In this page, you will learn about the various work pass options available for foreign professionals, managers, executives, entrepreneurs and technopreneurs who wish to relocate to Singapore.

Economic experts have incessantly advocated globalization as a catalyst for human progress. It is now an inevitable reality because resources are unequally distributed across the globe and in order to strike a balance and promote an inclusive growth, countries across the globe are adapting to the new economic order.

Asian countries that have opened their gates to the new world order found themselves prospering, in spite of adjustment issues. The region has recorded economic and income growth as well as improved living standards and infrastructural development. Asia on the whole has benefitted and has progressed to a stage that it now drives the global economy, in the face of slowing western economies.

Due to its small size and scarcity of natural resources, Singapore has little choice but to remain open. This has catapulted the city state from a small fishing isle to an international financial and trading hub. Its strategic location as a gateway to the east and west is reinforcing its significance as a heart of the booming Asia.

Capital is now flooding from all over the world to the Asian markets, where the opportunities are perceived to be aplenty. Globalization brings capital, technology and resources to this part of the world, and along with them, the influx of human capital.

Singapore has gained a reputation as an ideal gateway to the rest of Asia. For businesses, it is an ideal launch pad to regional expansion. For High Net Worth individuals (HNWIs), it is a hub to park their assets and reap gains from their investment, and for professionals and technical experts, Singapore offers many opportunities and provides senior executives with families a safe place to live and work. Singapore remains as one of the most coveted relocation destinations among global executives.

Over the last two years, the Singapore government has been tightening the criteria for immigration and dependent privileges of Singapore work pass holders in order to moderate the inflow of its foreign population and the strain on the infrastructure and resources. Nevertheless, Singapore strives to maintain its reputation as a global city where highly-talented professionals are welcomed. The following is an overview of various avenues for migrating to Singapore for foreign professionals, entrepreneurs and HNWIs.

Foreign Professionals

Employment Pass

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) carefully reviews Employment Pass applications for the applicant’s qualifications, educational background, skills, relevant experience and salary. There are three categories of employment passes available, namely P1, P2 and Q1. The salary of the applicant is a very crucial criterion and must commensurate with his experience and qualifications. The minimum salary criteria and dependent privileges for Employment Passes are as follows:

Pass Type Minimum Monthly Salary Dependent Privileges
P1 S$8,000 Parents, spouse and children*
P2 S$4,500 Spouse and children*
Q1 S$3,000
S$4,000^
None.
Spouse and children^

 

*Unmarried children aged below 21 years

Singapore allows 100% foreign ownership of businesses. Therefore foreign entrepreneurs can incorporate a Singapore company and apply for an employment pass via the company. MOM’s scrutiny will be tighter for such applicants, as they must demonstrate qualifications, experience, track record and the company’s workforce profile i.e. the number of locals employed in the company and the potential local employment creation. Economic value-add and commercial viability of the business will also play a role in the outcome of the application.

Employment Passes are generally issued with a validity of one to two years; thereafter it is renewable as long as the applicant remains employed with the same employer. Employment Pass holders may eventually apply for Permanent Resident status upon considerable stay and progress in career and skills acquisition.

P-Level Employment Pass holders may apply for the Long-term Visit Pass (LTVP) for their:

  • Common-law spouse;
  • Unmarried daughters above 21 years of age;
  • Handicapped children above 21 years of age;
  • Step children and
  • Parents (P1 Passes Only)

Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)

The Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is a premium Employment Pass issued to the crème de la crème of foreign talent. In order for the application to be successful, the applicant should possess exceptional educational qualifications and professional track record and these must be supported by documentary proof. The advantage of the PEP is that the holder has the freedom to switch companies without having his pass revoked. PEP holders are also entitled to stay in Singapore for up to six months between jobs to evaluate opportunities.

The PEP is issued with a validity of three years, and is non-renewable. Subsequently, the holder must switch to a normal Employment Pass that is attached to an employer or apply for Permanent Resident (PR) status.

Foreigners, who are overseas, may apply for the PEP if they have not been unemployed for longer than 6 consecutive months and last drew a fixed monthly salary of at least $18,000. P1 Employment Pass holders are eligible to apply for the PEP if their fixed monthly salary is at least S$12,000.

PEP holders are required to report their annual earnings to the MOM within 30 days of the end of each calendar year. The minimum annual fixed salary requirement is $144,000. In the event of the PEP holder remains unemployed for more than six months, the PEP will be cancelled.

The PEP holders’ family, parents, spouse and children, are eligible for Dependant’s Pass (DP). Only unmarried children under 21 years old are entitled for DP and holders of DP can seek employment opportunities in Singapore if the prospective employer obtains a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the MOM.

S Pass

The S Pass is meant for skilled foreign talent who possess mid-level skills that are in demand in Singapore. It must be noted that the S Pass is tied to a quota system or a Dependency Ratio scheme. Accordingly, irrespective of the sector, the number of S Pass holders a company can employ is capped at 20% of the company’s total workforce.

