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 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 benefited 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 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 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 launchpad 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 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 who wish to relocate to Singapore
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) carefully reviews Employment Pass (EP) applications for the applicant’s qualifications, educational background, skills, relevant experience and salary.
EPs are for managers, executives and specialists who earn a minimum salary of S$4,500 a month (from September 1, 2020) or S$5,000 a month in the financial sector (from December 1, 2020).
To gauge market rates of different levels of professionals, candidates may refer to the former categories of EPs below.
|Pass Type||Minimum Monthly Salary||Dependent Privileges|
|P1||S$8,000||Legally married spouse and children*|
|P2||S$4,500||Legally married spouse and children*|
Legally married spouse and children*
*Unmarried children aged below 21 years, including legally adopted ones.
The salary of the applicant is a very crucial criterion and must commensurate with his experience and qualifications.
Singapore allows 100% foreign ownership of businesses. Therefore entrepreneurs can incorporate a Singapore company and apply for an EP 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 namely, 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.
Employment Pass holders who earn $6,000 or more a month may apply for the Long-term Visit Pass (LTVP) for their:
- Common-law spouse;
- Unmarried handicapped children above 21 years of age;
- Unmarried step children under 21 years old
- Parents (those earning S$12,000 or more only)
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 a 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. 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.
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 is S$2,500 (from October 1, 2020). 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$6,000 are eligible for dependent privileges. In this case, only spouse and unmarried children below 21 years of age will be eligible for the Dependant’s Pass (DP).
Foreign Entrepreneurs and Investors
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 entrepreneurship 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 Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the National Research Foundation (NRF), and Spring Singapore.
The proposed business idea, total investment, projected revenue and growth and technological innovations involved are some of the criteria considered for the approval of the EntrePass applications.
Applications can be made within six months of Singapore company incorporation.
While the educational qualifications are 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 professional profile of the applicant, the viability of the business idea, and a detailed implementation plan.
Therefore, while drafting the business plan, it is important to depict an accurate picture of the business and the potential of its operations and provide insight on the strategies that will be deployed to achieve the commitments.
In addition to the existing criteria for EntrePass approval, new qualifying criteria have taken effect from 3 August 2017. 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. Each newly issued and renewed EntrePasses will be valid for a period of up to one year.
Accordingly, to be eligible for EntrePass, the applicant must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- 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
- Hold significant business experience/network and promising entrepreneurial track record; or
- Has exceptional technical/domain expertise in an area related to proposed business; or
- Hold good track record of investing in businesses and want to grow new or existing businesses in Singapore;
Progressive Renewal Criteria
All EntrePass holders will also have to meet the following requirements for renewals.
|No. of years after award of EntrePass||No. of local jobs created*||Minimum Total Business Spending**|
|2||3 LQS (full-time employees)
1 local PME (professional, manager or executive)
|8 or more||12 LQS
* Hold a minimum of 30% shares in the Company from Year 2
** Total Local Business Spending excluding remuneration to EntrePass holder
*** LQS (formerly known as FTE) refer to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who earn a monthly salary of at least $1,400, and receive CPF contributions for at least 3 months.
**** Local PMEs refer to professionals, managers, and executives who are Singaporeans or Permanent Residents, earn a monthly salary of at least $3,900 and receive CPF contributions for at least 3 months.
Note: 1 local PME counts as 3 LQS
A foreigner, who is interested to start up a business or invest in Singapore, may tap on the GIP scheme and in the process, earn a Permanent Residence (PR) status. The GIP scheme requires substantial investment and is therefore suitable for foreigners with immense liquidity. The scheme is administered by Contact Singapore (an alliance of the Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Manpower). There are two options available under the scheme.
- Option A: Invest at least S$ 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 of audited financial statements of the company.
The turnover of the company is also taken into consideration. In the case of a company operating in the 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.
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