How to become a personal trainer in Dubai
Health and fitness is big business. According to the latest estimates, the global fitness equipment market alone is predicted to be worth a staggering AED 45 billion by 2021. Putting aside the rise of equipment, apps and wearable technologies, one of the biggest growth areas that has grown significantly is that of the personal trainer.
If you're anything like us, we're pretty certain that you know someone who has traded in their office job for a life of telling people how to get healthy working out of some of the Gulf plushest gyms.
If, also like us, you are harbouring deep envy and resentfulness, and fancy following their lead, we picked the brains of Gemma Kennedy from Virtuzone - who help people set up businesses - to find out how you go about registering yourself as a certified personal trainer in the UAE.
1. Apply for your licence
The first port of call with any type of profession in the UAE is to obtaining your licence. For a personal trainer, this process is two-fold. First, you must apply to a UAE free zone that offers sports services, such as Fujairah Creative City. Here you can obtain a personal training permit which will allow you to establish your business.
Once you have your free zone licence, you’ll then need to apply for a work permit from the General Authority of Youth & Sports Welfare in Dubai. This permit costs around AED 500 and will allow you to ply your trade throughout the Dubai mainland. It’s vital that you complete both stages of this process because free zones can issue sports services licences but cannot authorise you to work in the Dubai mainland - this is wholly at the discretion of the General Authority of Youth and Welfare.
2. Entry barriers are low
Another factor behind the boom in personal trainers in the UAE is that barriers to entry are fairly low. Most UAE free zones that accommodate sports services will usually issue licences in a matter of days, and applying for your work permit is also quick and easy. To make your work permit application, first you’ll need to register with the previously mentioned General Authority of Youth & Sports Welfare (via the website) and then with the UAE Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). REPs is an independent, public register which recognises, and essentially endorses, the qualifications and expertise of fitness professionals in the UAE.
The following documents will be required by the Authority: your printed application form and REPs qualification certificate, an outline of the type of fitness activity you wish to specialise in and a copy of your passport and visa. Applications are usually approved within four days of submission.
3. Opening your own office or studio
Many people choose to become personal trainers in the UAE for the freedom it offers, and therefore have no interest in opening their own studio or office. It is perfectly possible to trade in the UAE as a personal trainer with no physical space by simply running classes on the beach, in local parks or at clients’ houses. However, if you wish to employ staff or obtain multiple visas then you may need to take office space on the mainland – be it a small office, studio or gym.
Depending on the type of physical space you wish to open, you may need to apply to a relevant authority such as the Department of Economic Development (DED) to do so. Once you have been given the go-ahead, you can then negotiate a lease for your chosen building directly with the landlord. As this process can be complex, it pays to seek guidance from a UAE company formation specialist before embarking on this step.
4. No NOC required from local sponsor
Personal training is an ideal first business for many in the UAE, not only because setup is fast, easy and flexible but it is also possible to launch your business while still in employment. A No Objection Certificate (NOC) is not required to obtain a personal trainer permit, allowing entrepreneurs to grow their business on the side until they are ready to go it alone.
5. You can sponsor dependants
Obtaining a personal training permit from a free zone doesn’t just make it super easy to get your own visa, you’re also able to sponsor dependents for their residence visas too. Providing you meet the application criteria, you can sponsor the visa applications for staff such as drivers or your spouse and other dependants. The process is relatively easy – entry permit, status adjustment, medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration, and visa stamping. But it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE free zone businesses. They will help you make sure that before you start an application, both you (and those you’re hoping to sponsor) meet the entry requirements.
Obtaining a personal training permit from a free zone doesn’t just make it super easy to get your own visa, you’re also able to sponsor dependents for their residence visas too.
6. No auditing or book keeping required
As well as offering freedom and flexibility, personal training is also the ideal career choice for the paperwork-adverse entrepreneur. Unlike many professions in the UAE, there are no requirements for personal trainers to be audited, or to provide books to the authorities.
7. It's easy to arrange a corporate bank account
Assistance with opening your corporate bank account is yet another way that setting up in a free zone as a personal trainer can help to lower your administrative burden. Free zone authorities are on hand to advise on the application process and can also arrange a meeting with your chosen bank should you require one.