Digital Nomads:
UAE as basecamp for workforce new generation

If the Corona Pandemic told us one thing it is that the way we used to work will drastically change in the future. Employees will be freer to work in a combination of a home office or remotely and the office of the company they are employed by. Some companies will try to reduce office space as much as possible and hire talent that is not even located in the same country. The ones that recognized this trend already before Corona and practiced this way of remote working are called “Digital Nomads”.

They are defined as people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. They often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces etc. by the use of devices that have wireless internet capabilities such as smartphones or mobile hotspots. Common types of Digital Nomads include retired or semi-retired persons, independently wealthy or entrepreneurs, and (often younger) remote workers. People typically become Digital Nomads for positive reasons, such as financial independence and a career that allows for location independence.

A. Digital Nomadism in the UAE

Given the technically highly advanced set-up and one of the most advanced networks of air routes in the world, the UAE is predestined as “basecamp” for Digital Nomads. Its location as a gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia presents the perfect spot for people who are not bound to a specific place and have the urge to experience the new and exotic. Furthermore, the UAE is home to people of 190 nations and a melting pot for different cultures.

B. How to maintain a residency in the UAE

For obtaining a residency/visa in the UAE a variety of option exist. The most common ones comprise of:

Since 2014 the DIFC aleady offers Expats residing in the Emirate of Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah to plan their succession with a Will. This Will is based upon the Regulations of DIFC and gives the opportunity for Non-Muslims to opt-out of the Sharia Regulations. The Wills are drafted in English; no Arabic documents/translations are required. The DIFC offers different types of Wills:

  • Work/Employment Visa:
    Most ex-pats in the UAE maintain their residency through a work/employment visa. For Digital Nomads this option will only be available in case they choose to enter into an employment relationship and the employer is located in the UAE
  • Investor Visa:
    Through the set-up of a company in the UAE (in the case of Digital Nomads mostly in one of the numerous Freezone) the founder/s of the company can receive a visa. The entity set-up in the UAE can be used as a business vehicle to invoice for services rendered as long as the company complies with the newly introduced Economic Substance Regulations. The revenue generated is subject to 0% corporate or income tax.
  • Property Visa:
    In case a property (not including off-plan developments), located in the UAE, is purchased and the value of the same exceeds the amount of AED 1.000,000,- the owner is eligible to receive a visa as well.

When a residency is maintained through a work/employment or property visa the individual will be able to open a bank account in the UAE. Same will apply for the investor visa, in this case, it will be possible to open a corporate bank account.

Due to the variety of nationalities living in the UAE, it is common to handle bank transfers in and out of the UAE to loads of different countries and in different currencies.

The activities that can be conducted with a company set-up in the UAE are almost endless and offer a solution for almost every type of work.

Additionally, most payments for costs arising in the UAE (apart from rental payments) can be done remotely via payment links, so nobody has to wait until the physical bill is in the mail and the risk of missing the same is minimized.

For the registration of all Wills the Testator has to be 21 years old, residing in the Emirate of Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, not being a Muslim (and never have been a Muslim). Guardianship provisions can only be set-up for children habitually residing in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

C. Conclusion

In comparison, the costs of living in Dubai might appear higher than in most European metropolis’. At second glance, costs (Food, Housing, Clothes, Transportation, Personal Care, Entertainment) for residing in Paris or London are on average 7% in case of Paris and 21% for London higher compared to Dubai. Looking at Munich the cost of living in Dubai indeed exceeds the one in Munich by 5 % but it should always be taken into consideration that no income tax applies in the UAE. In general the well-established infrastructure, flexible renting structures, digital availability of most governmental institutions etc. facilitate the lifestyle of people who don’t want to be bound to one place all the time.

In case you need support with the construction of you “basecamp” in the UAE always feel free to contact us.

Author: Mariem Al-Ssayrafi

Senior Lawyer