Tim Elliot: Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first, and still the only, legal podcast. My name’s Tim Elliot. Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka. As always, here is the Managing Partner, Ludmila Yamalova. It’s good to see you again.
Ludmila Yamalova: Good to be chatting with you, Tim, as always.
Tim Elliot: This time, Ludmila, everything you need to know about freelance permits, and it really is all the rage being a freelancer. There are a number of different ways of registering to become one. Let’s just say you want to work for yourself, how straightforward is it to apply?
Ludmila Yamalova: Well, in fact this particular option I am about to outline is rather straightforward. But before I share the details on this option, I do want to address and highlight that freelance visas or permits have been in discussion for many years. Many people say, I have a freelance permit, or I am a freelancer.
But this particular type of freelancing is very different from the previous ideas of freelancing that we have heard and seen. In the past, the being a freelancer really ultimately meant that you had to open up your own company for some activity or another. You were working under that company and therefore you were freelancing.
Tim Elliot: Right.
Ludmila Yamalova: That was how freelancing was being viewed or understood before. Now this is different. This is more of a truly freelance permit. It is not just a company for some activity under which you can provide so-called freelancing services, not even freelancing, but more contracting services, but you call it freelancing. This actually is a freelance permit.
The authority that issues this particular permit is the Dubai Development Authority, or as it is otherwise referred to as DDA. Now, it may be an acronym that is not very familiar to many, but really it is just an authority, an economic zone authority, a free zone authority that encompasses under itself, for example, TECOMs, Studio City, Design District, Internet City, Knowledge Village, and all of those other many, many free zones. In other words, perhaps others would have referred to it as a TECOM, but TECOM has become a lot more expansive, so it is no longer even geographically based in one place. It truly is all around Dubai. But DDA is the ultimate authority that houses and regulates and licenses these different sub free zones, if you will. It is not just some new free zone or a new economic authority that is now issuing this new license. It truly is one of the most established free zones.
This is a DDA option. It is done under the DDA. It’s called a freelance permit. To apply for it, it is, truly once again, all online. It is really quite extraordinary to be watching. I have been in the U.A.E. for 13+ years. I remember for so many years of my practice here and truly until just very recently, everything would require your physical presence, visits, trips, in most cases repeated trips, standing in line, waiting in line, printing copies, signing copies, signing pages, submitting, coming back in a few days or weeks following up, and so on and so forth. Now at this time, this is all truly online. We have done these freelance permits and they have been extraordinarily and positively inspiring experiences because they have been efficient and fairly clear and ultimately productive.
To submit or to apply for one of these freelance permits, all you really need is a passport copy and a visa page. Before I launch into the application process, I want to highlight. Basically, what this freelance permit gives you is that you truly are a freelancer. It gives you your visa for you. You will have a permit to go freelance. There are all sorts of activities that qualify for a freelance permit, and they are quite broad. You can see in the portal the list of activities that can be included into the freelance permit, but generally speaking it is quite broad. Why it is different than the other options that exist is that it is a permit. It is a permit and not necessarily a company. Because a company comes with all sort of other liabilities, responsibilities, and attachments.
For example, with the previous options that existed, you were ultimately opening up a company, and a company means you need to have in most cases, at least in the past, you need to have an office. If not a physical office, you need to have at least a virtual office of sorts, some agreement that you need to sign and renew every year, and some fee to pay.
The freelance permit does not require you to rent an office. There is not even a mention of an office, nor does it require you to have an audit. Other companies require an audit. Most other free zones require – or mainland companies – require an audit. This one does not require an audit. It truly is just for you as a freelancer.
But with it comes a proper residence visa. You do receive on the back of your permit a three-year residence visa. Now you have got two things. You have your permit to provide services, whatever it is you listed on your permit, and you have a residence visa to live in this country and work. It is not just a residence visa to live. It is a residence visa to work, to provide your services. You are your own sponsor. That is the overarching list of benefits of this particular option.
To apply for it, you just need your passport. Remember, we are doing everything online and your visa page, if there is a visa, you can enter it and you can actually do it from outside of the U.A.E. even if you have never been in the U.A.E.
Tim Elliot: Right.
Ludmila Yamalova: You do this through a website called gofreelance.ae. One the back, once you have submitted the application, you will get a call or usually it is an email from somebody from the DDA, a DDA representative, if they need any additional documents. They may request either additional documents or an OC from your sponsor if you are sponsored by someone. If not, you just say, I am not sponsored. They may request a clearer copy of your passport, or they may just send you an email and say, okay, we have got everything in order. We have received your application. We will come back to you shortly.
