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What expat influencers need to know about the UAE Media License

Ecommerce is big business. In the United Arab Emirates alone, the industry is reported to be worth more than $10 billion - a figure that’s rising month on month as more people buy online.

Alongside ecommerce, social media influencing is a growing trend, with some influencers earning thousands for a single tweet or Instagram post promoting a particular product or service.

Whilst that's great news for influencers, who are finding new revenue streams and helping brands attract impressionable young audiences, it’s been unregulated for too long.

New UAE regulation means that bloggers and influencers must now obtain licenses in order to operate legally. If you make money from social media posts or through blogging as an expat, then you will be impacted by this change. Below, we round up everything you need to know.


What is the UAE Media License?

The introduction of the new UAE Media License for electronic media is designed to make online advertising more professional and transparent, for companies, influencers and the consumers exposed. The changes will make media content more balanced and responsible, protecting the public from the harmful effects of negative, false or dangerous advertising.

In short, the new regulations require anyone who is conducting commercial activity through social media to register for an e-media license if they wish to continue. Regulation will only have an impact on those who are paid for endorsements, rather than all bloggers or social media users.

The regulators behind the change, the National Media Council, have stressed that they don't want to control social media accounts or blogs that don't make money from their activities, or those who receive products in exchange for a review. The changes only concern commercial influencers.

In order to obtain an e-media license, influencers must be citizens of the UAE, aged 25 or over, and have a good reputation. They must post paid-for content on their social media channels or their blog, or endorse brands or products publicly to be eligible.


How to obtain a license

If you're an expat that makes money from promoting products or services on social media or on your website, then you'll likely require a license in order to do so.

You can apply for a license directly by visiting the National Media Council website.

You'll need to be able to provide your Emirates ID (so you'll require a UAE residence visa), and a trade license. If you don’t already have these documents, then you must apply for those before you apply for a media license.

If you have multiple social media accounts, you only need to apply for a single license, but you must mention all of the accounts in your application.

During the application process, you should choose the "websites and social accounts specialised for online advertising" option under business activity.

The license will cost Dh15,000 (around £3,000), and if successful, you’ll be granted an e-license via email and the licensing website within five to seven working days.


Is the Media License worth it?

If you're making little money as an influencer, then the Dh15,000 fee may seem expensive.

However, the license will raise standards and lead to more transparency in the UAE’s digital space, improving the landscape for consumers and for influencers too.

The cost of the new license will no doubt push some influencers out of the market, or at least change the way they approach selling their services online.

Rather than allowing brands to pay you for promotion, for example, you could offer alternative services to make money, like running their website or managing their social media accounts.

Offering such services will allow you to bypass the Media License, but other licensing may be required.


Making money as an expat influencer

If you've been making money as a social media influencer and don't think the application fee is worthwhile, then you may be wondering how else you can make money as an expat influencer.

Your knowledge and experiences emigrating to a new country should be able to help you make money online, and there are several ways that you can go about this.


Become an expat expert

Emigrating to a new country can be hard work. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional upheaval of saying goodbye to your loved ones and starting out afresh elsewhere, but there is paperwork and documentation to contend with before a visa or employment can be granted.

With your first-hand experience as an expat, you could become an expert and help others who are moving to the country.

Whether you open an office and meet new expats face to face to offer your services, or you launch a website and offer consultancy on getting licenses, permits and recommending utilities, you'll be able to make some real money using your local knowledge.


Run tourism tours

It may seem hard to believe, but influencers existed long before the internet and social media. People aspire to be like others, whether that's because of their knowledge, experiences or lifestyle.

If you think you could pull together some of the best museums, tourist spots and eateries and show off your city to tourists and new expats, running tourism tours could be a great option.

Not only will you make money by selling your tours, but you'll get to know your local area on a deeper level, and show off some of the hidden gems and off-the-beaten-track treasures.

Advertise your tours online and in the local press, leave leaflets and business cards in hotel rooms and popular tourist attractions, and let your fellow expats know too.

You’ll quickly be able to find an audience for your tours and generate a sizeable income.


Start blogging

If you have a knack for writing or you’re interested in photography, then launching your own expat blog could be another option.

Indeed, you’ll need a media license if you want to promote businesses or post content on social media, but there are other ways to make a living through blogging, such as launching your own ebooks, advertising and adding paywalls for content.

Becoming an expat blogger will allow you to create a new community, connect with new people and put yourself out there for new experiences. That in itself should be reason enough to give it a go and see what happens. Who knows, you could become the next celebrity travel blogger?!

The new UAE Media License will no doubt make you think twice before launching a blog or attempting to become an influencer, but it’s important to note that you only require a license once you start making money. Blogging and building a social media presence as an expat can be great fun and offer endless benefits aside from money, so give it a go and see what happens!

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