• How Can Foreigners Start A Business in Singapore

Foreigners can register a company and own 100% of its shareholding.

  1. You will need to engage a registered filing agent (such as a law firm, accounting firm or corporate secretarial firm) to submit the application in BizFile+ on your behalf.
  2. One of the directors/authorised representatives/general partners/managers must be a local resident.

Agents usually provide services, such as:

  • Registration of company;
  • Provision of Company Secretary;
  • Provision of local nominee director;
  • Filing Annual Returns with ACRA;
  • Maintaining and updating of information with ACRA; etc.

Foreign entrepreneurs or existing Dependant Pass (DP) holders who wish to start a business in Singapore will need to consider:

  • Setting up a company with an Employment Pass (EP) or
  • Applying for an Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass)

2021 Business opportunities in Singapore

Truth is, business anywhere is hard but having the right infrastructure, a supportive community, good financial, tax framework and planning definitely helps. Singapore having all of that is already a strong attraction to foreign investors.

Highlighting some business opportunities:

  • The tech industry is a given and Singapore is no exception. If you’re founding a startup, launchpads, accelerators, incubators, sandboxes, mentorship, venture capitalists- you name it, we have it. Read on about all things Startup Singapore.

  • Some popular businesses in consulting, lifestyle and services include home tutoring services, digital marketing, copywriting, cleaning service, and babysitting service.
  • Anything import-export, trading, shipping, logistics and supply chain management, Singapore is the “port of call” for you. Our dominance in the region is thanks to the elaborate infrastructure. we have in place, results in detailed and comprehensive procedures for businesses. To mention notable benefits, our network of over 50 comprehensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements, many free trade agreements and the Investment Guarantee Agreements.

If you have assets, ideas or innovations to protect, Singapore’s strict enforcement of its strong intellectual property laws would be beneficial to you. Not to mention under the Accelerated Initiative for Artificial Intelligence patent scheme, what would usually take 2 to 4 years for others to procure, Singapore can do 3 months.

We have a whole article on business opportunities in Singapore.

 Incorporation checker

How to choose company type according to business needs

We’ll focus on the whys here and leave the elaboration in our article comparing different types on company structure.

First, let’s establish that a private company limited by shares is the way to go. If this is your first business, you can get straight to incorporation. We go into the comparison of sole proprietorship, partnerships and other; and talk about the steps to registering your company.

A quick overview on the requirements:

  • At least one local resident director who is a Singapore citizen, a Singapore permanent resident, or an EntrePass/Employment Pass/ Dependent’s Pass’s holder with LOC.
  • At least one Shareholder
  • S$1 paid-up capital

  • A physical local address
  • A company secretary

Who uses…?

Companies that….

Subsidiaries (Foreign Subsidiary Incorporation in Singapore)Want a separate legal entity because they are venturing into new industries or markets, and would like to keep legal liabilities separate.

Wholly owned (100%) subsidiaries also allow HQ to keep the ratio of their shareholdings fixed. For example, Shareholder A of 50% and Shareholder B of 50% in HQ will have the same ratio in the subsidiary.

Related companiesEnjoy flexibility in their structure. Shareholders and directors in the Singapore related company can be exactly the same as the main company. Whenever a need arises and they would like to have new shareholders or investors, onboarding is simple.
Representative office (Foreign Representative Office)Have little to no clients in the new market. Invoicing is still done by parent company. Once they have more clients, they can decide on setting up a more permanent establishment.
Branch (Foreign Branch Incorporation)Would not like to have a separate legal entity due to commercial or tax purposes. For example, a company might want to retain their tax residency status at the overseas HQ jurisdiction. Having a permanent establishment in Singapore through a subsidiary or another set up might complicate that.
Re-domiciliation (Foreign company Re-domiciliation to Singapore)Are larger in size (50 employees, S$10 million in total assets or annual revenue) and want to protect all their assets, branding and history, bringing it with them to make Singapore their new HQ.

Getting the right visa to run your business in Singapore

Next to setting up your company, you need to get the right visa to live in Singapore and run your business.

