Freelance License in Abu Dhabi – how I did it on my own in 5 Quick Steps

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It has been more than a year that we have moved to Abu Dhabi (UAE) from India. And, as expected, the way of life here in the UAE is quite different from that in India – especially when it comes to business. When we wanted to get into freelance photography here in Abu Dhabi (restarting from where we left in India), many of our friends and colleagues suggested us to get a trade/business license before starting any commercial activities. And it was then that we learnt that in November 2020, the UAE had expanded the “Freelance License” for residence-visa holders from non-GCC countries as well.


After a bit of researching (read: ‘googling’ 😉 ), we realised that although there is a sufficient amount of information available on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, there wasn’t much help available about ‘”how” to get a freelance license’. Although there are ‘typing centres’ who could help you during the application process, they would definitely ask for a significant sum of money. And, there is no better feeling than doing something yourself, that too in the least expenditure possible (just like I got my UAE driving license in the first attempt via golden chance). So, here is a step-by-step guide to getting a freelance license in Abu Dhabi on our own.

What is a Freelance License?

To start with, let’s first talk about what is a freelancer license and why do you need it.

The freelance license or freelancer permit was “announced by Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), is available to UAE citizens, residents and non-residents, which will allow them to apply for residence visas. The permit also does not have a mandatory requirement for office space, according to the announcement.”

This essentially means that within the 48 activities mentioned by the ADDED (listed below), any eligible person can apply for the freelancer permit, and once granted, this license can be used to get a residence visa in UAE.

In addition, someone having a UAE residence visa can apply for a freelancer permit if they would like to run commercial activities as a freelancer. The best part being – unlike the ‘commercial license’, there is no requirement for an office space to get a freelance license. And this is exactly what we did…!

Freelance License vs Freelance Visa

We have seen that many people confuse between the Freelance License and Freelance Visa. Well, the main difference being – you can get a freelance license with having a freelance visa but not the other way around. To get a freelance visa, you will definitely need a Freelance License.

To put it in another way, you can get a freelance license while having any type of visa. For example – I received my freelance license while while having my residence visa.

Who is eligible to get a Freelance License?

Anybody with “proof of expertise” can apply for a freelance license. This can be in the form of a university degree, a certificate of experience or accredited accomplishments in the desired activity (listed below).

We received our Freelance License in Abu Dhabi for ‘photography services’ by submitting a certificate of ‘accredited accomplishments’ – we had won the ‘best photo’ in a photography competition in Abu Dhabi.

What are the categories/activities in which you can apply for a Freelance License?

As of 2021, the ADDED has identified 48 economic activities that can be practised with a Freelancer licence, including fashion design, clothing, natural and aesthetic flowers arrangement, photography studio, event photography, videography, event management, gift packaging and many more. Below is the complete list –

  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 – this is the one that we have taken!
  46. Architectural production and drawing technical consultancy
  47. Fine arts consultancy
  48. Logistics consultancy  

What documents do you need?

There are only 2 documents that you will need during the application process:

  1. Passport or Emirates ID
  2. Proof of expertise in the activity seeking to be licensed for: A university degree, a certificate of experience or accredited accomplishments in the desired activity.

You will need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the employer if you work in the government sector.

In addition to the above documents, you will also need –

  • a local mobile number
  • an active email address

Freelance License Cost & Benefits

The freelancer license issued by the ADDED costs AED 530 and is valid for two years. It also allows the licence holder to sponsor his or her family in the UAE. (However, it is important to note that this would be under the family visa and not under the company name. The family’s visa will also be valid for two years.)

How I got my Freelancer’s License in Abu Dhabi on my own in just one day – 5 easy steps!

Below we have mentioned how I obtained my freelance license in Abu Dhabi for our photography services without taking help from any agents.

Step 1: Sign in

The first step of the process is the create your user profile on the ADBC website – Abu Dhabi Business Center ( Click on this link and then click on ‘create new account’. Please keep your Passport/EmiratesID ready along with your mobile number and email. Once you create the user profile, fill in the required personal information correctly.

Step 2: Application

Once you are done with step 1, log in again to your ADBC Dashboard and click on ‘freelance license’ under the tab ‘commercial license’ at the bottom of the page.

In this page, you need to fill up all the necessary information regarding the activity for which you are applying for the permit. And then you need to upload the “proof of expertise” document.

Make sure that the ‘English Preferred Name’ or the ‘Arabic Preferred Name’ matches exactly with the name on your certificate.

Step 3: Initial Verification and Payment

After filling up the form correctly and uploading the required documents, the application will undergo an initial verification.

For me, 2-3 hours after the application, I was notified by email that ‘initial verification’ was complete and the initial payment of AED 15 was due.

Step 4: Final Verification and Payment

Once your initial verification is complete and you have made the initial payment, the application will go for further processing. In general, it takes max 5 business days for the authorities to complete the final verification.

For us, the very next day itself we received an email notifying that the final payment is due. And upon making the final payment of AED 515, the procedure was completed and the license was ready.

Step 5: DONE!

Once the final payment is complete, you will receive an email that your licence is ready! CONGRATULATIONS!

UAE Freelance License – FAQs

Below I have listed some of the other questions that I get asked frequently-

Important Disclaimer – the above information is merely from my personal experience of applying for the freelance license in Abu Dhabi. The sole purpose of this blog post is to help a ‘common-man’ residing in the UAE during the application process.

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