The Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues a wide range of employment permits to expatriates planning to work in Singapore. Each employment permit differs across various categories of employees and is based on their professional skills and monthly salaries. It is important for applicants to note that most work permits are applied through the employer or an employment agent, via the MoM’s online platform. Therefore, it is mandatory for skilled professionals to first obtain a job offer in the country before applying.
The MoM, Workforce Development Agency (WDA), and National Trade Union Congress are the main government agencies charged with monitoring compliance and labor laws.
The Employment Pass (EP) is issued to expatriates employed as foreign managers, executives, and skilled professionals in Singapore. First-time candidates can obtain an EP for an initial two years which can then be renewed for up to three years at a time.
The EP is issued to individuals with a job offer that includes a minimum monthly salary of S$3,600 (US$2,629). More experienced candidates are required to be offered a higher salary to qualify for this work permit.
Candidates that are offered a monthly salary of S$6,000 (US$4,383) or more, are eligible to apply for a dependent’s pass for their legally married spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age to join them in Singapore.
For applicants looking to bring their parents, common-law spouse, or stepchildren must apply for the Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP), the requirements are the same as for the dependent’s pass. However, only those with a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000 (US$8,768) can bring their parents into the country. There is no foreign worker levy or quota for this specific work permit. Moreover, the processing time for EP applications is up to five weeks, and, if submitted online, the application may be processed in as little as three weeks.
Documents for EP application
Employers need to submit the following documents for the EP application:
- Personal information of the applicant’s passport;
- Company’s latest business profile or information registered with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA); and
- Details of the applicant’s academic certificates. Applicants from India and China are required to produce additional documents.
- Additional documents for Indian and Chinese nationals:
- Indian applicants – transcripts and marksheets.
- Chinese applicants – certificate of graduation and verification proof in English from sources recommended by the MoM.
Further, documents in languages other than English must be submitted along with a translated copy of each. Also, it is important to note that the MoM may ask for more documents to be submitted at the time of processing the application.
Personalized employment pass
The Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is designed for high-earning EP holders and overseas foreign professionals. The minimum salary required to obtain a PEP is S$12,000 (US$8,767) per month for existing EP holders and S$18,000 (US$13,151) per month for overseas foreign professionals. Candidates can apply for a PEP themselves. The application takes around eight weeks to process.
One key advantage for PEP holders is the flexibility to switch jobs without re-applying for another employment permit. They can also stay in the country for up to six months before securing the next job. Another important advantage is that PEP holders can apply for any job in any sector, including medicine, law, pharmacy, and dentistry, although the candidates will still need to comply with the standard registration requirements to practice in these fields.
There is also no foreign worker levy or quota for this type of work permit, and PEP holders can apply for a dependent's pass for their legally married spouse and children under the age of 21 and LTVPs for a common-law spouse, unmarried disabled children above the age of 21, unmarried stepchildren under the age of 21, and parents.
However, the PEP can only be issued once for a period of three years. Thereafter, applicants will need to either apply for an EP or S Pass to continue their employment in Singapore. In addition, PEP holders cannot be unemployed for more than six months and must continue to earn a minimum salary of S$144,000 (US$107,308) per calendar year to keep holding the pass for the full duration.
Documents for PEP application
Applicants need to submit the following documents for the PEP application:
- A saved copy of the completed application form;
- A screenshot of the banking page and a copy of the travel document;
- Travel document information page;
- Educational certificates;
- Employment contracts for new and previous employment (if any);
- Employment history, including company name, occupation, fixed monthly salary in S$, country, and period of employment (if not currently an EP holder);
- Latest tax statement; and
- Payslips and bank account statements for the past 3 months.
The Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) is for foreign business professionals and entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business in Singapore.
The initial EntrePass is valid for one year, with another two years granted for every subsequent renewal. Business owners must, however, meet the renewal criteria set by the MoM, which includes aspects such as a minimum number of hired local employees as well as a minimum amount of annual business spending. The full list can be found on the MoM website.
As per the eligibility criteria stated by the MoM, the applicant’s company must have either:
- Funding from an accredited source;
- Hold intellectual property (IP) registered with a recognized national IP institution;
- Research collaboration with a recognized institution; or
- Be an incubatee at a Singapore government-supported incubator or accelerator.
According to the MoM, businesses such as coffee shops, hawker centers, food courts, bars, nightclubs, karaoke lounges, massage parlors, and employment agencies are not eligible under the EntrePass scheme.
There is no foreign worker quota or levy for EntrePasses. EntrePass holders whose annual business spending and local employment meet minimum eligibility requirements can apply for dependents passes and LTVPs for certain family members.
Documents for EntrePass application
Applicants must submit the following documents for the EntrePass application:
- Copy of the personal information page of the applicant’s passport;
- Past employment testimonials in English; and
- A business plan in English.
For businesses registered with the ACRA:
- Company’s latest business profile
The S Pass is similar to EP except that it is designed for mid-level skilled employees with a job offer that includes a minimum monthly salary of S$2,300 (US$1,680) or more.
As with the EP, S Passes are valid for up to two years and can be renewed for up to three years at a time. S Pass holders that earn a monthly salary of S$6,000 (US$4,383) or more are eligible to ask their employer to apply for a dependent’s pass on their family’s behalf.
The government has also placed a quota on the number of S Pass applicants. As of January 2021, the number of S Pass holders Singaporean businesses can employ is capped at 10 percent of the entire workforce for the services sector, 18 percent for construction, process, and marine shipyard sectors, and 20 percent for manufacturing.
The maximum quota for S Pass holders in the manufacturing sector will be lowered to 18 percent from January 2022 and further to 15 percent from 2023. Meanwhile, the maximum quota for construction, process, and marine shipyard sectors will be reduced to 15 percent from January 2023. No change has been announced for the quota in the services industry.
Employers are also required to pay a foreign worker levy (FWL) for each of their S Pass employees. The FWL price is adjusted regularly and updated on the MoM website.
Documents S Pass application
Documents required for the S Pass are the same as those required for the EP application.
Semi-skilled foreign workers applying for jobs in construction, manufacturing, or the services sector in Singapore are required to apply for a Work Permit (WP).
There are three kinds of WPs issued by the government, depending on the sector of the applicant’s job. These are WPs for foreign domestic workers, WPs for confinement nannies, and WPs for performing artists. Only workers from approved countries are eligible for WPs provided the employer pays a levy and security bond, doesn't exceed employment quotas for WP holders, and provides the worker with healthcare insurance.
The WP is usually valid for up to two years and is subject to the foreign workers’ contract with the associated employer. Additionally, employees entering Singapore on a WP are not permitted to apply for a dependent’s pass for their family members.
WPs can only be applied for by the employer on the worker’s behalf. The processing time for a WP is one to seven working days.
Other short duration employment visas available are:
- Training Employment Pass (TEP) – A TEP is issued to foreigners engaged in practical training for jobs of a professional, managerial, executive, or specialist nature in Singapore. The candidates must earn at least SG$3,000 (US$2,191) a month. The TEP is valid for a maximum period of three months and is not renewable; and
- Training Work Permit (TWP) – A TWP is issued to unskilled or semi-skilled foreign trainees or students on practical training in Singapore for up to 6 months. The number of TWP holders a local company can hire is capped based on the sector the business operates in.