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work permit in Singapore

Your journey to Singapore should be preceded by an application for a Work Permit or Work Visa. 

That being said, although Singapore offers several passes for expats and foreign professionals to opt for, it is worlds apart from drawing lots. Depending on your needs and your qualifications, you may be left with no more than one choice.

If you are still discombobulated, BBCIncorp is here to help. This 10-minute read will walk you through every type of permit an expat like you need to know. 

1. An overview of work permits in Singapore

The Ministry of Power (or MOM) assumes absolute authority to command the governance of the workforce in Singapore. 

Its declared purpose is to nourish a versatile workforce and cultivate a forward-looking workplace where every one of its people can rest assured that they have a steady and worthwhile job.

Thanks to the integrity of the MOM’s framework, Singapore has established its preeminent position as one of the world’s centers of human capital. In the IMD World Talent Ranking 2018, The city-state ranked 13th among countries achieving the best talent competitiveness. 

Under its regulation, foreigners wishing to relocate to Singapore for any purposes related to employment are obliged to apply for a Work Visa or Work Permit for approval. In light of that, every morsel of facts and figures in your application will be vetted by this ministry. 

They offer a wide array of visa and work permit schemes, each is tailored for a particular segment and for a particular need. Most are for long-term commitments, so by and large, you could apply for permanent residence as and when the time is right.

Though the application is proved rather straightforward, a grain of mistake could lead to a rejection letter. Therefore, you should go to the MOM website and peruse it, or seek assistance from a professional consultant.

2. The major work passes in Singapore for foreigners

You should take into account Employment Pass, EntrePass and Personalized Employment Pass if you find yourself a high-skilled, well-paid professional or high-net-worth entrepreneur.

2.1 Employment Pass (EP)

Employment pass stays the top of mind among professionals whose short-term goal is to relocate to Singapore to live and work. 

This type of pass allows for great flexibility that many foreigners need for the reason being that it could be renewable once expired and the applicant could be of any nationalities except for those being blacklisted. There is also no quota capping the number of EP holders one can hire, so whether your application is approved or not rests solely on your eligibility.

You are a good fit for an EP on the condition that you could manage to land a white-collar job as a manager, an executive or specialist that gives you at least S$4,500 a month. This criterion of salary is not constant but is proportional to your seniority. Furthermore, you must have a professional or academic background – i.e, a degree from a reputable university that is relevant to the employment you took up.

Once your EP has been issued, it stays valid somewhere between 1 and 2 years for the first year of issue. Thereafter it will fall due for renewals up to every 3 years.

As long as your employer keeps you on the payroll and renew the pass on your behalf, you can stay in Singapore for as long as you please. Holding an EP is also listed as the key eligibility criterion to apply for Permanent Residence.

>> Read more: How to apply for Employment Pass in Singapore.

2.2. EntrePass

EntrePass was initially introduced to provide foreigners with access to Singapore’s start-up ecosystem. The scheme is tailored specifically for entrepreneurs, investors or innovators who are setting out to move to Singapore and transform their ideas into business reality.

When you register for Entrepreneur Pass, your academic background is laid aside. Instead, to qualify for an Entrepreneur Pass, you must demonstrate convincingly your entrepreneurial mindset to the MOM. The only route to this end is to showcase your innovative business proposal or your excellent record of past investments.

You are well-advised to register your new company only after getting the seal of approval for the EntrePass. But do note that if you have already had a company in place, it must not be more than 6 months old.

Besides, as the selection criteria are next to stringent, there is no quota limiting the number of EntrePass holders or applicants.

An EntrePass will fall due after 1 year for the first renewal and every 2 years thereafter. Yet you can rest assured that as long as your company does not cease operation and meet certain conditions, you can have it renewed.

Much like an EP, the holder of EntrePass is well-qualified to apply for permanent residence as and when appropriate.

>> Read more: How to apply for EntrePass in Singapore.

2.3 Personalized Employment Pass

The Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is simply an upgraded version of the Employment Pass.

While the holder of EP is linked by a bond with one employer throughout his/her stay in Singapore, a PEP would bring you extra flexibility as holding it allows you to switch jobs and enter into contracts with other employers at your discretion. Plus, you can do that without having to go through the burden of re-applying for a new permit all over again.

If you intend to apply for a PEP or upgrade from EP to PEP, you should see to it that you meet an additional set of eligibility criteria, which is clearly tougher than that of EP. 

As the pass is tailored for accomplished and well-paid professionals to give them more freedom, you are required to either earn a minimum salary of S$18,000 per month if you are a foreign professional; or at least S$144,000 per year and S$12,000 per month if you already own an EP.

Holding a PEP also gives rise to a lot more strictness. The holder is required to inform the authority every bit of changes in his/her employment status. In the event that you are unemployed for more than 6 months while holding this pass, you might as well give MOM a formal notification and cancel the PEP. 

There are two major drawbacks associated with this pass. One of which is that you could not renew it once it expired after 3 years from the date of issuance. The second is the holders’ temporary disqualification to start his new business while the pass is in effect, which is for a simple reason: PEP is only meant for hires.

And Yes, you are in a good position to apply for permanent residence if you hold a PEP.

