What is a free zone visa?

The UAE’s free zones offer businesses a lot of benefits. There are over 45 free zones in total, and many offer tax exemptions for companies that operate within them, plus 100% foreign ownership.

However, having the right visa is a legal requirement in order to operate in a free zone. This visa allows you to set up a company in a free zone, plus become a resident.

Free zone visas can be obtained from the Immigration Department (not the Ministry of Labour), and are valid for three years. After this time, you’ll need to renew the visa, in order to continue living and working in the country.

How to get your UAE free zone visa

The process for gaining a free zone visa is as follows:

  1. Register for E-channel online services. The UAE recently streamlined the application process by introducing the E-channel service. This means you can fill out your application for a free zone visa online. When you register online, you’ll need to pay the registration fee, plus a security payment (which is refundable).
  2. Get your entry permit / employment visa. After you’ve registered on the E-channel service, you’ll need to apply for an employment visa, which is sometimes called an entry permit. This is a temporary visa and is only valid for 60 days. You can leave the UAE during this period, but most experts recommend that you don’t, as it can delay the process.
  3. Adjust your status. Adjusting your status is relatively straightforward. All you need to do is submit your passport to the immigration services, and they’ll activate your employment visa. If you’re not in the UAE, this is a little more complex.
  4. Take a medical test and receive your ID card. By law, you’re required to undertake a medical test, which usually only takes a few hours. You’ll usually receive the results within three working days. Once you’ve got these results, you can apply for an Emirates ID card, which gives you the freedom to take out tenancy contracts, open bank accounts and more.
  5. Get your visa stamp. The final stage is to have your passport stamped, to prove that you have a free zone visa. Once you’ve got your visa, you can apply for visas for your staff, and for your family (if required).


Frequently asked questions

Which free zone should I select?

This depends on what sector your company is in, and your other business needs too. Each free zone usually caters for a specific sector (or sectors). Please note, visa requirements differ from free zone to free zone.

How much does it cost?

There are a variety of fees involved with obtaining a free zone visa. To find out more about what you can expect to pay, get in touch with us today.

Is it difficult to get a UAE free zone visa?

Some aspects can be complicated, which is why it’s useful to work with an industry professional. Charterhouse Lombard’s team are on hand to assist with the entire process.

Charterhouse Lombard – Free zone visa experts

Working in one of the UAE’s free zones can be incredibly lucrative. If you want to set up your business in the UAE and need help with the process (including getting a free zone visa), contact us today. We’re experts in this field, and are here to support your application, from registering online, to getting your visa renewed when necessary.