Many expats choose to work in Abu Dhabi, and for good reason. It offers a tax-free economy, a business-friendly environment, the public services are great, and there are plenty of high-paying career opportunities. Plus, there’s the fact that you can now work as a freelancer, too!
The Abu Dhabi government has recently introduced a license that allows citizens, residents, and even non-residents to work on a self-employed or freelance basis. The freelancer license covers around 48 economic activities. Previously, this type of license was issued to UAE nationals only.
Guide to Applying for a Freelancer License in Abu Dhabi
The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) is the entity in charge of regulating the business sector in the capital. In line with Emirate Article 3 of Law No. 7 of the year 2018, it’s role is to lead economic initiatives in order “to achieve knowledge-based, diversified and sustainable economic growth.”
The office divisions under the department include the Abu Dhabi Business Centre (ADBC), the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB), the Competitiveness Office of Abu Dhabi (COAD), and Ebtekar, each of which focuses on aspects of the emirate’s economic growth and development.
A. What is a Freelancer License?
In November 2020, the department introduced the freelancer license — a license that enables citizens, residents, and non-residents to practice 48 economic activities on a freelance basis. Freelancer license holders can work from home or any other authorised location, depending on terms and conditions.
With a freelancer license, professionals can apply for a work permit, without the need for a company to sponsor them. They can also apply for residence visas. In addition, they don’t need to have office space for their freelancer license to be approved.
B. Who Can Apply for a Freelancer License?
The freelancer license is applicable to all citizens, residents, and non-residents in Abu Dhabi.
C. How Long is the Validity of a Freelancer License?
The freelancer license is valid for two (2) years. After this period, the license holder is required to have it renewed every year.
The freelancer license also allows holders to sponsor their families in the UAE. Take note, however, that the sponsorship would not be through the company’s name, but through a family visa, which would also be valid for two years.
D. How to Apply for a Freelancer License?
You can apply for a freelancer license in two ways. First, you can call the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) directly at +971 2 815 888 and register a new account.
Another option is to visit the department’s Abu Dhabi Business Centre (ADBC) through their official website. To apply for a freelancer license, click on “commercial license” category. To register a new account, you will need to provide your full name, passport number, mobile number, and personal email address.
E. What are the Requirements for a Freelancer License?
As a general requirement, the applicant would need to present documents to serve as proof of his/her expertise. This could be a university degree, transcript of records, or certificates related to the freelance activity being applied for.
Other requirements depend on the employment status of the applicant, as follows:
- An applicant who is currently working in the public sector must obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from his/her government employer.
- For an applicant who is currently working in the private sector (with a permanent employment contract), there are two cases to be considered:
- If the applicant’s current job is similar to or “overlaps” with the freelance activity, he/she must submit an NOC from his/her employer.
- If the applicant’s current job is different from the freelance activity, an NOC is not required.
- Meanwhile, for an applicant who is under a part-time contract in the private sector, an NOC is not needed as well.
F. List of Economic Activities Covered by Freelancer License
As mentioned earlier, the freelance license covers 48 economic activities. This includes consultation, banking and marketing services, and other activities pertaining to the following categories:
- Administrative Studies
- Agricultural Guidance
- Architectural Drawings
- Economic Feasibility Studies
- Events Management
- Events Photography
- Fashion Design
- Fine Art
- Flowers Arrangement (natural and aesthetic)
- Food Safety
- Gardening and Landscaping
- Gift Packaging
- Goods Designs
- Green Buildings
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Jewellery Design
- Legal Consultancy
- Lifestyle Development
- Logistical Consultations
- Maritime Services
- Marketing Operations Management
- Marketing Studies
- Parliamentary Studies
- Pest Control
- Photography Studio
- Printing on Textiles of Clothes
- Printing Services
- Project Design and Management Services
- Project Development
- Public Relations
- Real Estate
- Standardisation and Quality Management
- Statistical Consultations
- Technical Installations
- Web Design
G. What are the Benefits of the Freelancer License?
The freelancer license would benefit not only the workers, but the companies and the Abu Dhabi economy in general. In a press release through the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, ADDED Undersecretary His Excellency Rashid Abdul Kareem Al Balooshi stated that the freelance permit would greatly enhance the business sector of Abu Dhabi.
In particular, the freelancer license would help:
- Create more job opportunities in fields that add value to the economic sector;
- Reduce the need for companies to hire full-time workers for services that are only required occasionally;
- Enable professionals to practice freelance activities outside their normal working hours;
- Allow freelancers to work from home and around the clock;
- Provide job opportunities for people such as retirees, housewives, and students;
- Reduce unemployment significantly; and
- Stimulate the business and investment environments in Abu Dhabi.
If you have a specific skill that you would like to practice outside your usual working hours, why not apply for a freelancer license in Abu Dhabi? Aside from having the opportunity to make extra income, this would also enhance your creativity and boost your productivity as well.
DISCLAIMER: The above guide is presented for information-sharing purposes only. To learn more about applying for a freelancer license, the activities covered, validity, and other details, please visit the official websites of Abu Dhabi Business Centre (ADBC) and TAMM – Abu Dhabi Government Services.