Abu Dhabi announces the introduction of a new freelancer licence

Abu Dhabi announces the introduction of a new freelancer licence

- Jade Wong

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) has recently announced the introduction of a new freelancer licence which covers 48 different business activities and allows the holder to carry out their business activity from their place of residence or any other authorised location.

It is available to UAE citizens, residents and non-residents alike and it is hoped that it will be a stimulus for growth in the business sector and investment in the Emirate.

The licence will provide a long needed platform for individual freelancers to set up and obtain a resident visa and sponsor family members at lower entry costs and requirements, where setting up a full company licence for this purpose was often too expensive for individual freelancers previously.

Previously, only UAE residents were eligible for a licence of this kind and the business activities which were included under the licence were limited to fields such as media and finance, and these licences were limited to these specific activities within specific Freezones. This freelancer licence is now in mainland Abu Dhabi (DED) and the range of activities is much more comprehensive.

Those practising other business activities, or if they wish to employ staff and create a full LLC company would either have to set-up their business onshore, which means finding a suitable local 51% partner or they would have to set-up within a freezone, which only permits the licence holder to operate within the jurisdiction of the free zone.

What are the benefits of the new freelancer licence?

  • The licence will allow businesses in Abu Dhabi to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise that already exists in the marketplace.
  • It will offer its holder the freedom to work remotely or from another authorised location.
  • It will eliminate the need for businesses to hire people in full-time positions for services which are only needed periodically.
  • It will increase the income of sections of the population such as retirees, housewives and students.
  • No UAE partner/shareholder or NSA sponsor is required. This can be 100% owned by the licence holder.
  • It will allow skilled professionals to obtain a work permit without the necessity for company sponsorship.
  • The holder of the licence can sponsor family members under them.

H.E. Rashed Abdulkarim Al Blooshi, Undersecretary of ADDED, stated that the introduction of this new licence will have a variety of positive outcomes including reducing rates of unemployment, allowing people with relevant skills to add to their earning potential outside of their normal work hours and giving freelancers the opportunity to provide their services remotely and round the clock.

He also added that many of the activities included under the new licence are technical or service related and the changes will enable those currently in the emirate to provide this expertise.

What are the activities included under the licence?

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development has selected the following 48 business activities which can be practiced with the new freelancer licence.

  1. Working soap forming
  2. Parties and events organising
  3. Tourist and recreation consultants
  4. Green buildings consultant
  5. Marketing consultancy and studies
  6. Information technology consultancy
  7. Translation publication services
  8. Heritage consulting
  9. Plastering and carving works
  10. Coordination of natural and artificial flowers
  11. Space consultancies
  12. Design services
  13. Consulting technical equipment
  14. Fashion and clothes designing
  15. Real estate consultancy
  16. Public relations consultancy
  17. Human resource consultancy
  18. Marketing consultancy in the field of energy
  19. Computer devices and equipment domain consultancy
  20. Handcrafted products and environmental works
  21. Landscape and gardening services
  22. Marketing operations management
  23. Parliamentary consultancy
  24. Economic feasibility consultancy and studies
  25. Administrative consultancy and studies
  26. Parties and occasions photography
  27. Lifestyle development consultancy
  28. Calligraphers and painters
  29. Agricultural extension services
  30. Plague resisting consultancy
  31. Procurement consulting
  32. Quality, standardisation and measuring consultancy
  33. Maritime consultancies services
  34. Commodities designing consultancy
  35. Project management services
  36. Network websites designing
  37. Jewellery design, jewellery
  38. Statistical services consultancies
  39. Personal videography
  40. Gift-wrapping
  41. Banking services consultancy
  42. Artwork for cosmetic craft (sculpture)
  43. Consultancy project development
  44. Food safety consulting
  45. Photography services
  46. Architectural production and drawing technical consultancy
  47. Fine arts consultancy
  48. Logistics consultancy  

What are the requirements for the Abu Dhabi Freelancer licence?

If you intend to apply for the freelancer licence, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the relevant skillset and you must obtain prior approval if your chosen activity is related to your regular job.

If you work in the public sector, you must have approval from your employer to apply.

For those that work in the private sector, employer approval is only required if the activity you intend to practice overlaps with your regular job.

Assuming the activity that you have requested for the freelancer licence is different from that of your regular job, employer approval is unnecessary.

Office space is not compulsory and the licence allows applicants to apply for a residence visa.

What type of licence is the Abu Dhabi Freelancer Licence?

The Freelancer Licence is effectively a Sole Establishment Licence.

The licence in Abu Dhabi is for an initial 2 year period and then annual renewal is required.

48 activities allowed – consultancy and freelance specialisms see above.

