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What You Need To Know About Abu Dhabi's Freelancer License

19th January 2021

Abu Dhabi recently launched freelancer licenses in the Emirate - but what are they and are they right for you? This article intends to breakdown the purpose, requirements, costs and timescales so you have all of the information you need to know to decide if this is the right license for you in Abu Dhabi.

Previously, freelancer permits have only been available via some of the free zones, which in itself was limiting for those individuals who wanted to provide freelance services onshore, but were restricted to the geographical boundaries of the free zone which issued the permit.

But firstly, what exactly is a freelancer? We are getting lots of inquiries for this type of license because it is perceived to be the cheapest option in Abu Dhabi, regardless of its suitability for the individual's requirements.

Are you a freelancer?

A freelancer is an individual with a specialist skill. They provide their specialist service to organisations on an adhoc basis. A contract between the individual and the organisation will outline the scope of the assignment. The individual is at no time an employee of an organisation and can supply their services to multiple organisations at the same time.

According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, the definition of 'Freelance' is: by selling your work or services to several different organizations rather than being employed by one particular organization.

Do you need a freelancer license in Abu Dhabi?

To work in Abu Dhabi it is necessary to have the correct permit or license. For example, employees are given work permits and labour cards by their employer. However, self-employed individuals will need either a business license (trade license) or a freelancer license to provide their services legally.

What freelancer activities are available in Abu Dhabi?

Currently, there are 48 activities available as a freelancer license. The list of freelancer activities can be downloaded here.

Is a local sponsor required for an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?


Is a commercial premise required for an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?


Can staff be employed under an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

No. The freelancer license relates to the skills of the owner of that license only. If employees will be required, an alternative license should be considered, such as an Establishment or a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Gateway Group Of Companies can help you with this.

How does the Abu Dhabi freelancer license affect my current visa?

It is not necessary to change your existing visa status if you are a resident in the UAE.

Can family members be sponsored with an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

The holder of the freelancer license can sponsor family members. The family members are not sponsored directly under the license, but by the holder of the license, exactly the same as an employee sponsoring family members.

Is the freelancer license in the name of the individual or is a trade name given?

Rather unusually, in my opinion, the Abu Dhabi freelancer license allows the applicant to choose a trade name. This means the individual doesn't need to operate using their personal name, which looks more professional. This also means that corporate bank accounts can be opened with some banks.

Is the Abu Dhabi freelancer license a mainland license or a free zone license?

The Abu Dhabi freelancer license is a mainland license issued by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED). This means the license holder can work with companies throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and they aren't restricted to the boundaries of a specific free zone.

Can the Abu Dhabi freelancer license be sold in the future?

The freelancer license relates to the individual owner and relevant qualifications and experience are a pre-requisite. If the intention is to build up a business to sell in the future, this isn't the most suitable license-type as you would be selling 'good-will' rather than a business. Gateway Group Of Companies can discuss other license options with you if this is the case.

How much does an Abu Dhabi freelancer license cost?

The cost of the freelancer license is AED536. However, there are additional costs to be budgeted for:


Freelancer License Cost (2 years validity) 536

Registration in Immigration & Labour for an

Establishment Card and E-Channel

(only if a visa is required) 4,792.59

Visa Cost (3 years validity)

(only if a visa is required) 2,129.45

Health Insurance Cost

(only if a visa is required) XXXX

Gateway Group Of Companies fee to manage

the above for you. 3,000 + VAT

* Health Insurance is mandatory for all Abu Dhabi visa holders. It must be arranged via an Abu Dhabi registered insurance provider. Please obtain quotes for your specific circumstances and level of cover required prior to commencing the license and visa applications as many people are often surprised at the cost of health insurance, especially if they have never had to purchase it before.

How long is the Abu Dhabi freelancer license valid for?

The freelancer license is initially issued for a period of two years. Thereafter, it is renewable annually.

How long does it take to get an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

Approximately two to three working days.

Who is eligible for an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

• UAE Citizens

• UAE Residents

• Non-Residents

What do you need to apply for an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

• Full name

• Passport number

• Mobile number

• Email address

• UAE Pass Account (for UAE citizen and resident applications)

• Proof of expertise in the activity being applied for:

  • University Degree (Attested)

  • Certificate of experience or accredited accomplishments in desired activity.