3. Other common work permits in Singapore for foreigners

S Pass, Miscellaneous Work Pass, and Work Permits are some of the best-suited types of work permit in Singapore for mid- and semi-skilled foreign workers.

3.1 S Pass 

At first glance, the S Pass scheme bears some resemblance to the EP.

This work permit offers mid-skilled technical workers opportunities to live and work in Singapore. The applicant could hold citizenship of any country that is not on the blacklist. 

Moreover, holding the S Pass will tie you to one specific employer, suggesting that the application can only be submitted by the employer on your behalf and that you would be compelled to file a new application were you to quit the current job at any given time prior to the expiration date of the current pass.

A prospective candidate for S Pass is one who could demonstrate the overall extent of his/her expertise by showing proof that he/she either has a degree, a diploma or a technical certificate that is relevant to the field he/she is going to work in. He/she is also required to earn at least S$2,500 a month.

An S Pass can be renewable and stay valid from 1 to 2 years on the basis of MOM’s assessment and on the applicants’ merits.

It is now clear that the set of criteria for S Pass is not as strict as other types we have discussed so far. 

This very fact could lead to massive waves of immigration into the small island. To avert this likely crisis, a quota was imposed. By which the number of S Pass holders is capped at 15% of the total workforce in service-based companies and 20% in companies of other sectors. 

If you hold an S Pass, you could apply for permanent residence when the time is due and every criterion is met.

3.2. Miscellaneous Work Pass Scheme

If you took on a short-term assignment in Singapore and wish to spend a brief sojourn here, then applying for a Miscellaneous Work Pass (MWP) would fit the bill. This scheme allows foreigners to stay temporarily (for 60 days at its best) in Singapore to carry out their projects.

Pursuant to MOM, you are eligible to apply for an MWP provided that you are sponsored by a Singapore-based organization or society to take charge of organizing, holding or staging any seminar, conference, workshop, gathering, or talk pertaining to any religion, race or community, and political end.

Other eligible individuals include foreign journalists, reporters or accompanying crew members not sponsored by any Singapore Government agency.

One last thing: neither is there a quota on the holders of MWP, nor you can apply for Permanent Residence if you hold an MWP.

3.3. Work Permit

Work permit caters to the needs of semi-skilled workers who intend to relocate to Singapore to work and live. The candidate’s nationality would be assessed first: he must come from a source country or region that has been shortlisted by MOM. 

In addition, Work Permit is further subdivided into many types on the basis of the “sectors” that the holders are linked to, such as Work Permit for foreign workers, Work Permit for foreign domestic workers, for confinement nannies, or for performing artistes. Each of which is also distinct in the quota that is imposed and in the monthly levies that are required of the employers. 

As it is with the S Pass Scheme, Work Permit has a validity period of up to 2 years and can be renewed in due time.

4. Passes and Permits for foreign students and trainees

In addition to employment and business purposes, you can apply for Training Employment Pass or Training Work Permit had you signed up for a training course here.

4.1. Training Employment Pass

This scheme is tailored specifically for foreign students or trainees who have enrolled for a training course in Singapore.

As stated by MOM, prospective candidates for Training Employment Pass must fulfill a wide range of criteria including earning a high salary of at least S$3,000 a month and being bankrolled by a reputable Singapore-based organization, the list goes on.

4.2. Training Work Permit

As a variation of the above, Training Work Permit is designed for unskilled or semi-skilled foreign trainees who seek to gain hands-on experience by engaging in on-the-job training in Singapore.

Unlike the Training Employment Pass, the set of criteria to apply for Training Work Permit is well within reach. The applicants are solely required to either (1) currently work in an overseas company that is relevant to the proposed training course; or (2) engage in an intensive course in a Singapore-based educational institution.

5. Relocate to Singapore for family members

Yes. Dependant Pass and Long-term visit pass are to be considered should you wish to live with your children or significant other in Singapore 

5.1. Dependant Pass

Dependent’s pass makes ways for foreigners to reunite with their family members who are currently living and working in Singapore. 

If you hold an Employment Pass or S Pass and could demonstrate a fixed monthly salary of at least S$6,000, you are in the correct position to apply for a Dependant Pass on behalf of your family member. Nevertheless, this permit is only reserved for a dependant who is (1) a legally married spouse of yours and (2) your unmarried/legally adopted children who must be under 21 years old. 

Once having in place the Dependant’s Pass, your dependant is allowed to seek and secure employment provided that the employer of the dependant relates his/her situation to the MOM and applies for a Letter of Consent on his/her behalf. 

Given the strong family ties between the holders of the Dependant’s Pass and the Main Work Pass, the validity of them two are treated as one and the same. So you can rest assured that as long as your pass remains valid, your dependant shall stay.

>> Read more: How to apply for Dependant’s Pass in Singapore.

5.2. Long-term Visit Pass

If a family member of yours does not fit into the group of dependants eligible for Dependant’s Pass, you could apply for a Long-term Visit Pass instead.

This variation allows for the holder of Employment Pass or S Pass, according to MOM, to bring their common-law spouse, stepped children or handicapped children to Singapore. Individuals whose salary of at least S$12,000 is also eligible to reunite with their parents.

Should you have any questions concerning work visas and work permits in Singapore, drop us a message or send us an email via [email protected]

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