The owner/freelancer must have a degree, high level qualification or certified experience document in the particular activity and specialism selected. The degree or high level qualification or certified experience document will need to be attested, legalised and legally translated with MOFA stamp for use in the UAE to qualify.

No UAE Partner/Shareholder or NSA / Sponsor is required – this can be 100% foreign owned.

No office or Tawtheeq is required to obtain this licence.

No MOA or constitutional documents need to be notarised to set up the Licence.

The owner/freelancer will be able to obtain a 3 year investor visa – UAE resident visa. Renewable every 3 years.

The owner/freelancer can sponsor family members under them.

If the Freelancer is currently working in public or private sector they will need an NOC letter from their employer.

Note that the Freelancer will have to move their visa from a resident work visa, to the investor visa – so will have the cancel their MOL employment contract and move their visa.

A Spouse who wishes to obtain the Freelancer Licence will have to move their visa from a spouse visa to the investor visa.

The Freelancer will have to provide their own UAE Health insurance policy.

Investor visa does not obtain a Ministry of Labour work permit, only an Immigration file. Therefore, Freelancer Licence holders cannot obtain a UAE work permit, or a temporary work permit.

The Freelancer Licence will need to set up the Immigration file (Establishment Card) and eChannel system and incur the relevant fees and deposit, as well as incur licence fees with Abu Dhabi DED.

To undertake work for other companies as a Freelancer under this licence the Freelancer will agree terms and contract with the company that is engaging them.

The Freelancer will be subject to register for VAT and charge VAT if they reach the annual threshold of AED 375,000, and voluntarily from the level of AED 187,500 pa.

How do I obtain the freelancer licence?

There are two ways to apply for the freelancer licence. You can call The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development on 02 815 888 or, alternatively you can create an account with the Abu Dhabi Business Centre at www.adbc.gov.ae.

In order to create the account, you should provide the following details.

  • Full name
  • Mobile phone number
  • Email address
  • Passport number

You should select the ‘commercial licence’ category in order to apply for the freelancer licence.

You should also ensure you have the following documents:

  • Proof of relevant skills in the activity you intend to practice. This can be in the form of a university degree or other certificate demonstrating related expertise. The degree, high level qualification or certification of experience will need to be attested, legalised and legally translated with a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) stamp for use in the UAE.
  • A No Objection letter (NOC) from your employer. – This is a requirement if you are a resident and you are working in the government sector or you are working in the private sector on a permanent contract doing an activity which is similar to the one which you are applying to do on the freelancer licence.
  • If you are not already a UAE resident, then you will need to be on a UAE visit visa or UAE tourist visa and we will need you UID number to be able to apply for the freelance visa. Your UID number can be found on the tourist visa stamp in your passport or can be obtained from the UAE Immigration system.

If you are working in the private sector on a part time basis, then an NOC letter is unnecessary.

Can an Abu Dhabi Freelancer Licence open a corporate bank account?

The answer is yes. There are a number of banks that will set up a corporate account for a Freelancer licence although the set up is depending on a number of factors and is case by case with each bank.

The Abu Dhabi Freelancer is essentially a Sole Establishment Licence that is 100% owned by a single person. This single person is the UBO for the Freelancer Licence and retains full liability and responsibility for the business. The Freelancer licence can have whatever name it likes as long as it doesn’t conflict with others and conforms to UAE naming standards - so the licence is not named after the person, it is a separate entity.

There are a number of banks that allow freelancers and SMEs to set up with zero balance account, with no deposit required – as opposed to the standard corporate account which can require a deposit of 50,000 plus in order to open the account.

The Freelancer will require the following documents to open a corporate bank account:

  1. Freelancer DED Trade Licence 
  2. Passport, UAE Visa and Emirates ID copy of the 100% owner and signatory
  3. Address proof of the company and the individual owner
  4. 3 months bank statements of the company (if existing) or the owner (if new company)
  5. At least one Invoice of a customer or supplier

How can PRO Partner Group Help?

If you need assistance in obtaining a Freelancer Licence in Abu Dhabi and for all steps and assistance in obtaining the relevant investor and family visas please do get in touch with us at the Abu Dhabi Office on +971 (0)2 448 5120, email us at info@ppg.ae or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

Obtaining a business licence in Abu Dhabi can be complicated without the support and services of an experienced partner. PRO Partner Group can offer you access to an experienced team who will advise you on whether the freelancer licence is the right fit for you and can guide you through the application process and all the necessary steps to set-up the licence.

If you need assistance on this or any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman or Qatar, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at info@ppg.ae or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

Get in touch with Jade Wong

Share this article

Expert Advice

Book a call with one of our company formation specialists.


Please enter a message



Meet the Pro Partner Group team,
a vastly skilled and experienced UAE team