• 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.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Just keep reading…

Join our PHP Community SG Forum - Expert Tips & Resources

Join the discussions

156 Discussions

  1. AP September 16, 2015 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Hi Paul

    I am a CA of Indian origin settled in South Africa for past 16 years. Other than my practice I have also have a firm which does business of software import/export. I have a big client who is importing textile goods from South East Asia/China region for past several years. He has been using the services of an agent in Hong Kong to give him logistics support. Now he wishes to move from him and give me the oppurtunity to set up an office in singapore to handle the logistics of his imports from there. So can you tell me how easy or challenging is for me to go in this direction of setting up this business in singapore, especially with respect to getting an Entrepass. I already have a tentative plan to visit Sg in mid november.
    Thanks

    • Paul Hype Page September 21, 2015 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Dear Pankyarora,

      Singapore is an excellent choice as a trading port. It is very easy to incorporate a company and use EP specialist to apply an Employment pass (EP) for you as long as you can show that the company is a genuine company that’s have actual trades and transaction going on. Of course there are a few other criteria to fulfil in order to apply for the right work pass.

      Do book an appointment to meet up with our Incorporation Team when you are in Singapore so we can give you a detail analysis.

      Paul

  2. zeenat pirani August 20, 2015 at 4:15 am - Reply

    hi
    want to open a provisional store in singapore can you please help me with how to go about with it
    regards

    • Paul Hype Page August 24, 2015 at 6:49 am - Reply

      Dear Zeenat,

      Understand your interest in opening a provisional store in Singapore, I will have my consultant get back to you with more details shortly.

      Thank you.
      Paul

  3. Fathima August 17, 2015 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Hello Sir,

    Am Fathima from India. I wish to start a Provisional Store in Singapore. Please let me know the procedure for the same like :
    1. What kind of Visa should be obtained & visa charges?
    2. Should the company be registered in name of a Singapore or PR?
    3. What would be registration if we are interested in taking over an existing provisional business setup there?

    Please advise.
    Thanks & regards,
    Fathima

    • Paul Hype Page August 18, 2015 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Hi Fathima,

      Please make an appointment with our consultant for company registration and visa application. We will need more information from you in order to provide the right package for you.

      Paul

  4. Rm July 31, 2015 at 4:36 am - Reply

    Can a foriner start a resturant in singapour

    • Paul Hype Page August 4, 2015 at 7:09 am - Reply

      Dear Rm,
      Yes, a foreign can start a restaurant in Singapore with the right permits and visa. You can start with setting up a company and apply for work visa.
      We will be able to assist you from incorporation to applying the right work visa and permits. My colleague will drop you an email for more information.

      Welcome to Singapore!

      Paul

  5. paras handa July 19, 2015 at 6:03 am - Reply

    hello sir

    As a foriegner i want to open a business in singapore means I want to invest money in singapore
    and i need guide that what can i do there and what are the hopes over there.

    • Paul Hype Page July 22, 2015 at 3:31 am - Reply

      Dear Paras,

      You may want to consider incorporating a company in Singapore and take up our nominee director services. My colleague will email you with more details shortly. Do book an appointment to set up a meeting with us for further discussion.

      Your Sincerely
      Paul

  6. Pradeep June 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Hi
    Would like to set up a small business in singapore. please advice what is the minimum capital required & also procedure for the same. i am from india.

    • Paul Hype Page June 10, 2015 at 6:53 am - Reply

      Hi Pradeep,

      The minimum capital to setup a company in Singapore can be as low as just $2. We will advise using Incorporation with Employment pass to setup your business. Do give us a call for an appointment when you are ready to let us assist you.

      Cheers
      Paul

  7. Allan M. Lopez May 5, 2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

    Hi! Im into seafood trading in the philippines, im interestedin opening a same business in singapore. What am i going to do? And what can you do to help me? I already message yesterday. Please rrpky on my email. Thanks.

    • Paul Hype Page May 5, 2015 at 3:38 am - Reply

      Dear Allan,

      The first step towards conducting business as a trading company in Singapore is to incorporate a company.

      Before you can import/export any goods in and out of the country, you’ll need to first activate your account with Singapore Customs. Your account will be activated within 1-2 business days after you submit your application. You will then be issued an approval letter from Customs, valid for as long as your company exists.

      We will email you shortly with detail information on the steps to incorporate your business.

      Paul

  8. onkar singh April 21, 2015 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    respected sir / madam,
    i am from india
    i want to start business leanse on nightclub/retaurent in singapore/thailand/ indonesia(bali), so please send me fulinformations regarding that,

    • Paul Hype Page May 5, 2015 at 3:20 am - Reply

      Dear Onkar Singh

      Under the Environmental Public Health Act, it is mandatory to secure a Food Shop License issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for retailing food and/or drinks. Finalizing the place for restaurant operations should precede the application for Food shop License because the authorities will inspect the premises before granting an approval for the license.

      You can refer to https://www.paulhypepage.com/guide-faq/start-a-singapore-restaurant/ for more information.

      Once you are ready to start, pls fill up this form below and we will be able to assist you with all the detail follow up.
      https://paulhypepage.yutechs.info/frontcompany/register.php

      Cheers
      Paul

  9. Anna Do April 6, 2015 at 1:46 am - Reply

    Hi,

    I’m keen in setting up a new business in Singapore. Would be great if you can give me further detailed information.

    Thanks

  10. Chelston Cheah April 2, 2015 at 2:41 am - Reply

    Dear Sir/ Mdm,

    Can I get more details on the processes, minimum requirements and cost of setting up a company in Singapore? I also need more details on work passes, setting up of bank accounts and registration of company.

    Thank you

    Pls advise

    • Paul Hype Page April 7, 2015 at 2:52 am - Reply

      Dear Richard

      I understand your like to set up a Singapore Company.

      We offer the Paul Hype Page Solution
      Step 1: Incorporation with Nominee Services
      • Obtain Company’s Name and Information to seek for ACRA approval (Please click here to fill up the required details)
      • Incorporate a Singapore company using our local Resident Nominee Director and Registered Address
      Open Bank Account

      Step 2: Apply for Trading Account License
      Before you can import/export any goods in and out of the country, you’ll need to first activate your account with Singapore Customs.
      For more information on the Taxes and other Requirements, please refer to
      https://www.paulhypepage.com/applying-singapore-business-license/

      Step 3: Apply for Employment Pass
      The Employment Pass (EP) is the main type of Singapore work visa issued to foreign professional employees, managers, and owners/directors of Singapore companies
      Meanwhile, you may wish to take a look at the Incorporation with Employment Pass’s Video Guide.

      Ready to incorporate? click here to fix an appointment with us.

      or call our office at +65 62214711 or +65 84848816 (Mobile) for a discussion.

      Best Regards
      Eric

Go to Top