What is the Dubai talent pass, how much does it cost and who can apply?

Dubai Airport Free Zone launched the pass to attract freelancers in the media, art, culture, technology and education sectors

Dubai, United Arab Emirates. March 17, 2015///  Atmosphere at The A4 space in Al Quoz, Dubai. The next generation of entrepreneurs and freelancers who take advantage of free wi-fi and go about their business in some of the Dubai's cafes, shunning the typical and stable 9 to 5 job routine. Rebecca Rees for The National / Reporter: Emmanuel Samoglou  / Section: National *** Local Caption ***  Freelance Cafe Culture 003.JPG
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Dubai Airport Free Zone this week introduced the talent pass freelance licence to attract and retain global talent. The scheme is aimed at the art, media, technology, marketing, culture, education, marketing and consultancy industries and is part of the emirate's goal to boost its freelance workforce.

Dubai seeks to make its creative and cultural sectors a vital part of its economy. In November, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE’s National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries to promote the growth of these sectors and increase their contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, accounting for 5 per cent of output over the next decade.

Also on the agenda is a plan to double the number of businesses operating in the sector as well as creating new jobs and raising the average income of workers.

In December, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the Department of Economy and Tourism unveiled a Creatives Journey initiative with the goal of providing the legislative, investment and technical environment necessary for the growth of the sector. It will help creative talent establish businesses within minutes.

“Sheikh Mohammed announced that Dubai will be the capital of creative talent. We wanted to increase our contribution to the creative economy,” Abdulaziz Al Hammadi, senior vice president – marketing and business growth at DAFZ, said.

Here is a rundown on who can apply for the talent pass, how much it costs and what are the benefits available.

What is the talent pass?

The talent pass is a freelance licence being offered by DAFZ and is targeted at members in the creative community.

What are the benefits?

The talent pass offers freelancers a three-year residence visa and a licence.

"Dubai Culture and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs will also offer a golden visa to eligible talent pass holders validated by DAFZ," Mr Al Hammadi said.

Dubai Culture and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs will offer a golden visa to eligible talent pass holders validated by DAFZ
Abdulaziz Al Hammadi, senior vice president – marketing and business growth, DAFZ

“Issuing a golden visa is a defined process between Dubai Culture and GDRFA, depending on the submission of profile and recommendation."

Talent pass holders are not required to rent office space in the free zone and can operate their business from anywhere. However, licence holders have the option to operate a dedicated desk and leverage other business facilities the free zone offers such as meeting rooms, he said.

These licence holders can also access a directory of free zone companies who can hire their services. “For instance, companies in the free zone might require an editor or a photographer. They can hire the talent through a centralised directory of freelancers who are licensed by DAFZ,” Mr Al Hammadi said.

Free zone customers range from international companies to small and medium enterprises as well as entrepreneurs.

What are the documents required for a talent pass?

The free zone requires certain documentation from the applicants such as a CV, letter of recommendation or portfolio to validate and authenticate the talent, Mr Al Hammadi said.

If the user is a graduate in the specialised field, they do not need to submit a letter of recommendation, he said.

DAFZ will evaluate and process applications for the talent pass and issue licences to practise commercial activities within the free zone.

How much does a talent pass cost?

The talent pass costs Dh9,500 ($2,586) and is renewable annually, Mr Al Hammadi said. However, the renewal fee is different. The visa charges will depend on the category of the visa applied for and the applicant’s profile.

Why did DAFZ launch the talent pass?

This initiative will further boost the free zone’s business environment and strengthen Dubai’s position as a global destination for innovators and talent, a statement from DAFZ said.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, there was the rise of the gig economy. The talent pass freelance licence helps to make this service more legit,” Mr Al Hammadi said.

What the experts say

The talent pass initiative is similar to the Tecom Group’s GoFreelance licence that was launched to attract freelance talent to Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Knowledge Park and Dubai Design Destrict, said David McKenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones. It costs Dh7,500 a year, he said.

“DAFZ realised that the local economy is moving towards a gig economy where we encourage freelancers to base themselves in the UAE and work globally. We are going to start to move to a freelance economy because it’s cheaper for companies to operate on that basis,” he said.

The talent pass is just another way of attracting talent with different skills to the market
David McKenzie, group managing director, Mackenzie Jones

The talent pass is another way of attracting talent with different skills to the market, he said.

The existing licences offered by DAFZ focus more on the business, trade and service industries and not much on professionals in the creative industry. This new category will act as a bridge connecting the global talent with a rewarding platform, said M R Raghu, chief executive of Marmore Mena Intelligence.

“This seems to be an extension of various initiatives taken to encourage the emirate’s creative segment. Dubai seems to be focusing on increasing the creative sector’s contribution to its gross domestic product and of late it has been introducing different reforms in that regard,” he said.

“This is also a response to the evolving business needs in the post-pandemic era.”

Updated: January 13, 2022, 9:17 AM