Dubai Mainland

Before diving into freelancing, you'll need to obtain the necessary licenses and visas to operate legally in Dubai. In accordance with UAE Labour Law, a freelance permit allows individuals to engage in self-employment independently without sponsorship from a specific employer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Obtaining a Freelance License

1. Choose Your Activity: Identify the specific activity you wish to freelance in, such as content creation, photography, consultancy, or journalism. This will determine the type of license you need.

2. Submit Your Application: You can apply for a freelance license through the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai. The application process typically involves submitting your passport copy, resume, and recent photograph. Some activities may require proof of work experience or qualifications.

3. Pay the Fees: The cost of a freelance license varies depending on the nature of your activity. The fees for a freelance license in Dubai mainland generally range from AED 7,500 to AED 15,000 annually.

4. Receive Your License: Once your application is approved and the fees are paid, you will receive your freelance license, allowing you to operate legally as a freelancer in Dubai mainland.

Obtaining a Freelance Visa

1. Visa Application: With your freelance license, you can apply for a residency visa through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). The application process involves submitting your passport, medical fitness test results, Emirates ID application, and passport-sized photos.

2. Medical Fitness Test: Undergo a medical fitness test at an approved center. This includes a blood test and chest X-ray.

3. Emirates ID: Apply for your Emirates ID, which is a mandatory identification card for all residents in the UAE.

4. Visa Stamping: After completing the medical test and Emirates ID application, your visa will be stamped in your passport, granting you legal residency in Dubai.

Transitioning from Employment to Freelancing

If you are currently employed by an existing company in Dubai and wish to pursue freelancing, here are the steps you should follow:

1. Check Employment Contract: Review your current employment contract for any clauses related to freelancing or secondary employment. Some contracts may restrict you from engaging in other work without your employer's consent.

2. Obtain NOC from Employer: If your employment contract allows, request a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your employer. This document states that your employer has no objections to you starting freelance work.

3. Apply for Freelance License: With the NOC, proceed with the application process for a freelance license as described above. Ensure you meet all requirements and submit the necessary documents.

5. Legal and Tax Compliance: Be mindful of your tax obligations as a freelancer, including corporate tax and VAT compliance. Maintain accurate records of your freelance income and expenses separately from your employment income.

Taxation for Freelancers: Corporate Tax and VAT

Once you're set up with your freelance license and visa, it's essential to understand your tax obligations in the UAE. While the UAE is known for its tax-friendly environment, freelancers must comply with corporate tax and Value-Added Tax (VAT) regulations.

Value-Added Tax (VAT) for Freelancers

VAT is a consumption tax introduced in the UAE on January 1, 2018, and applies to most goods and services.

1. VAT Registration Threshold: Freelancers must register for VAT if their annual income from services exceeds AED 375,000. However, you can voluntarily register for VAT at any point, even if your income is below the specified threshold.

2. VAT Compliance: Registered freelancers must issue VAT-compliant invoices, file periodic VAT returns with the FTA, and maintain accurate records of all VAT transactions. The standard VAT rate is 5%.

3. Zero-Rated and Exempt Services: Certain services are zero-rated or exempt from VAT, including exports of services, international consulting, and specific education and healthcare services. Freelancers providing these services must still register for VAT if their income exceeds the registration threshold but will not charge VAT on these services.

Corporate Tax for Freelancers

As of June 1, 2023, the UAE has introduced a federal corporate tax regime, impacting freelancers who earn taxable profits.

1. Corporate Tax Rate: The standard corporate tax rate is set at 9% for businesses, including freelancers, whose annual taxable profits exceed AED 375,000. However, It is mandatory to register for corporate tax regardless of your income level.

2. Taxable Threshold: If your annual income as a freelancer is below AED 375,000, you are exempt from corporate tax. However, if you exceed this threshold, you must register with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA), file tax returns, and pay the applicable taxes.

3. Tax Compliance: Freelancers must keep accurate records of their income and allowable deductions to ensure proper tax filings.

Navigating Tax Compliance

To ensure you remain compliant with corporate tax and VAT regulations, consider the following steps:

1. Seek Professional Advice: Engage a tax advisor or accountant to help you navigate the complexities of the UAE tax system.

2. Monitor Income: Regularly track your income to determine your corporate tax obligations and plan for timely payments.

3. Maintain Accurate Records: Keep detailed financial records to support your tax filings and facilitate audits if required.

4. Stay Updated: Stay informed about changes in tax laws and regulations to adapt your business practices accordingly.


Starting a freelancing career in Dubai mainland offers numerous opportunities, but it comes with responsibilities, including compliance with corporate tax and VAT regulations. By obtaining the appropriate licenses, understanding your tax obligations, and seeking professional advice, you can successfully navigate the tax landscape and thrive as a freelancer in the UAE's dynamic economy.

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