Singapore Work Visa Schemes

Unlike the closed-border policies now ascendent in the rest of the developed world, Singapore continues to support a liberal immigration policy, as it has consistently done over the last several decades. The country’s sustained economic growth and low fertility rates have made it necessary for Singapore to bring in foreign skilled and unskilled workers to relieve its persistently tight labor market. Singapore also seeks foreign talent as a source of innovation and growth for its economy. The result of this liberal immigration policy is that nearly a third of Singapore’s total workforce is made up of foreigners. Singapore continues to welcome new foreigners. This article provides a high-level overview of the different types of work passes available to those who wish to do business or work in Singapore.

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An Overview

The following video from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) provides a good introduction to the three most common types of work passes available in Singapore.

Work Passes for Professionals, Managers and Entrepreneurs

While Singapore has slightly tightened its overall immigration policy in recent years, it continues to encourage immigration by highly-skilled and innovative foreigners who can demonstrate that they are able to draw a high compensation for their work in Singapore. Foreigners with those qualifications can work in Singapore under an Employment Pass, an EntrePass or a Personalised Employment Pass subject to satisfying their respective criteria.


EMPLOYMENT PASS

Professionals and managers with high-level qualifications can obtain an Employment Pass (EP). The employing company (or an approved agency on behalf of the employing company) must apply for the EP for the applicant; changing employers necessitates getting a new EP to continue working in Singapore. After 2011, the requirements for an EP were tightened by raising the minimum salary and limiting the range of qualifications accepted. The key features for an EP application are as follows:

  1. Applicant: The employer or an approved agency applies to MOM for an EP on behalf of the foreign candidate.
  2. Duration: The initial EP is for a period of up to two years so long as the foreigner works for the same employer. Renewed EPs are valid for up to three years.
  3. Quotas and levies: No quotas or levies apply to EPs.
  4. Minimum salary: A monthly salary of at least $3,300 for first-time employees. Applicants who have more experience may be required to show a higher minimum salary.
  5. Renewal: Yes, so long as the applicant is working for the same employer and satisfies the renewal criteria.
  6. Health Insurance: An EP holder can get health insurance through his or her employer (if the employer offers it) or purchase private health insurance.
  7. Family: You may bring your family (spouse and children) if you earn $4000 per month or more; if you wish to bring your parents to Singapore, you must earn $8,000 per month or more.
  8. Permanent Residence Eligibility: Yes, in due course you can apply for Permanent Residence in Singapore.

Employment Pass is the main route for relocating to Singapore for foreign skilled staff, senior executives, and directors of Singapore companies.

ENTREPASS

The EntrePass, also known as an Entrepreneur Pass, is a work permit for a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start and operate a new business in Singapore. The foreign entrepreneur must have registered the business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) within the past six months or must intend to register it upon receiving the EntrePass. The criteria for EntrePass were tightened in 2013 to ensure that Singapore offers EntrePasses only to those who create jobs in Singapore and enhance the local economy. The new requirements are as follows.

  1. Applicant: The foreign entrepreneur applies directly to MOM for an EntrePass.
  2. Duration: An EntrePass is valid for up to one year.
  3. Quotas and levies: No quotas or levies apply to the holder of an EntrePass.
  4. Minimum salary: There is no minimum salary required to apply for an EntrePass. However, there are capitalization requirements for the new business that the entrepreneur starts in Singapore.
  5. Intellectual Property or Funding: The new business must also meet at least one of the following four requirements: a) receive funding from an accredited VC, b) hold proprietary intellectual property, c) collaborate with a premier research institution, or d) work with a government supported incubator.
  6. Renewal: Yes, dependent upon meeting the renewal criteria.
  7. Health Insurance: The individual EntrePass holder is responsible for purchasing his or her own private health insurance.
  8. Family: You can bring your spouse, children and parents if you satisfy the dependent criteria. Note that you can only bring your dependents to Singapore only after you have renewed your pass and you cannot bring in dependent(s) on your first application.
  9. Permanent Residence Eligibility: Yes, in due course.

PERSONALISED EMPLOYMENT PASS

A Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) is a special Employment Pass reserved for high-earning Employment Pass (EP) holders and foreign professionals with even higher earnings. PEP holders have greater job flexibility because a PEP is not tied to a particular employer like an EP is. Rather, it is granted on the strength of the applicant’s qualifications. Furthermore, a PEP holder can stay in Singapore for up to six months without working while he or she seeks and evaluates employment opportunities.

