You’ve been dreaming about starting a business in Dubai for years. You’ve got the idea, the product, and even a co-founder with the skills you need to make it all happen. But now what? How do you actually get a Free Zone visa so you can start your new venture in Dubai?
Before you can start selling your product or service in Dubai, you need to have the right visa. If you don’t, then it can be difficult to rent office space, hire local talent, and develop trust with customers.
The good news is that getting a visa isn’t as hard as it used to be—but there are still a few things you’ll want to know before applying. We’ll take you through the essential steps of applying for a new visa, and will help you choose the right visa to suit your business needs.
Ready to become a Free Zone company owner? Let’s get started!
How to Get a Free Zone Visa?
Every Free Zone has a unique application fee for their visas. You can find out what this fee is by contacting the Free Zone directly. Once you’ve collected your funds, you’ll be able to move on to the next step in the process: filling out your application.
Here are the directions.
1. Register for E-channel Services
To make use of the e-channel system, you must register with the portal. There are two ways to do this: either visit a typing centre or register online.
To register for the e-channel service online, start by choosing either individual or establishment registration. Once you have made your selection, click ‘Register’.
To complete this process, add your email address. You should receive an email from the MOI. After you have received it, follow the instructions provided, fill in your information, and click ‘Complete Registration’.
You can now sit back and relax until you receive confirmation of your registration at the email address provided.
The e-channel registration fee includes a refundable security deposit of AED 5,025 and a registration fee of AED 2,300. It is important to note that these costs are in addition to the standard visa fees set by each authorities’ immigration department. The fees may change at any time without notice.
2. Apply for an Employment Visa
An employment visa can be applied for and extended by your sponsor. Employment visas usually take 15 working days for processing. However, those who apply during peak season or experiencing a change of sponsor may need to wait longer.
You can get the visa in 5-7 working days for an additional fee of AED 1,000.
When it’s time to renew your visa, you’ll be responsible for government fees, labour fees, and PRO fees.
3. Change Your Status
The status change process activates your visa. Here are three ways of doing it:
There is an easy way to change your status in the UAE: submit your passport to the immigration office. They will stamp and activate your employment visa within three to five days. The cost is AED 750.
To activate your Free Zone visa from outside of Dubai, you’ll have to present your printed employment visa to the immigration officer at an airport in the UAE. The officer will stamp your passport and activate your visa.
For some nationalities, this option may not be available. Check with your Free Zone authority before booking your tickets.
The border run option requires that you first exit the UAE by land. Next, you’ll receive an automated stamp on your passport. From here, you can re-enter again with a printed employment visa.
The validity of this option depends on the immigration officer’s discretion and willingness to stamp your visa.
This option is available only to passport holders whose countries have visa-on-arrival status in the UAE and it should be treated with caution. Attempting a border run is not foolproof.
4. Medical Fitness Test
A medical fitness test is mandatory. This involves blood tests and a chest x-ray. You can do both at the Free Zone’s health centre or through an approved private physician.
If you don’t have these facilities available in your Free Zone, it will take three to four days to complete this process. However, if there is such a service in place, it should only take several hours for them to give you the results of your tests and begin processing your file for Emirates ID registration.
5. Emirates ID Registration
The cost of registering with an Emirates ID card is AED 370 plus any extra charges incurred during registration. UAE residents must have their ID cards with them at all times. You need the cards for almost everything (opening bank accounts, mobile phone contracts, renting, etc.).
The first time you apply for a card, you’ll need to visit an official ID authority to provide eye scans and fingerprints.
6. Residence Visa Stamping
The final stage of the visa application process is getting your passport stamped with an actual UAE residence sticker. You may need to wait up to 15 business days while this happens, and you will not be allowed out of the country during this time.
When you are ready to get your visa stamp, present your passport to the relevant immigration authority.
How to Get a Free Zone Visa for Dependents?
Once your residence visa is active, you can apply for visas for your family members. To sponsor your immediate family members, you must earn at least AED 4,000 and live in a minimum one-bedroom accommodation. If you have an income exceeding AED 20,000 per month with accommodations, you can also sponsor parents or parents-in-law.
The deposit for male applicants is AED 3,000. The required amount for women is higher: AED 5,000.
An entry permit for a dependent is valid for sixty days. If the dependent fails the medical test, they cannot remain in the UAE.
