Abu Dhabi has announced the creation of a new type of license to allow long-term freelancers to live in the emirate. Emirati citizens, residents and non-residents can apply for the permit. Previously, foreigners were required to be employed by a company to work in Abu Dhabi, and freelance licenses were only granted to Emirati nationals. 

This move opens up the emirate to ‘create freelance job opportunities for specified sectors, support talents, innovations and expertise available locally, and support the local economy and achieve economic diversification’, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development said. The new permit does not require the freelancer to go into an office, meaning working remotely is allowed.

500px Photo ID: 102469841 - Amazing Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The pride of gulf region.
Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi © Venkat Raghavan Ramamoorthy / 500

Freelancers must have proof of their work in one of 48 categories, which range from fashion design to web development, tourism, fine art, marketing and consulting. To register for a permit, freelancers can create an account with the Abu Dhabi Business Centre and apply for the license. Freelancers who do not already live in Abu Dhabi can then apply for a residence permit for themselves and their families after their license is approved.

Abu Dhabi’s announcement follows in the footsteps of Dubai, which launched a new visa for remote workers last month. The scheme allows people and their families to live in Dubai and have access to amenities that were previously only available to residents.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many office-based employees have been forced to work from home for the best part of a year, and some are challenging the idea of what ‘home’ even is. Many hotels have started promoting WFH (meaning Work From Hotel) packages with discount stays and luxury perks, and an ever-growing number of countries are offering new long-stay visa options to entice digital nomads and remote workers.

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