Twofour54 launches freelancer visa and licence package in Abu Dhabi, UAE

It’s finally here. Abu Dhabi’s media free zone twofour54 has gone live with its freelance package.

I just had a detailed chat with Greg Sweeting, the General Counsel for twofour54. Greg is a solicitor with over 15 years of media law experience, and looked after Showtime’s legal affairs across the MENA region prior to joining twofour54.

Greg Sweeting, General Counsel, twofour54

Greg Sweeting, General Counsel, twofour54

Why twofour54?
“The reason why we exist here at twofour54 – it’s all about building the creative content industry in Abu Dhabi for the Arabic world for Arabic content,” says Greg, explaining the philosophy behind twofour54.

The freelance option was one that was much awaited – one can’t think of a production industry without freelance talent.

Why freelance?
“One of the key employment pieces that exist in all jurisdictions where there is a vibrant content and media industry is the ability for freelancers to work across many companies,” he agrees.

There are so many types of creative and skilled people who are recruited for specific projects and then move on to the next employer.

The only option to have such good people so far was by bringing them in on visit visas. But things are improving.

“It’s been necessary for us as a free zone to come forward in the media space to find an appropriate licensing structure to allow these individuals to be licensed to trade,” Greg says.

Where is the freelance demand coming from?
“There is a real need at Intaj for freelance staff and they’re getting busier and busier down there,” he replies referring to the production arm of twofour54.

“What we are keen to do is set up a structure where individuals work here at twofour54 for us and for other companies with a licence to do business at twofour54.”

So, now, with this new freelance visa option, creative/technical people related to content creation can stay here and work for more than one employer. Cool!

“It’s hopeless if you want to generate and build a sustainable content creation environment – to say ‘Thank you for coming for two months and doing a good job, go back to where you’re from.’ We want people, if they’re coming here regularly and have a good work flow here, to stay here and work here.”

What does it take to get a freelance licence at twofour54?
It’s quite a straightforward process, Greg says. You need to fit one of the categories they are issuing licenses for currently – mostly production skills. And it’s all online at the first level. Just submit your CV with references to check skills and credentials.

It’d help if you can show an employer ready to hire you from the zone. “I think it’d be misleading to allow people to apply for a license and then they’re stuck for work.”

How much does it cost?
Annual licence fees have been set at AED 5,000, with the first year licence fee discounted to AED 2,500 for those joining the scheme before 31 October 2010. Licensees are also required to pay a one-off refundable deposit of AED 15,000. Once a freelance licence has been issued, twofour54 will apply for a UAE residence visa for non GCC nationals for an additional cost of AED 1,900.

“We want people that are serious about their work. That deposit is refundable. We would only take money from that deposit if something went wrong and there was some financial liability owed to us or to the authorities,” Greg explains.

That is the only financial commitment that people have to make, he says. There is no requirement for people to take real estate space. “If you’re a camera operator, you need a camera – you don’t need a desk.”

Can we, non-Arabs, fit in too?
I ask him – what if an English scriptwriter writing for the Arab world, in English, wants to join? Is the focus only on Arab talent?

“You’re absolutely right. Our focus is Arabic content for an Arabic market and building up Arabic skills,” Greg says. At Tadreeb, the training academy at twofour54, courses are already being conducted to build up and groom skills like scriptwriting locally.

“I think we would be open to looking at people with those types of skills who were only English speaking provided that they had work and they’re down here and they were going to contribute to the broader environment.”

What comes next?
The biggest thing will be seeing how we expand that list of business categories, Greg says.

“If people start knocking on our door saying ‘I’m scriptwriter’ or ‘I’m a graphic artist’ or ‘I’m a musician’ – seeing how we expand that list out to address those types of more creative skills.”

Currently, the list of applicable categories is focused on technical skills. Next year, it will expand. To include creative and administrative skills associated with production work.

Interesting Facts About twofour54:

  • By the end of 2009 twofour54 will have 60 regional and international partners developing quality media content from its Khalifa Park campus. This number will continue to grow significantly throughout 2010.
  • twofour54’s business enabler, tawasol, has processed over 600 work visas for staff from these organisations, which enables them to live and work in Abu Dhabi.
  • In its first 12 months of operation, twofour54 tadreeb will have put over 800 media professionals, from 27 companies, through more than 1.4 million man hours of training, spanning 55 courses. Around 30% of these students will have come from outside the UAE.
  • Launched at the end of September 2009, twofour54 intaj has already recruited 70 specialist staff for its five state-of the-art HD studios and 22 post production suites. It has bookings for more than 200 production days, which will result in more than 400 hours of TV programming being produced and more than 100 hours of live feed booked through its satellite teleport system.
  • So, now we have Dubai Media City, Abu Dhabi twofour54 and Fujairah Creative City offering freelance visas. Would love to know people’s experiences in each. Customer service? Red tape? Hidden costs? Scope of business?

