Is Freelancing Legal in the UAE

Many people like the idea of freelancing, because that simply means that you are your own boss, and that you are free in preparing your work schedule however it suits you. You won’t be forced to wake up early to get to your workplace on time, you won’t be asked to do tasks that you cannot carry out, or be asked to deal with people you do not like to deal with. No one will force you to achieve a certain objective that you would be punished if you did not do it as required.

Freelancing have gained popularity in the UAE in recent years, given that it is completely legal after getting the needed permits from the concerned authorities. For example, in Dubai, there are two authorities that represent permit agents in the UAE:

  • The Department of Economic Development: this department was established in March 1992, with the aim of organizing, modifying and reinforcing trade and manufacturing in the emirate of Dubai, and preparing an environment that helps achieve sustainable economic development, and reaching high levels of economic welfare and prosperity for the residents of Dubai.

In October 2008, His Highness Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, issued decree number 25 that commissions the department with the responsibility of planning and organizing general economic performance in the emirate, supervising its activities, and reinforcing economic development in it, to guarantee the execution of Dubai strategic plan objectives.

The Department takes the responsibility of initiating the activities of registration and commercial permitting, and commercial monitoring and protection in Dubai, in addition to joining four institutions under its umbrella. Its tasks include developing the export sector and retail, supporting the projects of the youth, and encouraging foreign investment.

The institutions that belong to the department which are Dubai institution for export development, Muhammad Bin Rashid Foundation for supporting youth projects, Dubai Shopping Festival Office, and Office of Foreign Investments, take the responsibility of developing those sectors.

  • The Free Zone: it is the zone that allows practicing commercial business without the constraints that are usually put on foreign companies, like having a local partner or applying income tax or company tax.
  • mesh Certified Freelancer Permit: mesh issues Certified Permit to “Skilled Independent Professionals” in the UAE. The mesh Certified Permit allows its holders to work independently anywhere in the UAE. Thus, the certificate holder can work with employers, conduct business transactions and work at UAE businesses onsite or offsite. The certified permit will allow the freelancers to work with Government, Private, Semi-government and any type of business. The mesh Certified Permit is not a sector specific permit, it is a general permit for all activities for any Skilled Independent Professionals. mesh is the only skills marketplace in UAE that provides such certified permits.

Both the Department of Economic Development and the Free Zone have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, registering with the Department of Economic Development in Dubai allows extending the geographic domain of operations that a freelancer can practice; while registering through the Free Zone allows the foreign freelancer to own his business 100% without any taxes. As for the latter, they have to obtain a work visa from a sponsor, either through the current sponsor, like husband sponsorship or sponsorship of another business owner, provided that they obtain a letter of no objection, or through the permitting agent.

As for most permitting agents, the freelancer must have a kind of office space in the geographic domain of the permitting agent. Some agents provide all-inclusive packages for freelancers, including the overall expenses of getting a permit and the expenses of the office space. This condition is not necessarily available with all permitting agents; therefore, one should make sure of the availability of this option with each agent.

There is another thing to keep in mind for those who choose freelancing, which is the expenses, including the expenses of obtaining a permit, which may be different for different permitting agents, visa expenses, Emirates ID expenses, establishment card expenses and medical expenses. Those expenses are paid annually; therefore, the freelancer needs a budget for renewing every year.

Freelancing work style relieves you from having to be at a specific workplace. You, as a freelancer, can work from anywhere that is comfortable for you. That place could be your home, a library or even a café. As long as you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can be connected to your work, even if you are on a train, in a car, or on a plane. You can spend your weekend anywhere far from home without being worried about your work, since you actually take it with you.

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