Free Zone Visa Options
Outside of employment visas, there are a handful of other types of visas in the UAE. These include investor, student, and others. Let’s look at your options.
The freelance visa is an independent contractor permit that’s renewable each year. It’s a good fit for those who want to earn additional income while living with their sponsor in the UAE.
For those who aren’t financially supported by a sponsor, a two-year residency permit is available for freelancers in Dubai.
Foreign nationals starting their own enterprises or investing in existing ones can get residency visas through their business proposals. These types of visas are valid for two years and do not require a deposit at immigration.
An entrepreneurial visa is an option for people who have owned their own business and would like to open a new enterprise in the UAE. To get this visa, you need to prove that you are an entrepreneur. If you have been a majority shareholder of a start-up or held a leadership position, you can show that you are qualified to run a company.
In order to be eligible for the visa, you must be willing to relocate. Also, you must present a detailed business plan.
The approval of a business visa is not automatic. A special committee reviews each application and decides whether they meet the requirements set by the Federal Authority.
As an entrepreneur, you might want to apply for a student visa. Doing so would provide you with the opportunity to sharpen your skills and deepen your knowledge of business-related topics.
A student attending an accredited university is eligible to apply for a visa. Freshman applicants must get a letter of admission from their university. Older students can apply with a certificate of continuation of study.
To qualify, applicants must pass a medical fitness test, have a visa sponsor (typically the university), and receive approval from the GDRFA. A university visa can last for around 5 years if you meet the requirements.
The Benefits of Free Zone Visas
Establishing yourself in a Free Zone is not only easy but also beneficial. Here’s why:
Total Ownership of the Company
You don’t have to partner with a local resident or company in order to set up shop. This gives you full authority over all decisions regarding your business (including hiring and firing), as well as complete ownership of its assets.
In the UAE, companies operating within a free zone may be eligible for a preferential Corporate Tax rate of 0% on their “Qualifying Income” if they are deemed a “Qualifying Free Zone Person.” To attain this status, a company must maintain adequate economic substance in the UAE, generate ‘Qualifying Income,’ opt not to be subject to Corporate Tax at standard rates, and comply with transfer pricing requirements under the Corporate Tax Law. You can read more about the new corporate tax laws here.
Entrepreneurs have access to a team of business consultants and corporate lawyers who’ll assist them in setting up their businesses. This ensures that you have the support you need to get started right away!
No Restrictions on Capital
There’s no restriction placed upon you regarding your ability to transfer money abroad. You’ll have complete freedom to move funds in and out of the UAE, including your company’s capital and profits.
How Many Visas Can You Get?
A company’s quota for visas is set by Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. The amount depends on what kind of office you select.
Flexi desks can have up to 3 permits. Serviced offices can have up to 5 visas. Larger facilities can have 1 visa for every square meter.
Companies that have already established an office in the Free Zone can expand their operations and add more visas by increasing the size of their rented space. You can also apply for a quota increase, but this is subject to approval from the Free Zone Authority.
How to Choose the Best Free Zone in the UAE
So, you’re interested in the Free Zone visa. Great! But where should you apply?
First, let’s talk about what makes a good Free Zone:
Consider Business Activity
You have to consider the type of business you want to start, as well as the activity level of your Free Zone. For example, if you’re an accountant who wants to open a new practice, it might not make sense for you to start in a Free Zone that doesn’t have a booming finance sector.
Start by researching which zones are popular for what services. This will help you narrow your choices down.
When you’re looking at a Free Zone, consider the location and how it’s going to affect your business. How far is it from ports, airports, and other places that are relevant to your business? The last thing you want is for these elements of your business operation not to work in harmony.
Businesses generally require some sort of license to operate. Different licenses are available for different activities. For example, you may need a service license if your business offers consultations.
The extent of the activities that fall under one license varies between zones. You may have to apply for several business licenses depending on your business and the Free Zone’s requirements.
Join the Most Innovative Free Zone in Dubai
And there you have it! Applying for a Free Zone visa is not as daunting of a task as one might think. With the right information and some guidance, you can be on your way to starting your business in no time.
But don’t start your business in any old Free Zone. You need one that’s as fresh and innovative as you are. That’s where we come in.
DUQE is here to provide you with a sleek and modern workspace in the heart of Dubai (and help you get the visa to keep operations running smoothly). Reach out to our team for everything you need to get started.