x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

RAK Media City ends freelance visas

RAK Media City, the free zone set up two years ago to offer a cheaper alternative to Dubai Media City, has stopped sponsoring freelance visas.

RAK Media City, the free zone set up two years ago to offer a cheaper alternative to Dubai Media City, has stopped sponsoring freelance visas, according to its chief executive. The move leaves UAE media professionals who want to market themselves as freelancers with no choice but to register with Dubai Media City, which charges Dh24,500 (US$6,300) a year plus fees. Alternately, if they want to remain registered in RAK, they must form a company and transfer their visa to a company visa, bumping the price from Dh10,000 to as much as Dh22,000 a year, according to Junaid Shaikh, the chief executive of RAK Media City.

The decision, first reported on the AdNation Middle Eastwebsite, was taken because it proved too challenging for the free zone to ensure that the freelancers were following its code of conduct. "When we issue the freelance visa, we have to monitor what the person is doing to whom we have issued the visa," he said. "At this particular time, we are here in Ras Al Khaimah and the investors that deal with us were in Dubai. It was difficult for us to monitor them."

Only five media professionals had been registered as freelancers, and all but one have either moved to Dubai or upgraded to company status, he said. The zone gave freelancers a three-month grace period ending last week to make the change, and the option of paying only 60 per cent of the new fee upfront. But the policy shift reflects the challenges of finding legal status as a freelancer in the UAE. At the moment, Abu Dhabi's media zone, twofour54, does not license freelancers, though that will change soon.

"We are working on a robust scheme that we will be announcing shortly," said Tony Orsten, the chief executive of twofour54. David Grunfeld, the managing director of Prose Solutions, a UAE-based writing firm that regularly employs freelancers, said he was eager to see some broader change in Government policy toward freelancing, which at the moment is illegal for those who do not hold freelance visas.

"I don't see why they don't allow people to freelance legally," he said. "I know they are trying to enforce visa rules so they have control over who is in the country and who is not, but once somebody has a visa and a right to be in the country, maybe they could get their employer to sign off." khagey@thenational.ae