In times of the ever-growing globalization and digitalization more and more people are fulfilling their dreams of travelling the world while still working and generating income. So called digital nomads, that is entrepreneurs, freelancers or even employees, work from just about anywhere they want to, using digital technologies like the internet, laptops, smartphones etc..
Working and traveling as a digital nomad
So far, most digital nomads are using standard tourist visas, allowing them to travel and stay in a chosen country for 30 - 90 days. However, technically, a tourist visa does not permit the applicant to work from within the country and can often make things fairly complicated when it comes to consular jurisdiction. Now also adding to this travel restrictions that have been implemented during the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one can see how travelling to and working from different countries becomes considerably more difficult.
Here is where “digital nomad visas”, “remote work visas” or “freelancer visas” come into play. These new types of visas are being introduced in an increasing number of countries in order to counter and solve the above-mentioned issues, making it easier and, first of all, legal to work remotely, while also attracting talents and expertise as well as compensating for lost tourist proceeds.
One of those countries to introduce this kind of visa is the United Arab Emirates, more precisely the city of Dubai, with their one year long virtual visa program.
Dubai City is unlike any other destination. A limitless city compacted together, edged by beaches along the Persian Gulf and populated by expats from all over the world.
Here is what you’ll get in detail
This program enables entrepreneurs, freelancers and workers to live and work in Dubai, paying income tax to only their base country but being allowed to access and use local utilities, goods and services, such as telecommunication, banking, supply services, schooling, etc. - all while enjoying the sun and beaches of Dubai.
Dubai, as the highly international and interconnected city it is and with its many company sites, offers a great digital infrastructure and a plethora of co-working spaces. It is one of the safest cities in the world, a multicultural bustling place with one-of-a-kind entertainment and “eatertainment” as well as recreation and leisure opportunities among others, enabling you to reach a high work-life-balance.
Dubai’s virtual working program particularly aims to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and other eligible workers who work under self-sponsorship and wish to relocate to Dubai but want to keep working for their current organization. If the visa is granted it will be valid for one year and can be renewed after approval, plus families can be brought along. The idea is, to not only support the public and private sector, but to also facilitate individuals’ productivity by expanding digital and socio-cultural skills and adjusting to a growing gig economy.
Another important aspect the new digital nomad visa addresses are legal technicalities. Legislative amendments regarding the use of digital technologies for judicial action and transactions were adopted, granting more security on both sides.
How to get it
Application is done online via the official visitdubai.com website. Apart from basic personal information, applicants will need to have:
- a passport that will be valid for at least six months at the time of application
- valid health insurance that covers residence in the United Arab Emirates.
Employees will need to:
- provide proof of current employment that will be valid for a minimum of one year
- provide the payroll of the last month and bank statements of the last three months
- earn at least USD 5000 per month (after tax).
Company owners will need to:
- provide proof of an at least one-year long company ownership
- provide bank statements of the company’s account of the last three months
- earn at least USD 5000 per month.
Besides that, there is a USD 287 fee for each person applying as well as a premium for the valid medical insurance and additional processing fees, adding up to about USD 611.
Note that paying these fees does not guarantee approval. Decisions on that will be done by officials of Dubai’s Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing. Timeframes will vary depending on the origin country.
Dubai during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dubai, or that is to say the whole of the UAE have implemented high standard COVID-19 measures to ensure a safe stay even during a global pandemic. The city was rewarded with the World Travel and Tourism Council`s “Safe Travels” stamp and there are “Dubai Assured”-stamps to certify facilities that follow all security and hygiene measures. Furthermore, all residents (including holders of the digital nomad visa) are entitled to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Effective October 2021, travelers to the UAE will have to present a negative PCR test and might (if not yet vaccinated or if traveling from a high-risk country) be required to quarantine for 10 days.
Latest COVID-19 measures can be found on several websites.
What more to know
Even though the visa is valid for one year, it is not required to stay for all of the 365 days. Rather, one can come and go pretty much as one pleases, as long as it does not exceed a six-month period.
Regarding accommodation, it is possible to rent private apartments, however only few lessors offer short term leases. Thus, vacation rentals, Airbnbs or hotels might have to be considered. Travel insurance is feasible for application but will have to be changed into a locally registered UAE health insurance upon arrival.
Jürgen Pretsch is a professional researcher and consultant, but first and foremost, he is a "serial expat" and contemporary "digital nomad". Having lived in nearly a dozen countries, Jürgen has produced extensive research for major private institutions and governments. At the moment, Jürgen is pioneering work relating to expatpreneurship, and will continue to provide resourceful articles in the global mobility space.
Connect with Jürgen today to learn more about his Advisory & Consulting services.