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Legal Tips for Freelancers in the UAE: Contracts and Intellectual Property

May 28, 2024

The United Arab Emirates is creating a freelancer-friendly ecosystem where freelancers can get work opportunities without having their labour rights compromised. The country believes that freelancers add value to the workplace and help the economy grow, as long as their legality is maintained and not misused. Here's a snippet from Abdul, who worked as a freelancer in the UAE.

Abdul worked as a freelancer in the UAE. He did some remarkable projects for a few companies and would work on an hourly basis, but in recently, he wasn't paid his dues and was forced to work extra hours for multiple revisions. Abdul is working in the UAE as a tourist. He does not have a freelance permit either. Moreover, one of his projects was copied and used under a different name. Abdul is stressed and doesn't know what to do.

Here are some mistakes a freelancer must avoid while working in the UAE:

Mistake 1:

Working on a Tourist Visa

In the Article 11 of Federal Law No. 6 of 1973, it says that a foreigner with a visitor's/tourist visa can't work anywhere in the country, for pay or for free.

Having done so, he/she shall be imprisoned and a fine of Dh50,000 will be imposed in case of return to the same act. The employer who allowed them to work on the freelance project is subject to this penalty as well. Further, the court may not only deport an individual who is employed while residing on a visit visa in the UAE, but also the person who employs him/her.

Approach 1:

A Two-Year Freelance Visa for Residency in the UAE

Freelancers need to apply right away for a residency visa, which starts with granting an entry permit, passing certain medical exams, getting an Emirates ID, getting insurance, and opening a bank account. 

Mistake 2:

Working without a Freelance License

A freelance license is issued to individuals wishing to undertake independent self-employment, without being sponsored by a specific organization or employer in the country and without the condition of having a valid employment contract. 

Whereby a person earns money by providing his services for a specific period or performing a task or providing a specific service, whether to individuals or establishments. Whereas this person is in no way a worker for those individuals or establishments.

Approach 2:

Get a freelance license

To rectify this mistake, prioritize a freelance license from the authority. Acquiring a freelance license in the UAE and other emirates is a straightforward process. A freelancer will have to submit certain documents, which may include:

  • Passport copy; visa copy (if applicable)
  • Passport-sized photographs
  • Proof of Address
  • Professional qualifications
  • Experience certificates Business plan (many free zones may require this)

(Note: if you are already employed in the UAE, there will be an additional step to this; you will have to submit a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your current employer)

Mistake 3:

Absence of a contractual agreement:

A freelancer needs to be aware of the term "contractual agreement." Freelancers should always have written contracts in place for each project they work on.

Approach 3:

To avoid misunderstandings or disagreements, a freelancer in the UAE should draft a professional contract that is reviewed, approved, and signed by both parties. The contractual considerations that a freelancer in the UAE should take into account are as follows:

1. Written Contracts:

Freelancers should always have written contracts in place for each project they work on. These contracts should include the identification of parties, the scope of work, timelines, payment terms, revision terms, termination clauses, and dispute resolution mechanisms any other termination clauses.

2. Payment Protection:

Make payment terms clear in the contract, including when payments are due, how to pay, and the consequences of late payments. Paying attention to your finances is crucial in this situation.

Read Money Management for Freelancers in Dubai

3. Confidentiality Agreements:

Freelancers who will be handling sensitive information, such as trade secrets or passwords, should include confidentiality clauses in their contracts to protect both parties.

4. Jurisdiction and Governing Law:

I suggest that you seek legal counsel in this regard. This isn't a necessary step, but it is important to state which jurisdiction's laws will govern the contract and which courts will have jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis. 

Mistake 4:

Lack of knowledge about intellectual property protection

Due to a lack of knowledge about intellectual property protection, an individual’s work gets copied and used under a different name. This is how a freelancer can save himself from the employer's sabotage. According to Federal Law No. 38 of 2021 on Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights, an intellectual work is any original work in the areas of literature, arts or science, whatever its description, form of expression, significance or purpose. In accordance with Article 2, the authors of intellectual work shall be protected if their rights are violated in the UAE. 

Approach 4:

A freelancer in the UAE needs to think about highlighting significant intellectual property provisions in his contractual agreement. Here are the following intellectual property considerations that must be stated:

1. Ownership Rights

Clarify in the contract who will own the intellectual property rights to the work created. Of course, you are the owner! However, it still needs to be stated explicitly!

2. Copyright Protection:

In the UAE, the Minister of Economy issues decisions on various types of works, including computer software, lectures, musicals, audio-visual works, architectural plans, drawings, paintings, sculptures, etchings, lithography, screen printing, reliefs, intaglio prints, photographic work, applied art, plastic art, charts, maps, plans, and 3-D modelling for geographical and topographical applications.

3. Trademark Registration:

If you have unique names, logos, or slogans associated with your work, you may consider registering them as trademarks to prevent others from using them without permission. According to Federal Decree Law No. 36 of 2021 on Trademarks, a trademark is any distinguished form of names, words, signatures, letters, figures, graphics, logos, titles, hallmarks, seals, pictures, patterns, announcements, packs or any other marks or group of marks, if they were used or intended to be used either to distinguish goods, products or services from whatever sources, or to indicate that certain services, goods or products belong to the owner of the trademark, because of their provision, manufacturing, selection or trading. The voice accompanying a trademark is considered a part of it.

4. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA):

Consider using NDA to protect confidential information shared during the course of business relationships. This can help prevent the unauthorized use or disclosure of sensitive information like passwords, proof of address, etc. Implement strict access controls to limit who has access to sensitive data, allowing only authorized individuals to view or modify it as needed. By paying attention to these contractual and intellectual property considerations, freelancers can protect their interests and ensure smooth business operations in the UAE.


A freelancer in the UAE can work confidently and legally by addressing common mistakes and implementing suggested approaches, such as obtaining permits, drafting contracts, and protecting intellectual property rights.

Enjoy the benefits of a freelance license and visa in the UAE, such as a work permit, Emirates ID, residency, and the option to sponsor family.

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