This post should not be taken as financial, legal, taxation or migration advice. Consult a registered professional. Oh, Nomad! accepts no liability or responsibility to any person for actions taken as a consequence of this information, which is correct at the time of writing. We earn commission from trusted affiliates on selected purchases you make via ohnomad.com (at no cost to you). Prices are in AUD unless indicated and may exclude 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
If you’re excited to live in an ultra-modern metropolis with high incomes and a large ex-pat community, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might be just what you are looking for.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2022 Overview:
Cost of living: Med/High. The COL in Dubai, UAE is 16.77% lower than in Sydney, Australia.
Mobile internet speed (Global): ≈151.09 Mbps (26/100)
Global peace index: 60/163
Digital nomads who wish to live and work in the UAE have two main visa options. There is several Freelance Visa Dubai and Abu Dhabi-based for freelancers and a Remote Work Visa for employees or business owners…but before we begin exploring your visa options, let’s discuss the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and some of the terms used there, as it can be confusing for those new to the country.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai for Aussie Digital Nomads, Freelancers and Remote Workers
The UAE comprises seven united Arab emirates: Abu Dhabi (The capital), Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. Within the seven emirates, there are also 45 free zones (or free trade zones). These are designated business/economic areas usually grouped by activity. Instead of each city having a CBD with hundreds of different businesses, each zone contains only design, education, media or technology companies, for example.
What is a digital nomad visa? While each visa is different, they generally offer those who earn their income independently of the country that they are in (such as remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and online business owners) 1-3 years in which to legally travel and work in that country.
Freelance Visas Dubai (UAE) for Digital Nomads
Unlike most other countries, if you apply for a Freelance Visa in the UAE you may not be applying directly to the UAE government but instead to one of the authorities who manages the free zone of your industry. Due to these free zones, there are a few different freelance visas in Dubai.
What a freelance VISA in Dubai means vs Freelance PERMIT?
A freelance permit in Dubai is issued to those who already have a visa to live in the country, such as the partners of sponsored workers. This permit then allows them to do freelance work. A freelance visa is issued to those who do not already hold another type of visa and can be applied from outside the country.
Go Freelance Visa Dubai
The “Go freelance visa” in Dubai is for digital nomads in the media, tech, education and design fields. There are four different free zones: Dubai Media City (Media Activities), Dubai Internet City (Tech Activities), Dubai Knowledge Park (Education Activities) and Dubai Design District (Design Activities). The Dubai Internet City will issue your freelance visa if you are working in the Tech sector and Dubai Knowledge Park for the education sector, for example.
You can see a list of eligible professions on their website.
Visa Length: 1-3 years
Visa Cost: 1 year (≈$1075 AUD), 3 years (≈$2000 AUD)
Family included: Yes
Official site: Go Freelance
Talent Pass Dubai
There is a “Talent Pass” for digital nomads in the art, media, technology, marketing, culture, education, marketing and consultancy industries and is issued by the Dubai Airport Free Zone. You can see a list of eligible professions on their website.
Visa Length: 1 year
Visa Cost: ≈$3700 AUD
Family included: Yes
Official site: DAFZ Talent Pass
Cultural Visa Dubai
Once you are a resident of Dubai, you can also apply for a 10 year Dubai Cultural Visa, for those from “…the fields of literature, culture, fine arts, performing arts, heritage, history and knowledge-related sectors as well as intellectual and creative industries“.
Freelance Visas Dubai Price, Eligibility and Requirements
The freelance visas in Dubai (due to being issued by so many different authorities) have a variety of income and educational requirements. Prices also vary by free zone. It’s best to get in contact with the appropriate authority through their websites or contact a UAE immigration professional.
Freelance Visas Abu Dhabi, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) for Digital Nomads
Beyond Dubai, there are several visas offered by other Emirates.
Twofour54 Freelance Visa Abu Dhabi
This visa is issued to those in the media, production, and entertainment industries.
Visa Length: 2 years
Visa Cost: N/A
Family included: Yes
Official site: Twfour54
Cultural Visa Abu Dhabi
There isn’t much information about the Abu Dhabi Cultural Visa except that it is for “…professionals who are endorsed by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and specialize in categories that include heritage, performing arts, visual arts, design and crafts, gaming and e-sports, media, as well as publishing“.
Two other free zones also offer freelance visas in the United Arab Emirates. These are:
Ajman: Ajman Free Zone
Ras Al Khaimah: Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone
There is much less information on these visas, so it’s best to visit their websites or discuss this with an immigration professional.
Remote Work Visa Dubai (UAE) for Digital Nomads
The Remote Work Visa in Dubai (also known as the Virtual Working Program or Working Remotely From Dubai) is a lot more straightforward. This visa is for those who work for an employer outside the UAE but can do this work remotely from any location as well as business owners, “start-ups and entrepreneurs”.
Remote Work Visa Dubai Cost
According to the UAE Government website, the visa costs 287 USD (≈$415 AUD) per person to apply for, but “….in addition, you need to pay the premium for medical insurance valid in the UAE and the processing fees”, so the total cost is likely higher.
Visa Length: 1 year (renewable)
Family included: Yes
Official site: Work Remotely From Dubai
Remote Work Visa Dubai Eligibility and Requirements
To apply for the visa, you must:
- Have a passport with a minimum of 6 months validity;
- Have health insurance with UAE coverage validity;
- For employees: proof of employment from a current employer with a one-year contract validity, a minimum of US$5,000 [≈$7250 AUD] per month salary [≈$87k AUD/year], last month’s payslip and 3 preceding months’ bank statements;
- For business owners [and freelancers]: proof of ownership of the company for one year or more, with an average monthly income of US$5,000 [≈$7250 AUD] per month [≈$87k AUD/year] and 3 preceding months’ bank statements.
Remote Work Visa Dubai Benefits
There are several benefits to this visa, including:
- You may work as an independent contractor for companies across the UAE;
- You may work for multiple overseas companies/clients;
- You are allowed access to the free zone’s business centre.
- You can “….obtain all services including telecommunications, utilities, medical and schooling. You can take advantage of Dubai’s robust and seamless digital infrastructure, global networking opportunities and zero income tax for individuals“.
Freelance and Remote Work Visas for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Aussie Digital Nomads
As you can see, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has quite a different visa system than most other countries due to being several different Emirates. Despite this slightly more-than-usual complication for freelancers, the remote work visa in Dubai is an increasingly popular and more straightforward option for Australian digital nomads keen on making their temporary home there. Overall, the UAE is making a big post-pandemic push to attract professionals to its shores. It might just be the desert metropolis of your dreams.
See my Mega-Guide to Australia for Digital Nomads.
See my Complete Guide to 50+ Digital Nomad Visas for Australians.
Want support to make your digital nomad dreams a reality? Get in touch.
Kate is a teacher, writer and CEOh of ohnomad.com and teachenglishonline.com.au. After travelling for years, she became a digital nomad/house sitter in 2019. Offline, she’s patting every dog at the park. Online: Twitter/LinkedIn.