Employment Pass (EP) vs EntrePass

There will always be a debate over an EP or EntrePass for foreign business owners. We are advocates of the Employment Pass. Why?

1. Higher application success rate

A qualified individual for EP should have a tertiary or degree certification and a minimum monthly salary of S$4,500 (in accordance to their resume). An EntrePass candidate is intended for serial entrepreneurs, high-calibre innovators or experienced investors whose business in Singapore that is venture-backed or owns innovative technologies. In comparison, the EntrePass is daunting.

2. EP is family friendly

If you’re bringing spouse or kids in, they can apply for dependent passes attached to your EP. The qualifying salary for the EP holder is S$6,000. However, if you’re on an EntrePass, you need a total annual business spending of S$100,000 and meet local employment requirements.

3. No specific requirement for renewal

The renewal of an EP is subjective by nature. The Ministry Of Manpower (MOM) looks at the company’s need for the EP holder and their capabilities of engaging him/her for another period. The EntrePass is has a progressive renewal criteria framework. By the 2nd year, you should plan to hire at least 3 full-time employees (FTE) or 1 local professional, manager or executive (PME). Your total annual business spending by then must be at least S$100,000.

“ We selected Paul Hype Page to help us incorporate our Singapore business entity and to secure Employment Pass for our staff. I was very impressed with the expert guidance the in-house corporate specialists provided to navigate the Incorporation and Employment Pass application process. Now that our staff is ready to relocate to Singapore and our company’s bank account is open, we can focus in growing our business. ”

EP vs Tech.Pass

The other hot new pass is the Tech.Pass. A new work pass initiated in 2021, the Tech Pass is available for top-notch foreign professionals and experts who are keen to launch businesses, head corporate teams, or become a lecturer in Singapore. Example: Top-notch e-commerce, AI, and cybersecurity foreign professionals and experts. While promising, it is still a new area and lacks case studies.

Paul Hype Page with 13 years of expertise in applying for EPs, we’ve accumulated a high success rate of 85%. Heavily attributed to our insights close working relations with clients. If your EP is important to you, call us for some planning.

Some difficulties to consider: Bank account opening

Alright, you’ve set up your company and may have gotten your visa settled. You need a corporate bank account next. Not long ago, back in 2018, bank account openings used to be form filling task and some administrative efforts. Now, there is strict enforcement of anti-money laundering (AML) frameworks and common reporting standards (CRS). Bank account openings have become a whole event.

Advise:
Best-case scenario with high success rates: You’re physically in Singapore to visit the banker OR you have an EP

Most of the times, directors are not in Singapore to open their accounts. While most banks support remote account openings now, the trouble is in It results in banks wanting to see tax substance in a company.

Common indicators of tax substance includes:

  • Local staff in Singapore
  • Physical office in Singapore

  • Local sales or suppliers in Singapore

It might be a chicken and egg scenario- how do you achieve all these before your bank account is even set up? We’ve written an article providing some solutions and describing common mistakes made in opening bank accounts. Take a look here.

Other things to consider after your incorporation

1. Licenses

Doing business in Singapore is generally so easy, most general consulting and service businesses don’t need a license. However, watch out for anything that might relate to specific industries like F&B, construction, finance and education etc.

2. Office rental

Co-working spaces are the trend now. Most of them concentrated in the city area.

3. Talent hiring

While hiring, act according to the Fair Consideration Framework of MOM which encourages local hiring before hiring foreigners.

4. Annual compliance

It’s relatively easy in Singapore to maintain your company. If your company doesn’t have specific taxes like goods and services tax (GST) or withholding tax (WHT), your compliance can be done just once a year. Make sure to consult with your accountants or company secretaries for this.

5. Living in Singapore

A very easily overlooked matter among the craze of setting up your business in Singapore. What’s the plan with the accommodation? What’s the transportation like? Do you need to convert your license? And most importantly post pandemic, do you need to be vaccinated? We have a whole category of articles to address these issues. Click here to read on.

Real challenges foreigners might face

Not all things are good- no matter what so many on the internet are claiming. Realistic problems you might face include:

1. Grants don’t apply to you

Local government grants generally have a requirement for 30% local shares in a company.

