The United Arab Emirates is one of a few countries in the Middle East offering a designated visa for digital nomads and remote workers.
This visa allows digital nomads to live and work remotely in Dubai, one of the world's most multicultural cities.
Whether you work for a company remotely or own a business and would like to relocate to Dubai, you will find the most comprehensive guide on applying for a digital nomad visa in the article below.
Does Dubai (UAE) Have a Digital Nomad Visa?
The Dubai, UAE government introduced the digital nomad visa equivalent, a Virtual Work Residency Visa, in 2020.
This visa allows overseas remote working professionals and business owners to live in Dubai for a year while continuing to work for their employers or conducting business outside of the UAE.
Dubai Digital Nomad and Remote Work Visa: Overview
Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa is a relatively new visa for digital nomads willing to work remotely while living in Dubai.
This one-year visa can be renewed upon reapplication if the applicant meets the visa requirements after one year.
Since the visa is still quite new, the requirements are often changing. For example, the most recent condition changed is the minimum income. In 2022 it used to be USD 3500, while in 2023, it was increased to USD 5000.
As this visa was introduced not so long ago, prepare for the possibility that some government offices may not be familiar with this visa type. Due to this visa type, major banks like ADCB or HSBC may refuse you opening a bank account and credit card applications.
Who Can Apply for the Digital Nomad Visa for Dubai
You must meet a few conditions to apply for the Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa.
- You need to be a remote worker employed by a company outside of the UAE
- You need to be able to submit a copy of a long-term contract (minimum one year)
- You need to make more than USD 5,000 a month
Entrepreneurs wishing to relocate to Dubai as digital nomads must own a company outside of the UAE and be able to provide documents that prove the ownership, as well as a monthly income of USD 5,000.
How to Apply for the Digital Nomad Visa for Dubai
You can apply for the Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa from outside the UAE or while visiting Dubai as a tourist.
In both cases, you must have a valid UAE mobile phone number and address to proceed with your application. If this is your first time visiting Dubai, the easiest way is to get a 30-day or 90-day visa on arrival and then proceed with a Virtual Work Residency Visa application once you are in the country. To check your eligibility for the visa on arrival, check the Visit Dubai website.
Once you are in Dubai and have a valid phone number and a temporary address, submit your online application for the virtual work ENTRY PERMIT (not visa) on the GDRFAD website, pay application fees, and wait for the approval.
You will receive a notification of approval by email. If your entry permit is not approved, you will receive a request to submit additional documents. In case of any questions or disputes, we recommend you to go to Jafiliya Immigration Office located near Al Jafiliya metro station in Dubai.
Once your entry permit is approved, you must apply for the status change. By far the easiest way to do this is to go to your nearest AMER center. To check the location of the AMER center near you, download the AMER app for iPhone or AMER app for Android. The AMER center managers will help you change the status of your entry permit and create a Virtual Work Residency Visa application for you on the spot.
During the visa application process, you will be asked to undergo a health check that includes a blood test and an X-ray of your chest. This can be done the same day; results are usually available within 24 hours. The AMER center managers will make a reservation for you in one of the nearest Visa Medical Centers, also called Medical Fitness Centers.
As soon as your test results indicate that you do not have tuberculosis or AIDS, you will receive an email with your residency document.
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Your next step is to apply for an Emirates ID card. This can be done at the same AMER center. The AMER staff will create an application for you and ask you to provide a valid address for the card delivery. You will also need to do a biometrics scan - a mandatory procedure for everyone applying for the Emirates ID card.
The biometrics is done by appointment only in one of the centers for the ID card services, like Al Ghazal Customer Happiness Center. The AMER staff will book the time slot and provide you with all the necessary instructions. Once this step is completed, you must wait for your Emirates ID card to be ready, which can take up to two weeks. You can check the status of your Emirates ID on the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Port Security website.
List of the Documents Required for Applying To The Digital Nomad Visa For Dubai
To apply for the Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa, you will need to upload the following documents in either English or Arabic:
Please note that you will only be able to apply for local health insurance when your Emirates ID is ready, and therefore you will need to get a one-year PREMIUM travel insurance valid in the UAE.
Alternatively, you can purchase global insurance coverage covering UAE and other countries. Premium coverage is a mandatory requirement. You can purchase a one-year insurance plan from popular digital nomad insurance companies like Safety Wing, WorldNomads, or Insured Nomads. For more information, you can check our top pick of the best digital nomad insurance plans.