  1. Applicant: The current EP holder or foreign professional applies to MOM directly.
  2. Duration: Up to 3 years.
  3. Quotas and levies: No quotas or levies apply to the holder of a PEP.
  4. Minimum salary: Yes. The minimum salary for for an EP holder who is already in Singapore is at least $12,000 per month while overseas professionals who are not in Singapore at the time of application must earn at least $18,000 per month.
  5. Renewal: No, the PEP is only issued once.
  6. Health Insurance: The PEP holder is responsible for purchasing his or her own private health insurance.
  7. Family: You may bring in your spouse, children and parents.
  8. Permanent Residence Eligibility: Yes, in due course.

Work Pass for Lesser Qualified Professionals

While the above visa options are available to highly skilled workers, a different visa is available for professionals who have lower skills.

S PASS

The S Pass allows foreigners with mid-level skills (such as technicians) to work in Singapore, so long as they earn at least $2,200 per month. Employers must apply to MOM on behalf of job candidates. The number of S pass holders an employer can have is limited by quota, which is set in relationship to the employer’s total workforce (between 15% to 20% of the employer’s total workforce).

  1. Applicant: The employer applies to MOM for a S Pass on behalf of the foreign worker.
  2. Duration: Up to two years, so long as the foreigner works for the same employer.
  3. Quotas and levies: Employers are restricted by a quota on S Passes and must pay a monthly levy for each S Pass worker. The monthly levy varies between $315 to $550 per S Pass.
  4. Minimum salary: Yes, the foreign worker must earn at least $2,200 per month.
  5. Renewal: Yes, for up to three years so long as the employer has available spots under its quota and the foreign worker continues to work for that employer.
  6. Health Insurance: The employer must provide health insurance for a S Pass holder.
  7. Family: S Pass holders making at least $4,000 per month can bring their spouse and children.
  8. Permanent Residence Eligibility: Yes, in due course.

Passes for Family Members

Foreigners who work in Singapore and who want to bring their family members to live with them can do so long as they have an EP, PEP or S Pass. A legally married spouse and children under 21 can be brought to Singapore with a Dependent’s Pass. A common-law spouse, stepchildren, a disabled child over 21 and parents can be brought to Singapore with a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP).

DEPENDENT’S PASS

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old can apply for a Dependent’s Pass.

  1. Applicant: The employer applies for the Dependent’s Pass on behalf of the EP, PEP, or S Pass holder.
  2. Duration: Up to two years, although it is tied to the duration of the foreign worker’s work pass. If the work pass is cancelled, then the Dependent Pass will also be cancelled.
  3. Quotas and levies: No
  4. Renewal: Yes.
  5. Minimum salary: The EP or S Pass holder must earn at least $4,000 per month. The PEP holder has no such requirement.
  6. Health Insurance: The pass holder is responsible for getting health insurance for his or her family.
  7. Able to work: Yes, with a Letter of Consent.

LONG TERM VISIT PASS

A common-law spouse, step-child, a disabled child and parents can apply for a LTVP. The requirements for the LTVP are:

  1. Applicant: The employer applies for the Dependent’s Pass on behalf of the EP, PEP or S Pass holder.
  2. Duration: It is tied to the duration of the foreign worker’s work pass.
  3. Quotas and levies: No.
  4. Minimum salary: The EP or S Pass holder must earn at least $4,000 ($8,000 for LTVP for parents) per month.
  5. Renewal: Yes.
  6. Health Insurance: The pass holder is responsible for getting health insurance for his or her family.
  7. Able to work: Yes, with a Letter of Consent.

A holders of an EntrePass can also bring his or her family members to Singapore under a Dependent’s Pass or a LTVP if the EntrePass holder’s business satisfies the dependent criteria. That criteria is based on how many jobs the business creates in Singapore and how much it stimulates the Singapore economy. An EntrePass holder can bring in:

  • Spouse or children if the business has spent at least $150,000 and created 4 or more jobs.
  • Parents if the business has spent at least $300,000 and created 8 or more jobs.

Short-term Passes

In addition to the above work passes, Singapore offers short-term passes for training to students, professionals and semi-skilled workers. It also provides another type of pass, called a Miscellaneous Work Pass for those coming to work in Singapore for less than 60 days.

Conclusion

Singapore offers several types of work related visas for foreigners who want to work in the country. The procedures and rules for the different types of visas are well established and straightforward. However, it is helpful to seek the assistance of a corporate services firm if you are planning to apply for one of these visas.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. An Overview
  2. Work Passes for Professionals, Managers and Entrepreneurs
  3. Work Pass for Lesser Qualified Professionals
  4. Passes For Family Memebers
  5. Short Term Passes
  6. Conclusion

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