Many businesses in Singapore require the appropriate licenses before they may begin business operations. Among the businesses which require licenses are restaurants, telecommunications companies, real estate agencies, and shipping companies.
Why Business Licenses Are Important
In Singapore, businesses in certain industries require licenses before business operations may commence. These licenses are required because the relevant government authorities have to pay closer attention to businesses in these industries for various reasons. Many foreign-owned or new startup companies may not be aware of their registration needs for the relevant Singapore business license. The agencies which issue the licenses needed for business operations depending on which industry is related to their business. Therefore, each business that requires a license needs to be licensed by different authorities. Some businesses need more a basic operating license. They may need specific permits, such as an environmental permit. Regulations vary by industry and profession. Therefore, it is crucial for business owners to understand the licensing rules for the industry related to their business. Failure to comply with regulations for licenses and permits can lead to expensive fines and jeopardize the future of a business.
Businesses Which Require Licenses
In Singapore, all businesses in certain industries require official licenses before they may commence business operations. This is because the nature of these industries requires that they be placed under closer monitoring by the authorities. Among these businesses are hotels, recruitment firms, travel agencies, financial service providers, restaurants, shipping companies, event-organizing companies, telecommunications companies, and publishing companies. The following is a list of these businesses paired with the name of the license they require.
Hotels – Hotel Keeper’s License
Recruitment firms – Comprehensive License / Select License
Travel agencies – Travel Agent License
Financial service providers – Capital Markets Services License / Financial Adviser’s License
Restaurants – Food Shop License / Liquor License (if applicable)
Shipping companies – Harbor Craft License / Port Limit Manning License / Ship Station License
Event-organizing companies – Arts Entertainment License / Public Entertainment License
Telecommunications companies – Many to choose from; which one is chosen depends on the business activity of the company
Publishing companies – Printing Press License
It is also worth noting that before one may obtain a license for a business, the business has to already have been incorporated. If such is not the case, the license cannot be obtained.
If your business has not yet been incorporated, we at Paul Hype Page & Co are able to assist you with this task. Our team of experts has considerable knowledge and understanding about company incorporation in Singapore. We will put this knowledge to use to ensure that the setup of your Singapore company takes place without any problems.
Other Specific Permits and Certificates Required
Businesses in certain industries might need a permit or certificate instead of a license before they may begin their business operations. Others may require a permit or certificate and a license. Those businesses which require both a permit or certificate and a license are typically in industries which are required to be regulated more tightly for various reasons. Among the businesses which require permits or certificates to operate are hotels, shipping companies, event-organizing companies, educational institutions, publishing companies, companies involved in importing controlled goods into Singapore, and companies involved in international trade. The following is a list of these businesses paired with the name of the permit they require.
Hotels – Certificate of Registration
Shipping companies – Port Clearance Certificate / Ship Registration Certificate / Launch a New Vessel Permit / Ship Sanitation Control Certificate
Event-organizing companies – Copyright Permit / Trade Fair Permit
Educational institutions – Singapore Quality Class Certification / EduTrust Certification
Publishing companies – Newspaper Permit
Companies involved in importing controlled goods into Singapore – IN Permit
Companies involved in international trade – IN Permit / OUT Permit
Just as is the case with licenses, only businesses which have already undergone the complete process of incorporation are allowed to receive permits or certificates.
Procedures of License Application
Everyone who intends to obtain a license for their business must apply for it by completing all the legally required steps. The steps, the authorities to which one must apply, and other procedures will vary depending on which industry the business in question is set to enter.
To give examples of such differences, the license application procedures of businesses in two different industries will be compared and contrasted. The businesses used for these examples will be recruitment firms and event-organizing companies.
An owner, director, or partner of a recruitment firm who intends to obtain a license must apply with Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower. The first step to do so is to log in to LicenceOne and apply there. While there, the applicant must pay a fee of S$400. The applicant should soon receive either an email or a text message stating the granting of in-principle approval (IPA). The next step is to log in to LicenceOne to download the IPA document. The duration of the IPA’s validity is four weeks. Before the IPA’s validity expires, the applicant must submit documents regarding security bonds and banker’s guarantees to the Ministry of Manpower via mail. Once this has been done, the applicant will be notified of the application’s approval. The processing time is seven working days. The last step is having the license issued. This takes place after the applicant logs in to LicenceOne and pays an issuance fee of S$100. The processing time is three working days.
One of the licenses that can be obtained by an event-organizing company is the Arts Entertainment License. Either organizations or individuals may apply for this license; however, individuals who do so must either hold one of the necessary work passes or be a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore. To receive an Arts Entertainment License, the applicant must first submit a completed application form as well as several necessary supporting documents. Supporting documents may include exhibit photographs, synopses, scripts, song titles and lyrics, stage layout plans, and program schedules. After paying the license fee of either S$5 or S$10 per day (the fee depends on the type of event being held), the applicant will receive the license within eight weeks. The license may only be used on the days on which the event is being held.
As can clearly be seen in the preceding two examples, the procedures of each type of business license application in Singapore can differ greatly. Therefore, it is necessary to do all the necessary research and if needed, ask a representative from any of the relevant authorities before beginning the application process.
Government Agencies Which Oversee Business Licenses
In Singapore, certain government agencies oversee the approval and issuance of business licenses. These agencies also serve as immediate authorities for those in the relevant industries. Each industry with businesses which require a license must answer to a different government agency. Examples of these agencies include the Hotels Licensing Board which supplies the Hotel Keeper’s License, the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore which approves the Arts Entertainment License and the Printing Press License, and the Singapore Food Agency which oversees the Food Shop License. Owners of businesses which require a license must familiarize themselves with the government agency that pertains to the business’s industry as well as the agency’s inner workings. By doing so, business owners will gain a better understanding of the optimal ways to conduct business operations.
Should you require any assistance in your dealings with Singapore’s government agencies, we at Paul Hype Page & Co will give you our best efforts. Our specialists who are experienced in liaising with government authorities will see to it that you are able to receive everything that you need.
Singapore Business License FAQs
The terms and conditions as stated on the S Pass will determine if the S Pass holder is allowed to register a business. Those who are unsure should consult the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
A foreigner needs to apply for an Employment Pass (EP) to register a business and act as the local manager of the business. To do so, the foreigner must also have a Singapore residential address. Proper approval from ACRA is, of course, required.
Although it is possible for a foreigner to use other valid work passes before registering a business in Singapore, it is much simpler and more manageable for foreigners to do so if they use the EP for this purpose.
Many companies in Singapore require additional business licenses before they may begin business operations. However, this is not necessarily true of every company in Singapore. This is because the licenses required, if any, differ from industry to industry.