Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world and a rapidly ageing population. In contrast, its economy is strong and the country is widely regarded as Asia’s business headquarters. So much so that more and more foreign entrepreneurs and companies are relocating to Singapore, with the average annual growth rate of company incorporation in the country touching 8.2 percent in the last three years.
These companies need manpower, which is not locally available. This in turn generates job opportunities for foreign professionals with suitable qualifications. But all foreigners need to get work visas approved by the Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) before they start working for an employer in the country.
These work visas may be either work permit, S Pass or an Employment Pass, which is most preferred work visa among experienced professionals, managerial personnel, and executives.
Other options are securing an EntrePass or a Personalised Employment Pass.
In a nutshell, the work visa options in Singapore include:
- Work Permit
- S Pass
- Employment Pass
- Personalised Employment Pass
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Below is an overview of all these options.
Singapore’s Work Permit
This work visa is issued to basic-skilled workers from an approved source country/territory, which depends on the sector the worker is going to be employed in.
The minimum age restriction for work permits is 18 years for all non-domestic foreign workers. While the upper limit for Malaysians is 58 years and 50 years for non-Malaysians.
Foreign Workers Levy
Moreover, employers are required to pay foreign worker levy (FWL) for their work permit holders. This is a price mechanism introduced by the Singapore Government to regulate the foreign manpower numbers in the country.
The amount of FWL to be paid for each worker is determined by the sector the employer/company belongs to, and the educational qualifications and skills of the workers. Employers can avail some concessions in the levy if they employ skilled workers with relevant qualifications.
Dependency Ratio Ceiling
Employers must also adhere to the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC), which refers to the maximum permitted ratio of foreign workers to the total workforce that a company is allowed to hire.
S Pass in Singapore
S Pass is a notch above WP and is issued to mid-level skilled foreigners (e.g. technicians).
MOM assesses the S Pass application “on a points system, taking into account multiple criteria”, which are:
- minimum monthly salary of S$2,200 for young applicants; older, more experienced applicants need higher salaries to qualify
- degree or diploma
- years of work experience
Also, like the Work Permit, FWL and DRC is also applicable for S Pass applications.
While the monthly levy per S Pass holder ranges anything between S$315 and S$550, MOM states that “the number of S Pass holders a company can employ is capped at a sub-Dependency Ceiling (sub-DC), of 15% of the company’s total workforce in the Services sector and 20% in the remaining sectors”.
Singapore Employment Pass
Importantly, Singapore employers don’t need to worry about FWL or DRC while applying for Employment Pass (EP) of their foreign employees.
The eligibility conditions for a Singapore EP, normally issued for three years, are:
- managerial or executive roles, or specialised jobs
- a fixed monthly salary of at least S$3,300 for young graduates and higher for older experienced applicants
- acceptable qualifications
Tips for securing an EP for your foreign employee:
- pay appropriate salaries commensurate with the applicant’s qualifications and experience
- use jobsbank.gov.sg to demonstrate your intent of hiring locals first
- hire a foreigner whose skill-set compliments the work-force
- preferably hire a foreigner from tier one countries/region
- use MOM’s Self-Assessment Tool to gauge the EP application’s success chances
Family Passes for EP Holders
EP holders who earn at least S$4,000 per month can bring their family members to Singapore. The two available options:
Dependant Pass: for legally married spouse, and unmarried children (including the adopted ones) under 21 years; spouses can work in Singapore after securing a Letter of Consent from the MOM
Long Term Visit Pass in Singapore: for common-law spouse, unmarried handicapped children above 21 years, step-children under 21, parents (only if the EP holders earns more than S$8,000 per month)
Professional, Technical Personnel & Skilled Workers (PTS): EP holders and their families can apply for permanent residency (PR) in Singapore through the Professional, Technical Personnel & Skilled Workers (PTS) scheme. As you are required to furnish proof of six months’ salary, it’s always advisable to wait for at least six months before making the PR application. Applicants with relevant skills, educational qualifications, and professional and financial background have better chances of securing the Singapore PR.
EntrePass in Singapore
This work visa is for foreign entrepreneur who wishes to incorporate and run a private limited company in Singapore. This pass (MOM and SPRING Singapore are jointly responsible for it) is applicable for, but not limited to, innovative technology creation and application, and R&D-intensive enterprises including the clean-tech and biotech sectors.
Requirements for the EntrePass Application:
- monetary funding of at least S$100,000 from a recognised third-party VC or a Singapore government agency accredited business angel
- any shareholder in the company possess an IP registered with an approved national IP institution
- ongoing research collaboration with institutes of higher learning in Singapore
- based at a Singapore Government supported incubator
- the applicant owns at least 30 percent stake in the to be incorporated company (with paid-up capital of at least S$50,000 for which a Singapore bank statement is needed)
- a 10-page draft business plan must be submitted along with the EntrePass application, which includes: (this is important as EntrePass renewal will depend on the stated objectives achieved)
- total local business spending of at least S$100,000 for the first 12 months
- hiring of at least two Singaporean residents within the first 12 months
Like the EP holders, EntrePass holders too are eligible to apply for permanent residency in Singapore and bring their families here. The only difference is that EntrePass holders are only entitled to dependant privileges after they renew their passes.
Singapore’s Personalised Employment Pass
Final category of Singapore work visa is called the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP). It is for top-tier professionals, and is not exclusive to one employer.
Thus, PEP holder (work visa issued for six months) have the freedom to pursue any desired employment opportunity in Singapore. But the eligibility directly depends on the previous monthly salaries drawn:
- last drawn fixed monthly salary overseas (within the last six months) must be at least S$18,000
- existing EP holders who earn at least S$12,000 every month in Singapore
Importantly, PEP holders don’t need to reapply for a new pass when changing jobs and can just submit the PEP notification form to MOM.