What is Free Zone and Free Zone Visa in UAE?
A free zone is a special economic zone where companies can operate and receive considerable tax and free exemptions. Free zone companies are treated as offshore companies which are governed by authorities designated for the specific zone and therefore do not need to engage with the customs authorities or Ministry of Economy.
A Free zone visa is a visa which provides a temporary residence for three years to foreign entrepreneurs either having a business or wanting to start a business in any free zone across the UAE.
If you are employed in a free zone your company would apply for your visa and cover all costs. If you are planning to apply for a free zone visa as freelancer or to set up a free zone company you would need to apply for the visa through the free zone authority and need to cover all the cost by yourself.
Free zones are preferred option for entrepreneurs, as they offer packages that ensure that you can complete your business set up and visa application process relatively easily. They have the option to set up a business with 100 per cent ownership and an investor visa valid for three years. Some Free zone have a special package for small and medium enterprises, which allows you to set up a business and also apply for a visa.
How many Free Zones are there in UAE?
According to the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, these are the free zones operating in the UAE:
- Jebel Ali Free Zone
- Masdar City Free Zone
- Dubai Maritime City
- Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD)5. Sharjah Publishing City
- Hamriyah Free Zone7. Dubai Commercity
- Khalifa Port Free Trade Zone
- Creative City Free Zone
- Ajman Free Zone
- Fujairah Free Zone
- Dubai South
- Dubai World Trade Centre
- Dubai Design District
- Dubai Science Park
- International Humanitarian City
- Dubai Multi Commodities Centre
- Dubai Outsource City
- Dubai Silicon Oasis
- Sharjah Media City – Shams
- Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF)
- Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone
- Dubai International Financial Centre
- Abu Dhabi Global Market
- Dubai Internet City
- Umm Al Quwain Free Zone
- Ajman Media City Free Zone
- Meydan Free Zone
- Dubai Healthcare City
- Dubai International Academic City
- Dubai Production City
- Dubai Studio City
- Dubai Media City
How can I apply for a Free Zone Visa?
Here are the simple steps you may consider while applying for a Free Zone Visa:
Step 1: Register for E-Channel Services:
E-Channel services are the platform which was designed by the UAE government to streamline the visa process. If you are planning to register a free zone business you may ask your agent or the registered typing centre to register your company for online services .
Fees: approximately AED 2500
Refundable security deposit AED 5000
Step 2: Entry Permit
Once you registered for E-Channel services, you may apply for your entry permit or employment visa which is issued within 15 day and is valid for 60 days. Do not leave the country after applying for your entry permit to avoid any discrepancies in your immigration file. Once your entry permit is ready the same will be sent to your registered email.
If you need a express service which takes five to seven working days you may need to pay an additional amount of AED 1000.
Step 3: Status Change:
If you are within the UAE, you would need to apply for an ‘in-country status change’. For it, you would need to submit your passport to immigration who will stamp and activate your employment visa. The process takes around three to five days .
Fees approximate AED 750.
If you are outside the UAE when your employment visa is issued, or you plan to leave the country shortly afterwards, it is possible to activate your free zone visa by exiting and re-entering the UAE and presenting your printed employment visa to the immigration officer at the airport in the immigration arrivals hall. The immigration officer will then stamp and activate the free zone visa. Please check your free zone authority before leaving the country on a UAE employment visa as this option will not available to all nationalities.
Step 4: Medical fitness test and Emirates ID registration:
You may need to get your medical test done which is comprised of a blood test for any infectious diseases, and a chest X-ray. This can be completed within a few hours and results are usually available after three working days.
With the results of your medical test, you can then apply for your Emirates ID card. This is an identity card that must be carried by UAE citizens at all times and is needed to open bank accounts, to take out contracts for mobile phones, or tenancy agreements.
If you are applying for an Emirates ID card, you will need to visit a Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) service centre to submit your application and provide your biometric details.
Fees for applying three year Emirates ID approximately AED 370
Can I apply for a dependent visa?
Once you have completed all the formalities and have your UAE visa granted you can apply for your dependant visa. For this you must obtain a salary certificate from your free zone stating your earnings – the minimum salary to sponsor a wife or child varies between jurisdictions .
The process is simple you may follow the steps mentioned above, however there are different requirements for medical tests (not needed for those aged 18 or below) and biometric details (not required for those aged 15 or below).
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