The next round of correspondence from them will be an approval. They will send you an email. We have approved your request, and here are your login credentials to log in. Once you get login credentials, basically it means your application has been approved.
Tim Elliot: Okay.
Ludmila Yamalova: The form of communication may change, but based on our current experience, the communication will not say okay, you have been approved. It will say, here is your login credentials. It may not specifically tell you that you have been approved, but if you received your login credentials, you know you have been approved. At that point, you need to make a payment. When it sends you a link for payment, you know you have been approved and it is just a matter of payment. By the way, it is a portal that is called AXS portal. There is a link to it in the email. Through this portal you will make a payment of 7,520 dirhams, which is about $2,000, and that is the payment for the freelance permit. Then also through email you will receive an application, plus a specimen signature document which you will need to sign. You sign and send back to them your specimen signature. Then after that, again by email, you will receive your freelance permit. That usually happens once you have submitted your specimen signature and your signed application form. DDA will send you by email the copy of your freelance permit.
All in all, in our experience, this has taken two to three weeks from the time you apply. Remember, you are doing all of this from the comfort of your seat in front of your computer. You have not had to get up to submit any of these documents in person. By the way, DDA has been very responsive. They are responsive to emails, and they are responsive to phone calls. We have been quite pleasantly impressed.
That is stage number one. Now you have your permit. With this, you can start providing services. However, if you want to have a residence visa, then there are two more steps.
Tim Elliot: Right.
Ludmila Yamalova: With just receiving the permit, you can start providing your services and working. If you want to have U.A.E. residency attached to this permit, then you will need to apply for what is called an establishment card. An establishment card is perhaps something similar to an Emirate’s ID, but for a company.
Tim Elliot: Okay.
Ludmila Yamalova: It is an identification for a company. Obviously, a company cannot have an Emirate’s ID. It has an establishment card. You apply again through this portal. You have to submit a request for the issuance of an establishment card. There is a fee, between 2,000 dirhams to 2,500 dirhams. You have to pay that fee of about 2,500 dirhams. It takes about a week. Then you have your establishment card.
Tim Elliot: Okay.
Ludmila Yamalova: Now, once you have received your establishment card, now you can apply for an entry permit for the U.A.E. residency. This takes about one to two weeks. Once again, you apply for this through the portal, and there is an additional fee of anything between 3,500 dirhams to 4,800 dirhams to apply for the residence permit. It takes one to two weeks to have your entry permit issued. With the entry permit, then you go ahead through the medical, as you normally do, and then have your visa issued on the back of that entry permit, plus medical test. Voila. Now you have your permit and your residence visa. All in all, it takes about four to six weeks, and the total cost is anything between 13,000 dirhams to about let’s say 15,000 dirhams.
Tim Elliot: Okay.
Ludmila Yamalova: In short, within four to six weeks or so, you can have your own freelance permit that allows you to work in this country and your own visa for three years that allows you to live and work here for the cost of, let’s say, 15,000 dirhams.
Tim Elliot: It’s also the case that if you’re already here and you are already sponsored, there are other ways of setting up as a freelancer, if you are sponsored through your spouse, for example. There are ways that you can do that with gofreelance.ae. That’s a possibility.
Ludmila Yamalova: Yes. There are other options. This is just one option through this one particular zone, being DDA, the Dubai Development Authority, that we have found was perhaps the most comprehensive and the easiest to follow and deal with, and it is based in Dubai.
Tim Elliot: The great thing about this, Ludmila – sorry to butt in – is that this offers you a real official freelance permit to operate as you want to operate in your field. That is the crux, isn’t it?
Ludmila Yamalova: Exactly. You don’t have to make it look like you are a freelancer working at some other company that is licensed for something else. This truly gives you the option to do exactly what you want to do. You don’t need to pretend. You don’t need to repurpose or try to purpose some other existing legal entity for your purposes. It truly is a freelance permit that allows you to be a freelancer, to be your own sponsor, without having to have an office, without having to have a bank account, which is also a huge ordeal for many, without having to do the audit, without having to deal with employees and all that. It’s just for you to provide your talents to the economy, and it is, by the way, in categories like technology, design, media, education, various professional activities. It is really a great option for anyone. Remember, in all of this you apply online, except that once the time comes to do your medical, you have to obviously be here for that. It is one great option to consider.
Tim Elliot: That’s an interesting story. That’s another episode of Lawgical, this time, one of the ways you can get hold of a proper freelance permit for yourself to operate here in the United Arab Emirates. As ever, our legal expert here on Lawgical was Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner at Yamalova & Plewka. As always, a huge thank you.
Ludmila Yamalova: Tim, thank you very much. Always a pleasure to be chatting with you.
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