• If the applicant is a UAE resident, the following additional documents will be required:

  • If working for the government, a No Objection Certificate (NOC)

  • If working in the private sector under a permanent contract and will be participating in a similar activity, an NOC from the employer in Arabic addressed to the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED)

If working in the private sector on a part-time basis, an NOC is not required.

Is it possible to have a bank account with an Abu Dhabi freelancer license?

Usually, a freelancer wouldn't be able to apply for a corporate bank account as they are operating under their personal name. However, as the Abu Dhabi freelancer license enables the applicant to choose a name for the license registration, some banks will allow corporate account applications. It will be necessary to check with your preferred bank if they offer this facility.

We contacted a few banks and received mixed responses:

  • National Bank Of Fujairah - No.

  • ADCB – Yes, but with limitations, such as no foreign currency transactions.

  • ADIB – Yes.

  • ENBD – Weren't able to confirm over the phone.

Having a corporate bank account will certainly be helpful for accounting purposes by keeping your working accounts separate from your personal transactions.

What are the advantages of having a freelancer license in Abu Dhabi?

  • Cheapest license available in Abu Dhabi

  • License initially valid for two years

  • 48 specialisms are available

  • Cost effective way for specialists to stay in the UAE if not permanently employed

  • License holder can sponsor family members

  • Individuals can use this license type to establish side businesses whilst remaining in full time employment

  • Flexibility to work from home

  • Organisations can contract specialists as required rather than retain them permanently on their payroll

  • Revenue generating opportunity for housewives with specialist skillsets

  • No local sponsor is required

  • Can have a corporate bank account

Who is an Abu Dhabi freelancer license suitable for

  • Skilled individuals who have the skills matching the freelancer activities in Abu Dhabi

  • Skilled individuals wanting to establish a side business whilst continuing to be in full time employment

  • Skilled housewives wanting to boost their household income and work for themselves

  • Skilled individuals who have had their working hours/pay reduced due to Covid

  • Skilled individuals who have lost their jobs but are wanting to stay in the UAE


The Abu Dhabi freelancer license is definitely a welcome addition to the selection of business licenses available in the Emirate. It is an entry-level license aimed at one-man bands. Previously individuals wanting to start businesses, no matter how small, had to pay the same license fees as large multinationals coming into Abu Dhabi, so this is much fairer and avoids much of the bureaucratic tape involved with setting up a business.

At the moment, where specialists are unemployed, this option is definitely the cheapest way of remaining in the UAE and having family visas.

How Can Gateway Group Of Companies Help You Get Licensed?

Which trade license, freelancer license or Tajer license to get can be confusing. This isn't helped by the hundreds of companies offering business setup services and 'selling' the license type that earns them the most commission or revenue rather than what their customer needs. Further confusion arises when published information is conflicting. At the Gateway Group we take a different approach. We understand your current situation and what you are wanting to do now as well as what you are wanting to achieve in the longer term. We can then guide you to the most appropriate license for your individual circumstances. This is our no-nosense approach to help you understand rather than to confuse you. We'll get you the best license for YOU and that is why our hashtag is #ReassuringlyHonest because it represents our core values of: Honesty. Trust. Integrity. We are a family business not a bunch of sales people with targets to reach each month. We've been in your situation and invested our own money into our business licenses, so we fully appreciate what a big investment getting a business license is and we want to help you to get it right first time too. To get your freelancer license in Abu Dhabi, EMAIL US:

☎️ +971 600 567562


#GatewayToUAE #ReassuringlyHonest

Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO, Gateway Group of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE

FORBES Top 100 Most Influential Women In The Middle East


Gateway Group Of Companies

Frustrated and confused with questions about setting up and doing business in the UAE? Running around in circles trying to find the right answers? What license type? Which jurisdiction? How to employ staff? How to get a trusted local sponsor? How long does it take to set up a company? Are these the types of questions that you are struggling to get answers to? For a simplified, no nonsense approach to company formation in the UAE, email the award-winning Gateway:


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