2. Other forms of financing are also difficult

Without an operational history, bank loans are difficult to get. If you’re founding a startup, the competition to obtain investments by venture capitalists are even more demanding.  

3. Visa renewal

Getting financing is difficult, but if your company is left dormant without revenue, it’s difficult to justify the need for you to stay in Singapore. Your visa is constantly hanging over your head.

All things considered, if you’re a foreign entrepreneur serious about starting your business in Singapore, having a local service provider heavily involved and supporting your operations would be a definite advantage. For 13 years, Paul Hype Page has been coming up with creative solutions for our client’s EP applications, bank account opening and financing. Join our family, drop us a call to talk about how we can help.

FAQs

Can anyone from any country receive an Employment Pass?2020-06-24T14:32:54+08:00

The current regulations regarding the Employment Pass do not bar anyone from receiving one on the basis of nationality. Anyone who meets all of the relevant criteria may receive it. Therefore, any eligible person from any country may receive an Employment Pass.

What Business entities exist in Singapore?2020-06-24T14:32:38+08:00

Those who are interested in starting a Singapore business may select one of several business entities. Among these are the sole proprietorship, limited liability partnership, private limited company, and limited partnership. Foreigners have additional options such as the representative office, foreign branch, and foreign subsidiary.

Can anyone from any country receive an Employment Pass?2020-06-17T15:53:05+08:00

The current regulations regarding the Employment Pass do not bar anyone from receiving one on the basis of nationality. Anyone who meets all of the relevant criteria may receive it. Therefore, any eligible person from any country may receive an Employment Pass.

What Business entities exist in Singapore?2020-06-17T15:52:48+08:00

Those who are interested in starting a Singapore business may select one of several business entities. Among these are the sole proprietorship, limited liability partnership, private limited company, and limited partnership. Foreigners have additional options such as the representative office, foreign branch, and foreign subsidiary.

Why are so many Government agencies related to Businesses in Singapore necessary?2020-06-17T15:51:52+08:00

Although the abundance of government agencies that cater to businesses in Singapore may imply that there is too much bureaucracy in the country, this is not the case. Each agency such as ACRA, the CPF, IRAS, and SSG has its own specific functions and serves the country’s businesses in a different way. These agencies work together to create favorable conditions for Singapore’s businesses.

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156 Discussions

  1. Arifur rahman ariff August 19, 2020 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Hi good evenin..
    Hope you are doing well. Im ariff from Banglades. I would like to rice Start Business in Singapor. I wanna imports rice from India and sell it in Singapor. So how can i open up a company? Is it possible for me to do business there as a foreigner?
    Can i have all the details for set up my business company in Singapor?
    How much does cost to open a Business in Singapor?
    Thank you

    • Tiwi September 4, 2020 at 10:12 am - Reply

      Arifur:

      Thank you for contacting us.
      We are happy to assist you with incorporation of private limited in Singapore. Please be informed that to incorporate a company in Singapore, at least one director must be a local director – Singapore Citizen, Singapore PR, or employment pass holder. The incorporation can be done online and not required to be physically present in Singapore.
      The following are the packages we provided:
      1. Incorporation with local (if you have your own local director);
      2. Incorporation with employment pass (if you going to relocate to Singapore); and
      3. Incorporation with nominee director (if you need local nominee director).
      If you are going to relocate to Singapore, second option is the best for you whereby you can own the company and can manage it after your employment pass is approved.

      To understand what is required for incorporation/to START your incorporation, please find the link below.
      https://my.ibizfile.com/auth/signup

      To understand what is required for your employment pass/to START your employment pass, please find the link below.
      https://ibizfile.com/employement-pass-form/

      Please contact us via Paul Hype Page to discuss further.

      Thank you for your question.
      Warm regards
      Paul

  2. janagi kristnan January 18, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Me a malaysian woman having a registered company in malaysia trading textiles,home appliances etc…i want to open a branch of my malaysian registered company in singapore…can i do it?? As woman can i get any supports from singapore govt.

