UAE Influencer License: Everything You Need to Know (2018 edition)

Social media influencing has become big business, with some influencers (people with thousands of followers on social media) revealing they can earn monthly or even annual salaries per post.

Yet while marketing and advertising are pretty heavily regulated across the globe, the ethics of influencer marketing on social media has so far remained unchecked. The UAE is rectifying this by bringing in new regulations which will now require influencers to obtain licenses in order to continue operating legally.

A new code of practice to professionalise the industry

The introduction of the new regulations for electronic media is seen as a move to make all online activities more professional and transparent. According to the National Media Council (NMC), it is designed to help provide more balanced and responsible media content and protect the public from negative or harmful material.

One of the key parts of these new regulations is the need for those conducting commercial activities through social media—such as influencers—to be registered and have an e-media license in order to conduct those activities.

What type of social media influencers does this affect?

It is important to note that not all people who consider themselves influencers will be affected.

It is important to note that not all people who consider themselves influencers will be affected.

These regulations are specifically targeted at influencers who are paid for their endorsements. They alone will be required to obtain an NMC e-media license by 31 July 2018 or face a severe fine.

The NMC has been clear that they are not seeking to control those with social media accounts, blogs or personal pages who (for example) review brands or products and often receive free material in return. As long as they are not commercial in nature, these people will be able to continue their online activities without needing a license.

What is the NMC e-media license and who is eligible to apply for it?

This license allows influencers to post (paid for) content on social media that advertises or endorses brands or products.

To apply for one, you need to fulfil certain conditions. You can find the full list on the NMC website. However, the key criteria are:

  • to be a citizen of the UAE or one of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries;
  • to be aged 25 years or more; and
  • to be of good reputation.

How can I obtain an e-media license?

It is possible to apply for a license directly, via the NMC website. However, you first need to make sure you are eligible to apply, while also making sure you have the appropriate documentation:

  • Applicants must have an Emirates ID (which means they should have a UAE residence visa)
  • You need a trade license

If you don’t already have these documents, there are professional agencies available who can help you get your trade license, visa and NMC e-media license.

What information do I need to include and what else do I need to know?

It is not a problem if you have multiple social media accounts as an influencer (this is pretty common). You can mention them all on your license.

It is not a problem if you have multiple social media accounts as an influencer (this is pretty common). You can mention them all on your license.

The business activity you need to select on the application form will be: ‘websites and social accounts specialized for online advertising’, which costs Dh15,000. The timeline for processing and granting you the license is usually within 5 – 7 days (although, remember, this is an e-license, so the original copy remains with the authorities).

Summary

This push for greater transparency and higher standards with online commercial activities can only be seen as a good thing for consumers and influencers alike. While some revenue-generating social media influencers might be weighing up the cost of these new licenses, the regulations finally bring accountability for commercial social media activities more in line with magazines and newspapers.

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About the author: Olga Melnik, Head of Business Development, Virtuzone.
About the author: Olga Melnik, Head of Business Development, Virtuzone.

Having spent the past seven years working in the field of legal company incorporation, Olga now works closely with entrepreneurs both locally and internationally in assisting them with their UAE company setup requirements. This includes both free zone and onshore in Dubai and other emirates across the UAE. Olga always advises each of her clients on the best legal setup for their particular needs, and in so doing she supports across the entire range of company setup, from legal translation to document certification to management of the entire communication and legalities with the local UAE company setup authorities. Olga was born and raised in the Ukraine and has a degree in Business Administration and International Law.