Foreign nationals intending to enter Singapore to take up employment or to engage in business must obtain the relevant pass from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Primarily, the Singapore government has adopted the policy of encouraging well-qualified and skilled foreigners who can contribute to the country’s economy to join the workforce in Singapore. EP and S Pass holders can subsequently apply for permanent residence in Singapore, supported by six months’ pay slips and three years of tax assessments.
Another permanent residence scheme exists whereby foreigners with entrepreneurial ability and substantial financial resources may invest in Singapore under the Global Investor Programme administered by the Singapore EDB.
Foreigners who plan to exercise employment or establish businesses in Singapore must obtain the necessary approval from the relevant authority prior to the commencement of employment.
Work Permit is generally for basic or semi-skilled foreigners, from approved countries or territories to work in Singapore. Various conditions apply depending on the country of origin of the workers. Employers of Work Permit holders must purchase medical insurance with a minimum coverage of $15,000 for inpatient care and day surgery. A S$5,000 security bond has to be purchased for each non-Malaysian worker, prior to the worker’s arrival in Singapore. You can buy the bond at any bank or insurance company.
If you employ Work Permit holders, you may be limited by a quota for your industry. You will also have to pay a monthly levy for each worker. Foreign Worker Levy is a pricing mechanism designed to regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore. The Foreign Worker Levy is payable on a monthly basis and the amount depends on the type of industry, as well as the “Dependency Ceiling” i.e. the number of foreign workers that may be employed by that industry and the qualifications of the workers. The levy amount varies from $300 to $950 per month for each employee, depending on the number of Work Permit holders employed by the company.
An S Pass is granted to mid-level skilled workers who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,400, and have the relevant qualifications and work experience. Currently, the number of S Pass holders an employer can employ is capped at 13% of its workforce for the service sector and 20% for the other sectors. The employer must purchase and maintain similar medical insurance for S Pass holders as for the Work Permit holders and are also required to pay a Foreign Worker Levy.
Employment Passes (EP) are granted to professionals, technical personnel and skilled workers in managerial, executive or specialised jobs. The requirements include recognised qualifications, preferably a good university degree, adequate relevant experience and a salary of at least $4,500 a month (more experienced candidates need higher salaries). Employers may use the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) to check if the applicant qualifies for an Employment Pass.
The number of Employment Pass holders an employer may hire is not limited by a quota. Employers also need not pay the foreign worker levy for Employment Pass holders. The company needs to ensure that it is financially strong enough to support the salaries and costs of employing the EP holder and also the other business expenses.
As part of the Fair Consideration Framework, you may be required to advertise your job opening on the Jobs Bank before you can submit an Employment Pass application.
From 1 January 2018 onwards, EP and S Pass holders need to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $6,000 to be eligible to apply for Dependent Passes (DP) for their legally married spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years old.
Common law spouse, unmarried handicapped children above 21 years old, unmarried step-children under 21 years old and parents of Singapore work visa holders are not eligible for a Dependant’s Pass. However, subject to certain conditions, they are usually eligible for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP).The qualifying salary to apply for the LTVP for parents is S$12,000.
It should be noted that dependants will typically need to present the EP that they are attached to, in order to access certain services in Singapore. As an example, DP holders cannot get the following services on their own accord: a mobile phone contract, an internet provider or a TV provider.
Both EP and DP are granted by the MOM for periods ranging from one to three years and are renewable upon expiry.
Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass)
The Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) scheme is designed for foreign serial entrepreneurs, high calibre innovators or experienced investors who wish to start a business and relocate to Singapore. To be eligible for the EntrePass, the candidate must fulfil the criteria outlined by the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore. A candidate must apply for an EntrePass either before formation of the company or within a period of 6 months from the date of registration of the company. After 6 months, the entrepreneur should apply for Employment Pass instead.
Applicants must also meet any of the innovative criteria for application as an Entrepreneur, Innovator or Investor. You do not need to meet all of the criteria for each respective profile or type, but having more qualifications would help your application.
Personalized Employment Pass
The Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is for high-earning Employment Pass holders who currently earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000 or foreign professionals whose last drawn fixed monthly salary was at least S$18,000.
The pass is issued for three years at each successful application and is non-renewable.
The pass holder can take on employment in any sector and change between jobs freely and need not make a new pass application with each change. However, PEP holders must earn an annual fixed salary of at least $144,000 for each calendar year of the PEP and ensure that there is no lapse of more than six continuous months in between change of jobs.
In addition, the pass holder can remain in Singapore for up to six months, to source for new employment opportunities.
Singapore offers permanent residency to foreign investors under the Global Investor Programme and holders of the above mentioned work passes under certain conditions. The benefits of the permanent residency include:
- The capacity to stay in Singapore for an unlimited period of time, subjected to the validity of the permanent residence issued.
- Employer and employee contributions to the CPF,
- The possibility of public home ownership,
- The possibility for the resident’s children to enter Singapore’s public education system.