    Do you freelance or know a freelancer in the UAE? Do you think this step by twofour54 will help freelancers?

    Comments invited…

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    About Farrukh Naeem at

    Farrukh Naeem is the Managing Editor of Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. His blog is at


    1. Hii,
      Mr. farukh naeem
      i am raza doing job in dubai & i looking freelance visa for my friend
      please giv me full details of visa fees.

    2. Manjeet Singh says:

      I am an Indian, working since September 2014, working in Abu Dhabi as project coordinator in one company, I am interested to start as sculpture artist in UAE, is it possible for me to start this, if yes Pls let me know the details
      Manjeet Singh

    3. Harpreet Singh says:

      Hi…. can I know singer and music teacher freelance visa amount for 1year. I want know total amount and the documents required for the process.

    4. Dear Farrukh,
      Since last 1.5 year I am in UAE(Al Ain) on my wife’s sponsorship. My profile is to work as Liaison officer by giving Media support Services like Graphic Designing, Photoediting, Webside Design and Development etc by getting it done from India. I am working as backend support service provider. I have international(Germany) client. I wanted to get Freelancing Licensing in UAE so that i can get my clients transfer their money to UAE? Is that possible? or any other suggestion!

    5. Fahad Imam says:

      My name is Fahad Imam and I was working in Royal Bank of Scotland in UAE as a Business Development Executive before now I am in my home country Pakistan.I want to apply for a freelance visa can you please tell me the procedure and how can I appky ?

    6. narsimha says:

      Hi…. can I know photographer freelance visa amount for 1year I want know total amount expd..

    7. Dear Mr. Farrukh

      I am young arabic speaking guy looking to get a free lance in Sales of Real Esate in Dubai ( mainl ) or Abu Dahbi, So Is it possible to get a real estate free lancer License in Dubai as TWOFOUR54 employe ?? and how much is the total cost of the License in Dubai? what is the requirment exactly to get the License? wish to hear from you soon.


    8. Graham Tooby says:

      I have just looked at the small print and it reads as follows:1. A LICENCE ENABLES YOU TO WORK WITHIN TWOFOUR54. Your license and UAE residence visa (in the case of non-GCC nationals) do not allow you to work outside twofour54. This means you cannot work onshore in Abu Dhabi or in any other Emirate. A breach of this rule may result in fines or licence suspension and/or licence revocation.

      Does this mean you can freelance on the grounds only, what happens if there is work in Dubai were half of my buisness will be?

      Can you clarify this please?

    9. tanvir shah says:

      good info farrukh! googled freelance visa dubai…and ofcourse it takes me to your blog! cheers! : )

    10. hi ‘ im ahmed i have bachoral dgree in mass comunication and information and i work in mbc grob and i’d to work as frelanc if it’s possible many thank’s

    11. nice info and great jobs…

    12. Mr.Narsimha says:

      Hai sir. This is Nrasimha I am looking freelance visa can u send completed details plz. I am photographer if want photographer visa can i get? send me detail plz.and give me office address also.I am dubai if any office in dubai .plz give me address

    13. Hi,
      I am an engineer with 42 years broadcast experience.I had been with All India Radio. Abu Dhabi Radio-Emirates media ,Abu Dhabi, and now with Gulf News Radio ,Dubai.
      Now I am aged 65 and was working as a consultant-broadcasting.Since I am 65 plus no employment visa obtainable due to the labour law and i am so much interested to utilize my vast experience in broadcast media-especially my 40 years of vast experience in the Gulf.
      Is it possible to get a residence vise if i apply for a professional license of TwoFour54 ?
      Many broadcasting stations are utilizing my experience of moderen technology.

      Thank you

      • Hi Mr Narayanan,

        Your experience is more than my age! It’s great to have such seasoned practitioners on the blog. I hope your experience can be put to good use. The core goal of the twofour54 as I understand it is to encourage Arab content creation. If your experience helps in that somehow I think you should be welcomed by all means. You can visit their website at for more details. Also, you might want to try getting intouch with their training academy.


    14. Interesting developments over there… freelance visas, never thought of that. Very intriguing to follow how business shapes up…

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