This insurance will only be valid until you receive your Emirates ID. Once you receive your Emirates ID and can no longer be considered a tourist, you must get local medical insurance. This can be done directly on the insurance provider's website, like Orient, or with the help of an insurance agent and business partner like FIDA Group.
How much does the Digital Nomad Visa for Dubai cost?
The cost of obtaining a Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa varies depending on the specific requirements and services needed. However, here is a breakdown of the estimated costs:
- Premium health insurance to apply for the entry permit: USD 2,000
- Entry permit: AED 1022,50 (USD 278)
- Status change: AED 672.50 (USD 183)
- Health checkup: AED 354 (USD 96)
- Visa/Residency: AED 393.50 (USD 107)
- Emirates ID application: AED 341.7 (USD 93)
- Biometrics services: AED 254.55 (USD 69)
Timeline for Applying For The Digital Nomad Visa for Dubai
Apply for the entry permit as soon as you land in Dubai. According to the GRDFAD website, it takes 3-5 working days to check your documents, but from personal experience, it takes 2-3 weeks and several visits to the immigration office. Make sure you are not overstaying your tourist visa/visa on arrival. For example, citizens of India can get a tourist visa on arrival for 14 days, citizens of Canada for 30 days, and citizens of the Netherlands for 90 days. Check the Visit Dubai website to see how many days you can stay in Dubai without leaving the county.
The status change is done immediately at the AMER center. Health checkup takes less than an hour, and the results are usually available within 24 hours. Visa/Residency is usually approved right after. Emirates ID will take approximately two weeks.
What If I'm Not Eligible For Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa?
If you are not eligible for Dubai Virtual Work Residency Visa, consider getting a visa on arrival and staying in Dubai as a tourist while working remotely. The requirements for the visa on arrival depend on your citizenship, and more details can be found on the Visit Dubai website. As a tourist, you won't have to worry about status change, visa, residency, and Emirates ID card, but unfortunately, you won't be able to stay longer than a few weeks/months. Reentering the country might be possible in some cases, but it depends on your citizenship.
Alternatively, consider applying for the Investor Visa in Dubai that will allow you to live in Dubai as a business owner or investor in an existing business. You can find more information about this visa type by visiting Invest in Dubai website.
Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad in Dubai, UAE
Dubai is the world's most international city and expats comprise over 80% of all residents. One of the main reasons behind Dubai's popularity is its zero-income tax policy. Like the rest of the Emirates in the UAE, Dubai earns its revenue mainly through the oil industry, allowing residents to live in Dubai without paying income taxes.
On top of that, Dubai does not have any restrictions on who can get a trade license. Anyone with a valid Emirates ID can purchase a one-year trade license that would allow them to have several sources of income as long as they perform activities within their field of expertise. To buy the trade license and learn more about owning a business in Dubai, visit Invest Dubai website.
Dubai is also famous for its free zones - special economic zones for entrepreneurs offering import and customs duty benefits. With more than 30 Free Zones, Dubai is a primary hub for global import and export, which makes it a perfect business destination with endless networking opportunities.
Lastly, Dubai is famous for its year-round summer weather, with high-class resorts, beaches, yacht tours, sand surfing, and other unique activities.
Paying Taxes As a Digital Nomad In Dubai, UAE
As a digital nomad in Dubai, understanding your tax obligations is important. Unlike other countries, Dubai does not have a personal income tax, so you will not be taxed on your salary or other earned income if you are a resident.
You may be required to pay taxes if you change your visa type and start receiving income from other sources, such as rental or investment income.
Additionally, Dubai has signed several tax treaties with other countries, which can impact your tax liability depending on your individual circumstances. It is important to keep accurate records of your income and expenses, especially if you are self-employed or have multiple sources of income.
Dubai also has a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 5%, which applies to most goods and services. Suppose later you decide to apply for a different visa type and engage in local business activities. In that case, you may need to register for VAT and collect and remit VAT to the government.
Seek professional advice from a qualified tax expert to ensure you comply with all applicable tax laws and regulations, including VAT regulations, applicable to your residency status. This will help you accurately calculate your tax liability and ensure that you comply with tax reporting requirements.
About The Author: Inna Karmolit
Inna works in tech and travels the world as a digital nomad. She is passionate about creating digital marketing and advertising strategies that help tech startups grow and become successful. Having a strong background in the digital nomad lifestyle and the challenges that come along with it, she shares her knowledge. She helps others get into the digital nomad lifestyle one article at a time.
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