The minimum fixed monthly salary requirement of an S Pass holder at present is S$2,000. From 1 July 2013, the salary threshold will be raised to S$ 2,200. The MOM reviews the application based on a points system, taking into account criteria such as education, experience, skill level and job type.

The S Pass is issued with a validity of 1 or 2 years and renewable thereafter, subject to conditions prevailing at the time of renewal.

It must be noted that only S Pass holders earning a minimum monthly fixed salary of S$ 4,000 are eligible for dependent privileges. In this case, only spouse and unmarried children below 21 years of age will be given a Dependent Pass (DP).

Foreign Entrepreneurs and Investors

Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass)

The Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) is a special kind of Employment Pass that allows entrepreneurs with unique business ideas to relocate and commence operations in Singapore. The program was first introduced in 2004 to spur entrepreneurism in the city state.

Via this scheme, Singapore hopes that these businesses will generate employment for Singaporeans and add vibrancy to its business ecosystem. Although applications are submitted to the MOM, the business plan is subject to review by various government agencies such as Economic Development Board (EDB) and Spring Singapore.

The proposed business idea, total investment, projected revenue and growth, projected local employment creation and technological innovations involved are some of the criteria considered for the approval of the EntrePass applications.

With effect from 2009, a minimum shareholding of 30% and a minimum paid-up capital of S$50,000 is a prerequisite for approval. Applications can be made within six months of Singapore company incorporation.

While the educational qualifications is not a significant determinant for this pass, the applicant should have relevant experience and track record, and the business plan that accompanies the application must demonstrate the viability of employment generation for the locals and a minimum Total Business Spending (TBS), that excludes the salary paid to the applicant.

The renewal of the EntrePass will depend on the fulfillment of the employment generation and TBS commitment declared in the business plan. Therefore, while drafting the business plan, it is important to depict an accurate picture of the business and its operations potential and provide insight on the strategies that will be deployed to achieve the commitments.

There are three categories of pass renewals, similar to the employment pass. The respective minimum salary, employment generation for locals and TBS requirements are as follows:

EntrePass Type Minimum Locals Employed TBS Minimum Monthly Salary
P1 8 S$300,000 S$8,000
P2 4 S$150,000 S$4,500
Q1 2 S$100,000 S$3,000

EntrePass holders are entitled to dependent privileges for their immediate family members, i.e., spouse and children (Q1 pass holders must earn a monthly salary of at least S$4,000). The pass is generally issued for one or two years and renewal is contingent on the fulfillment of employment and TBS projections spelt out in the Business plan. The EntrePass holder may eventually apply for Permanent Resident status.

Impending Changes

In addition to the existing criteria for EntrePass approval, new qualifying criteria will take effect from 1 September 2013. The intention is to weed out low potential small businesses and attract high technology startups and innovative ideas that add value and vibrancy to the business landscape of Singapore.

In order to ensure their continued contribution and value creation to the local economy, the renewal criteria is also tightened and made progressive. The changes will apply to all new EntrePass holders with effect from 1 September 2013. Each newly issued and renewed EntrePasses will be valid for a period of up to one year.

New Additional qualifying Criteria

Accordingly, to be eligible for EntrePass, the applicant must meet at least one of the following requirements either:

  • Receive funding from a recognized third-party venture capitalist or business angel; or
  • Hold a proprietary or licensed Intellectual Property (IP) recognised by an approved national IP institution; or
  • Have research collaboration with a research institution recognised by Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), or any local tertiary institution; or
  • Is an incubatee at a recognised incubator supported by SPRING Singapore or National Research Foundation (NRF); or
  • Receive support from a Singapore Government agency.

Subsequently, within the first six months of successfully receiving the EntrePass the applicant must submit all of the following:

  • Tenancy contract; and
  • Employees’ CPF statements; and
  • Statement of shareholding structure in the registered company and the date of incorporation.

Failure to submit the above documents will result in revocation of the EntrePass.

Progressive Renewal Criteria

All EntrePass holders have to meet the following requirement for renewal w.e.f 1 September 2013.

No. of years after award of EntrePass No. of local jobs created Minimum Total Business Spending
1 2 S$100,000
2 4 S$150,000
3 6 S$200,000
4 8 S$300,000
5 10 S$400,000

Global Investor Programme (GIP)

A foreigner, who is interested to start up a business or invest in Singapore, may tap on the GIP scheme and in the process, earn a Permanent Residence (PR) status. The GIP scheme requires substantial investment and is therefore suitable for foreigners with immense liquidity. The scheme is administered by Contact Singapore (an alliance of the Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Manpower). There are two options available under the scheme.

  • Option A: Invest at least S$ 2.5 million in a new business startup or expansion of an existing business operation.
  • Option B: Invest at least S$ 2.5 million in a GIP-approved fund that invests in Singapore-based companies.

In addition to investing funds the applicant must amply demonstrate good entrepreneurial background and business track record by submitting three years audited financial statements of the company.

The turnover of the company is also taken into consideration. In the case of a company operating in construction or real-estate industry, the turnover must be at least S$200 million in the most recent year, and at least S$200 million per annum on an average for the last 3 years.