Immigration to Singapore – Types of Visa & Immigration Policy

In this article, you will learn about the different options that are available for foreign nationals seeking to relocate and work in Singapore. These include executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and technopreneurs.

In recent years, Asia has experienced a boom in economic and income growth that has been facilitated by improved living conditions and advances in technology. In many respects, Asia now drives the global economy, which is due to the size and proximity of its markets, the resources that its different countries have to contribute, expanding infrastructure, and affordable labor.

Many countries across Asia have flourished since the turn of the millennium, in particular Singapore. Its strategic location, nestled between South East Asia and China, has transformed Singapore into a thriving hub of international business and trade. 

For foreign businesses seeking to enter the Asian market, Singapore represents the ideal platform for their regional expansion. For High Net Worth Individuals (also known as HNWIs), they’re able to park their assets in Singapore and quickly experience a number of financial gains from their investments. 

Additionally, Singapore offers a host of opportunities for professionals and technical experts. For individuals and their families, Singapore is regarded as one of the safest places in the world to live and conduct business. These factors make Singapore an attractive destination for global executives seeking to expand their business profile. 

For Singapore work pass holders, the Singapore government has recently tightened its criteria for immigration and dependent privileges. The reason for this has been to slow the inflow of foreign nationals and the inevitable strain placed on Singapore’s resources and infrastructure. Despite these measures, Singapore is still regarded as a global city that welcomes highly skilled professionals from all corners of the world. 

The following guide provides an overview for professionals, entrepreneurs, and HNWIs seeking to migrate to Singapore. 

Options for professionals wishing to immigrate to Singapore

Employment Pass

Employment Pass (EP) applications are carefully reviewed by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (also known as MOM). The assessment criterion considers an applicant’s educational background, skills, qualifications, relevant experience, and salary. 

The Employment Pass is designed for executives, managers, and specialists earning a minimum monthly salary of S$4,500, or S$5,000 per month in the financial sector. 

The below table highlights the market rates for different levels of professionals:

Pass Type
Monthly Minimum Salary
Dependent Privileges
P1
S$8,000
Legally married spouse and children*
P2
S$4,500
Legally married spouse and children*
P3
S$3,900
S$4,000*
None.
Legally married spouse and children*

*Denotes unmarried children below the age of 21, including legally adopted children.

For all applicants, salary is a vital criterion and must be commensurate with one’s experience and qualifications. 

In Singapore, foreign nationals are entitled to be 100% owners of a business. Because of this, entrepreneurs are able to incorporate a Singapore company and subsequently apply for an Employment Pass via their company. 

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower tends to scrutinize these types of applications more stringently. Because of this, applicants must demonstrate the appropriate experience, qualifications, and track record. Additionally, they must showcase the profile of their company’s workforce – in particular the number of locals employed, and the likelihood of future employment opportunities being created for locals. The outcome of the application will be heavily influenced by the company’s commercial viability, and the economic benefits generated for the local region. 

Most Employment Passes are issued with a lifespan of between one and two years. Passes are renewable as long as the applicant maintains employment with their existing employer. Holders who have been in Singapore for a prolonged period may eventually apply for Permanent Residency. This is conducive to sustained career progress and an uptake in skills acquisition. 

For Employment Pass holders earning S$6,000 per month or higher, they are eligible to apply for the Long-Term Visit Pass (otherwise known as the LTVP) for their:

  • Common-law spouse
  • Unmarried handicapped children 21 years of age or older
  • Unmarried step children below the age of 21
  • Parents – must by earning at least S$12,000

Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)

Singapore’s Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is a premium employment pass that is issued to top-tier levels of international talent. For those applying for the PEP, they should possess high educational qualifications and an esteemed professional track record – supported by the necessary proof. 

Holders of the PEP have the benefit of switching organizations without having their pass revoked. Additionally, they are eligible to remain in Singapore for a period of six months in between jobs. 

Once issued to successful applicants, the PEP is valid for three years and is non-renewable. As such, holders must eventually switch to a standard Employment Pass that is affiliated with an employer, or apply for Permanent Residency. 

For professionals who are overseas, they are free to apply for the PEP. However, they cannot have been unemployed for longer than six consecutive months, and their most recent fixed monthly salary needs to be at least S$18,000. Holders of the Employment Pass may apply for the PEP so long as they have a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000.

All PEP holders must report their annual earnings to Singapore’s MOM within 30 days of the end of a calendar year. As per the requirements stipulated by MOM, an individual must earn a minimum annual fixed salary of S$144,000. A PEP will be canceled if the holder remains unemployed for longer than six months. 

Read more: Guide to the Singapore Personalised Employment Pass (PEP)

SPass

The SPass is designed for foreign workers who hold mid-level skills that are within demand in Singapore. The SPass is governed alongside a quota system or a Dependency Ratio scheme. In accordance with guidelines set by MOM, no more than 20% of a company’s workforce can be SPass holders. 

Holders of an SPass must have a minimum fixed monthly salary of S$2,500. Applications are based on a points system and are reviewed by MOM. The points system considers criteria that include an applicant’s experience, education, skill level, and the type of job. 

The SPass is issued for a period of between one and two years. It may subsequently be renewed, although this is subject to certain conditions set at the time of renewal. 