    • Paul Hype Page January 19, 2018 at 7:05 am - Reply

      Hi Janagi,

      Yes, you can incorporate a company in Singapore provided you meet all the requirements. You may refer to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s website for the needed requirements. Hope this help.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

  3. Neo December 2, 2017 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Hello, I am a singapore citizen and my girlfriend is a malaysian working in Singapore for 3 years on work permit. She is thinking of quitting her job to start a small business together with me. We are thinking of starting small dessert/pastry shop together. Please advise on our options

    • Paul Hype Page December 8, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

      Dear Neo,

      The quickest option we would recommend would be our all-in-one Incorporation with Employment Pass package. Do drop us an email at paulhypepage@php-cpa.com.sg to set up an appointment to discuss the details, we look forward to hearing from you.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

  4. KayDee November 21, 2017 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Hi,I am British national in EP in Singapore. Getting married to an Indian national who works in Stock trading in India. We plan to apply for depend pass through my company. But wondering about his options of working in Singapore.he plans to continue his trading in Indian market (as his clients are based there). Can he continue to work remotely without any legal issues? What steps will we need to make so that he can start trading in Singapore trading market also? We would like to ensure all legal steps and tax duties are fulfilled in India and Singapore. Thanks, kan

    • Paul Hype Page November 23, 2017 at 7:13 am - Reply

      Dear KayDee,

      Your husband can still work remotely for the India operation part. As for Singapore, he needs to set up a company and obtain a work pass under the company. With the company and the work pass, he will then need to go ahead to register as a securities trading company. Hope this helps.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

      • KayDee November 23, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

        Thanks Paul, much appreciated for a quick revert. In terms of setting up a company and paperwork associated, do you provide any services? And what is the b st way to contact please? I assume once that is done he will need to different visa than a Dependent Pass?

        Also in terms of his remote working, assume any tax implications need to be fulfilled on the basis of Indian Tax structure? Are there any implications of Double tax at all until the time he sets up and starts his work in Singapore?

        Many thanks

  5. gina November 6, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    Hi,
    I am Singapore PR, can I set up a company with another partner who is come from Malaysia?

    Hope to hear you soon.

    Thank you.

    • Paul Hype Page November 7, 2017 at 3:35 am - Reply

      Dear Gina,

      Yes, you can. Should you need further advise on incorporation and company setup in Singapore, do drop us an email at paulhypepage@php-cpa.com.sg to set up an appointment. We have a branch office in Malaysia as well.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

  6. Ali October 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Hello sir,
    Good day.Hope you are fine.I’m Ali from Pakistan.
    Sir i have a question is it right singapore don’t give work permit for Pakistani People?
    If it is right then how you will provide me employment pass with my company registration.
    Hope you will answer soon.
    Best Regards,
    Ali

  7. Ali October 2, 2017 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Hello sir,
    Good day.Hope you are fine.I’m Ali from Pakistan.
    Sir i want to tell you i have a company of medical instruments want to open my company in singapore.But i have no big company.So can you help me to register my company there.And can i also do there any job during company registration.
    And please tell me all expenses.
    And i’m also coming in singapore so can we meet in singapore.
    Hope you will answer soon.
    Best Regards,
    Ali

    • Paul Hype Page October 3, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Dear Ali,

      Singapore is one of the best places for a startup company of any size. Our all-in-one Incorporation with Employment Pass would be the ideal solution to what you may be looking for. Do drop us an email at paulhypepage@php-cpa.com.sg for more details and charges. We will be better able to advise you once we know more about your company.

      We look forward to meeting and working with you.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

      • Ali October 3, 2017 at 10:19 am - Reply

        Thank you very much for your kind reply.
        And i have been sent you email.
        Please check and tell me.
        Thanks

  8. Iysha September 28, 2017 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Hi I’m having a garment showroom in India and I would like to start the same in Singapore. My friend is a DP holder in Singapore. What are the formalities to be followed for setting up a retail shop in Singapore?

    • elise September 29, 2017 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Hi Iysha,

      You can certainly set up your business in Singapore with our support, especially with our all-in-one Incorporation with Employment Pass package. Our helpful sales personnel will email you with the details.

      Best Regards,
      Paul

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