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21 February 2024

Make more money, but is freelancing legal in UAE?

By Shuchita Kapur

For those who thought freelancing was not permitted in the UAE, may have not got the correct picture. Many a times, people get confused with all the technical jargon that surrounds the legality of freelance work in the country and assume it is not the right way to go about making money.

Freelance work should not happen under the table, as most associate it with. Experts at Nabbesh.com, a growing platform for freelance and part-time work in the Middle East says freelancing is legal in the UAE and here’s how candidates should approach this kind of work.

Alexandra Tohme, Community Manager at Nabbesh.com defines “freelancing as any type of employment, which is not full time annually and exclusively for one employer.”

To elaborate further, she explains under what circumstances can an individual work as a freelancer.

Firstly, temporary work permits are available for people who are going to be engaged in a job for no longer than six months. If a company has a specific project or task that it needs specialists for, for a short period of time, they can issue a temporary work permit.

Second, is part-time work permit. The definition of part-time is working hours which are less than the normal working hours of employees working the same job.  The Ministry of Labour allows you to already be working full time (having residency) and hold a part-time work permit to work for other employers. You must obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from both employers and the new employer (who will be employing the individual part time) must apply for the permit for the worker. You can hold up to two part time jobs.

Thirdly, expats are now able to act as official work sponsors for their dependents.  The expat must hold residency and a full time job with a Ministry of Labour registered organisation. The dependent must be working for a Ministry of Labour organisation also. This allows housewives and students, for example, to have a lot more flexibility. They must obtain an NOC from the husband (father).

And fourthly, there is juvenile work permit. This is available for people between 15 - 18 years of age. They must not work for longer than 6 hours a day and are restricted from some dangerous professions, explains the Nabbesh expert.

Freelance work permits are easy to get in free zones. “Freelance permits are available for individuals from free zones such as Media City, twofour54 in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah Creative City.  A freelance permit allows professionals to live and work in the UAE under sponsorship of the free zone.”

To be a freelancer, it is important that “your profession needs to be related to the free zone’s activities.

“This permit identifies an individual as a sole practitioner and enables him/her to carry out business in his/her own birth name as opposed to a company or brand name,” explains Tohme.

There is another option available to individuals, which is called a freelance business licence. “This option allows you to choose a company name, you can have one or more shareholders on the license, appoint someone as person in charge, and the license has a one visa allocation, called freelancer - (the difference between the two is that in one you acting as an individual and the other is about business),” elaborates Tohme.

Some FAQs on freelancing in the UAE

Q. If my husband is working for a MOL registered company - can I work part time?

A. Yes, so long as you get a NOC from your husband and the company you are going to work for is also registered in the MOL and issues you a part-time work permit.

Q. If I am already employed full time and have residency under my full time employers visa, can I work part time at the weekends for someone else?

A. Yes, so long as you obtain an NOC from both employers, both employers are registered with the MOL and the part time employing organisation applies for the part-time work permit for you.

Q. If I have a son who is still studying but over the age of 18, can he work part-time?

A. Yes, he is eligible for a part-time or a temporary work permit.

Q. If I am on the residency of my husband, can I set up a business from home?

A. No, residency does not mean you can start trading without the necessary trade approvals and licenses.  A Freelance Business Licence might be the appropriate option for you in this case.

Image from shutterstock