SPass holders earning a fixed monthly salary of S$6,000 are also eligible for dependent privileges. In these circumstances, a holder’s spouse and unmarried children will be able to claim a Dependant’s Pass (also known as a DP). 

Foreign Entrepreneurs and Investors

EntrePass

Singapore’s Entrepreneur Pass (known as an EntrePass), allows entrepreneurs with specialist business ideas to relocate and begin trading in Singapore. First introduced in 2004, the EntrePass was developed to encourage entrepreneurship in Singapore. 

Through this scheme, Singapore’s government envisions that businesses will generate employment for local citizens and add vitality to the nation’s economy. Whilst EntrePass applications are submitted to MOM, an applicant’s business plan is reviewed by additional government agencies, such as Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board of Singapore, and SGInnovate

When reviewing an individual’s EntrePass application, the considered criteria include an applicant’s proposed business idea, technological innovations, total investment, and projected revenue and growth. 

Read more: How to Get a Singapore Entrepreneur Pass – EntrePass in 2021

Basic criteria 

EntrePass applications can be lodged within six months of a company’s incorporation in Singapore. Ideally, applicants should hold relevant experience and qualifications, which can support an expertly drafted business plan. All business plans should include the applicant’s professional profile, the viability of the business idea, and a highly detailed implementation plan. 

Whilst drafting a business plan, it is essential that applicants convey an accurate assessment of their business, as well as the potential growth of their operations. This should include the strategies that will be utilized to achieve these goals. 

Additional criteria

As well as the basic criteria that needs to be met for EntrePass approval, applicants must also consider additional criteria. This has been established by Singapore’s MOM to encourage high technology start-ups and companies that foster technical and commercial innovation. 

To be eligible for an EntrePass, every applicant needs to meet at least one of the below requirements:

  • Have research collaboration with a research institution that is recognized by the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (known as A*STAR), or a local tertiary institution.
  • Have extensive technical or domain expertise in an area that is related to one’s proposed business venture. 
  • Be receiving funding from a business angel or an established third-party venture capitalist. 
  • Maintain a promising entrepreneurial track record, significant business experience, and notable business network. 
  • Hold a proprietary or licensed IP (Intellectual Property) that has been recognized by an approved national IP institution.  
  • Have an excellent track record of business investment and a desire to grow new or existing businesses in Singapore. 
  • Be an incubatee at a recognized incubator that is supported by the Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Board (SPRING Singapore) or Singapore’s National Research Foundation. 

Progressive Renewal Criteria

To renew an EntreePass, holders must meet the following requirements:

No. of years after EntrePass has been granted
No. of local jobs created
Minimum total business spending**
1
N.A
N.A
2
3 LQS*** (full time employees) OR 1 local professional, manager, or executive (PME)****
S$100,000
4
6 LQS or 2 PMEs
S$200,000
6
9 LQS or 3 PMEs
S$300,000
8 or more
12 LQS or 4 PMEs
S$400,000

* Hold at least 30% shares in the company from its second year.

** The total local business spending, excluding remuneration, to an EntrePass holder.

*** LQS refers to Singapore citizens and permanent residents earning a monthly salary of at least S$1,400, who have been receiving CPF contributions for a minimum of three months.

**** Local PMEs refers to professionals, managers, or permanent residents earning a monthly salary of at least S$3,900, who have been receiving CPF contributions for a minimum of three months (one local PME counts as 3 LQS). 

Global Investor Programme 

For foreigners looking to establish a business or invest in Singapore, they can utilize the GIP (Global Investor Programme) and be granted permanent residency. Due to the fact that the GIP scheme requires significant investment, it is suitable for foreigners with extensive liquidity. The GIP scheme is managed by Contact Singapore, an alliance of Singapore’s MOM and the Economic Development Board. Under this scheme, there are two options available to applicants:

  • Invest a minimum of S$2.5 million into a new business start-up or the expansion of an existing business operation. 
  • Invest a minimum of S$2.5 million into a GIP-approved fund that invests in companies based in Singapore.

In addition to financial investment, it is incumbent on applicants to demonstrate an excellent business track record and entrepreneurial background. This is done by submitting three years of their company’s audited financial statements. 

Company turnover is also considered when assessing an applicant’s credentials. For companies operating in either the real estate or construction industries, turnover needs to be a minimum of S$200 million in the most recent year. Additionally, turnover should be at least S200 million per year, on average, for the previous three years. 

How New Horizons can help

As a leader in global hiring solutions and employment compliance, New Horizons has an intimate understanding of Singapore’s immigration laws and regulations. Our team has assisted thousands of entrepreneurs and foreign companies to establish their corporate roots in Singapore. We guide you through each stage of setting up and running a business in Singapore, allowing you to successfully navigate the country’s unique legal, tax, and regulatory requirements.

With the support of our Global PEO, you’re able to quickly and compliantly begin trading in Singapore, without the burden of establishing costly entities or foreign subsidiaries. This lets you go to market in a matter of days and has the potential to save you up to 85% in traditional expansion costs. Through our Singapore PEO & Employer of Record solution, we oversee your company’s recruitment, onboarding, global payroll, and tax and legal compliance. 

If you’d like to know more about any of our employment solutions, contact a member of our team today. 

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