Dubai vs. Canada: A Self-Employed Person’s Perspective

I’ve been going on for a while about covering being self-employed in Dubai vs being self-employed in Canada.

There are pros and cons to both. I weighed them very carefully before I decided to immigrate to Canada under the Federal Self-Employed Program.

If you’re still on the fence about it, reading this breakdown might help you make the decision that’s right for you.

I became self-employed in Dubai in 2014 and fully launched my business in 2015. I decided to immigrate to Canada in 2017 and submitted my application in 2018.


Self-Employed in Dubai vs. Self-Employed in Canada: 8 Major Differences

1. Business License

My business license and establishment card in Dubai had to be renewed every year for thousands of dirhams – over AED 12,000.

After the Go freelancer license was introduced, the costs came down but it was still over AED 7,000 every year.

The Dubai business license also limited me to two professional activities – writing and marketing. 

In Canada, my master business license costs $60, is renewable every 5 years and I am free to engage in most professional activities.

I shared the process of setting up my business in Canada at Setting Up My Self-Employed Business in Canada.

2. Residence Visa

In Dubai, I had to renew my residence visa and EID every 3 years. The cost for this is around AED 2,500 if I remember correctly.

In Canada, I received my PR card for free. The PR card is renewable every 5 years for CAD 50. However, I plan to apply for Canadian citizenship before my PR card expires.

3. Health Insurance

In Dubai, renewing my health insurance every year was extremely expensive.

The insurance company always came up with some crap every year to justify the increases.

The year I moved, my health insurance was AED 10,500 and that was after a long haggle with the insurance company, and did not include dental.

In Canada, I have free healthcare, which covers almost everything. (Note, this healthcare system is not without its own issues but that’s for a later post).

The extras like vision, dental, and medication are covered through my self-employed artists’ association insurance – CAD 960 approx/year.

Dubai vs Canada- A Self-Employed Person’s Perspective

4. Business Bank Accounts

In Dubai, the banks wanted me to open an account as if I was a regular company and maintain a balance of around AED 20,000 – 50,000 depending on the bank.

As a sole proprietor, it’s impossible to let the bank tie up so much of my money.

As a result, I couldn’t get paid by overseas clients. I had to find a workaround that was a challenge every time an overseas client paid me.

In Canada, it cost $0 to open my sole proprietor account, there is no minimum balance and the charges are less than $100 a year.

I can also use my chequing accounts to receive payments from anywhere without any hassles.

As long as the income is legal, and declared and I pay taxes, I don’t think the CRA cares about which account I use to receive my payments.

5. Support for Small Businesses

There is a lot of support and resources for small business owners in Canada.

I found the small business center at the local library invaluable when I arrived in Canada.

I didn’t have this type of support in Dubai. The way the system was set up made it quite difficult to operate as a sole proprietor.

There wasn’t a structure for independent contractors either. You were pretty much on your own.

6. Funding for Small Businesses

There is a significant amount of financial support for women in small businesses in Canada.

I have been researching which will be best for me when I make the move to expand my business next year.

There was support for small businesses in Dubai but most of it was geared toward Emiratis, not expats.

7. Access to Target Audience

My target audience is mostly in North America with a few sprinkled in Europe and Asia.

It’s great to be closer to them and as I mentioned above, I am also able to receive my payments without any hassles.

Depending on the country, I receive payments via Payoneer or Wise (formerly Trasnferwise).

8. Loss of Income Protection

When your income takes a hit in Canada, you’re covered under EI for a while if you meet certain conditions.

EI (Employment Insurance) is the temporary income support provided to people who lose their income source.

Self-employed persons aren’t required to pay EI but if you do, you’re covered when your income takes a downturn.

Self-employed persons don’t have this in Dubai and even if you arrange it through insurance, there’s no guarantee they’ll pay up when you need it.

Dubai vs Canada, which is best for a self employed person

Do You Prefer Canada to Dubai?

From a financial and business point of view as a solopreneur, Canada offers way more benefits for me.

It costs less to be self-employed in Canada than it does in Dubai. Even with the taxes, it still costs less.

Almost all of my expenses as a self-employed person are deductible on my taxes so I don’t owe that much in taxes.

There are still many things I miss very much about Dubai but moving to Canada was the best decision for me then as a self-employed person.

If the self-employed scenario in Dubai changes in the future, maybe I might move back. Or maybe not. But I’m a wanderer at heart and know at some point, I will wander somewhere else.

Impact of COVID-19 and Quarantine on My Business

There are a lot of small businesses that have felt the impact of COVID-19 and all the subsequent lockdowns.

Quite a few small businesses have also closed down. However, Canada has provided relief for small businesses and self-employed people.

You can find out more about those relief measures at:-

I have not had to apply for relief. Even though the pandemic affected my business, I still make a good enough income to support myself. And I have a very tight financial plan.

Choosing between Dubai and Canada as a self-employed person depends on a lot of factors and what point you are at in your life. 

Weigh those factors carefully before deciding to uproot your entire life and move to a different country.

If you’re wondering about immigrating to Canada as a self-employed person, check out these articles:-

I should also note that prior to becoming self-employed in Dubai, I worked a 9 – 5 for many years. A 9 – 5 pays for your visa and health insurance so I didn’t face any of the challenges I mentioned above.

If I’d opted to remain at my 9 – 5, I would likely not have immigrated to Canada.

Abi has lived and worked abroad for over 13 years. She loves traveling, reading, and writing. She is a big believer in following your dreams and has been marching to the beat of her unconventional drums for a long time. She funds her adventures by making smart financial decisions and investing wisely. Her top personal finance tools include trading with Questrade, investing change on MOKA, and no-fee banking with Tangerine and Neo Financial. Learn more about Abi HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I will make a small commission if you purchase through those links. Read full disclosure HERE.

4 thoughts on “Dubai vs. Canada: A Self-Employed Person’s Perspective”

  1. Hi Abi,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information on Self Employment / Solopreneurs / Small Business.

    Not many people share about this topic so your blog is very much helpful to me as I also run my own Business and wish to immigrate to Canada in coming years.

    Indeed, Canada is the best choice here compared to Dubai.

  2. As someone who currently lives in Dubai, I can say everything you wrote about Dubai is the truth and it’s hard really settling down here.

    Thank you for sharing this information, Abi.


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