• 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. Birendra May 28, 2017 at 4:43 am - Reply

    Hi Paul,

    I am from India, and i would like to setup a Restaurant in Singapore. Initially i was working in a Singapore bank, but now because of the project completion and i have moved back to India. My EP stands expired as of now.
    Request you to please help me with the paperwork for restaurant business , and the investment required for this venture.
    Also what sort of VISA i need to apply for this ?

    Regards,
    Birendra

  2. Kristine Rayat May 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Paul

    I was wondering if you could help me with setting up a business in Singapore. I am planning to put up a fastfood chain franchise in Singapore. I would like to know the step by step process. I am a Filipino Citizen but I am a permanent resident of Australia. Also, I would like to know what type of visa should I be applying for and is it troublesome to apply for one? How long does it usually take to process all the required documents? Do I need to provide a bank statement when applying?
    Thanks so much

    Regards,
    Kristine

    • Paul Hype Page May 24, 2017 at 1:44 am - Reply

      Hi Kristine,

      You can consider our incorporation solution package which allows you to setup your own business and apply for an employment pass. Paul Hype Page & Co. has the expertise you need from years of helping foreign entrepreneurs start their own businesses.

      We would love to hear more about your company so we can better advise you on what to do. Do drop us an email at paulhypepage@php-cpa.com.sg for more details and charges.

      Cheers
      Paul

  3. Kevin May 19, 2017 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I would like to register a company at Singapore for opening my online shop at Lazada. I don’t need the working visa. The only thing i need is the local bank account. Can you kindly advise what’s the basic requirements?

    Many thanks

    Kindregards

    • Paul Hype Page May 24, 2017 at 1:50 am - Reply

      Dear Kevin,

      Opening a bank account in Singapore is a fairly straightforward process. At Paul Hype Page, we can assist you from incorporating a company to arranging the banker for you for the account opening. We would love to hear about your goals and needs for the account, do drop us an email at paulhypepage@php-cpa.com.sg for further consultation and charges.

      Cheers,
      Paul

  4. jo March 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    My partner is currently holding a work permit and working in singapore.
    Can i apply EP for him and set up a new company (teaching music).

    • Paul Hype Page March 23, 2017 at 7:10 am - Reply

      Hi Yuki,

      If your partner met the criteria of EP, then yes you can consider setting up your own company and apply EP for him.

      We will be able to assist you from incorporation to employment pass application, pls drop us a note via contact us and my corporate specialist will send you the relevant details.

      Cheers
      Paul

  5. Rica March 7, 2017 at 2:52 am - Reply

    hello sir,
    We are currently holding a business of a General merchandise business here in PH, existed almost 5 years, from our frequent visit to Singapore, my husband and I are interested in putting up small shop in Singapore and and try a living there because so far it is our well loved country and wished to be there in the future.Please send me anything that that I can send to process our inquiry and the steps in making this possible. All the best and thanks!

    Rica

    • Paul Hype Page March 23, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Dear Rica,

      An incorporation of a Private Limited company in Singapore with Employment pass application will be suitable for you.

      Our Corporate Specialist will drop you an email with more details
      Paul

  6. Cheena Kaushal February 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Hello, I am from India. We have a garment manufacturing unit in India now we want to open a branch office and extend our business in Singapore. Could you please tell us the procedure and the minimum capital we require?

    • Paul Hype Page March 1, 2017 at 6:23 am - Reply

      Dear Cheena,

      We will need to understand more about your business operation so we can recommend the right business setup for your company. The most recommended business setup will be Private Limited where you will need as little as SGD2 as capital.

      Paul

      • Cheena Kaushal March 8, 2017 at 11:31 am - Reply

        Hi Paul, thanks for your reply. Let me tell you more about our business. We have a garment company here in India, and we manufactures the ready made garments for domestic and export. Now we want to open a outlet or showroom in Singapore where we can sell our clothes. So could you please guide us regarding this. Thanks in advance.

        • Paul Hype Page March 23, 2017 at 7:36 am

          Dear Cheena,

          My corporate specialist will drop you an email and follow up with you from there. If you dont get any email, pls drop us a note on CONTACT US page.
          Thank you
          Paul

        • Cheena Kaushal April 28, 2017 at 3:27 am

          Hello Paul

          I have not received any mail yet
          Thanks

  7. pon dhandapani,B.E., February 28, 2017 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Sir,
    Greetings!!!..
    we have our own government certified organic estate in india (10 hectares) in hill station 4500ft.our farm produces are coffee,pepper,jack fruit,avacado ,turmeric.we want sell these produce in singapore.
    kindly guide us to venture our business,
    yours truly
    pon dhandapani

    • Paul Hype Page March 1, 2017 at 6:25 am - Reply

      Dear Pon,

      Apart from setting up your company, you may also need to find out more about the import business licenses you may need. Our corporate specialist will contact you with more details.

      Paul

  8. hazi mukles February 26, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    hi
    i am bangladeshi .i got one company in singapore.this is food business.my income tax diclare 42000 sin.long time not stay in singapore.but business on.now i want to stay singapore..plz advice me how to get ep..and how much cost.
    my company name puncak best noodles halal muslim food.far east plaza #05-9495

    • Paul Hype Page March 1, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

      Dear Hazi,

      Our EP application service is charged at SGD800. To find out more about your eligibility an EP pass, you can do an online SAT test – https://services.mom.gov.sg/sat/satservlet .
      My colleague will also drop you an email about the Criteria of Employment pass for your refers.
      Cheers
      Paul

  9. jennette robles February 25, 2017 at 3:12 am - Reply

    Hi !

    We are currently holding a Pass Holder here in Singapore and wish to open a small Filipino Store Business ,
    Is there any qualification and what are the requirements that we need to fill up in, in order to open-u and operate.

    Thanks,
    Jnet

    • Paul Hype Page March 1, 2017 at 6:40 am - Reply

      Dear Jennette,

      If you are an employment pass holder and wish to incorporate a Private Limited company in Singapore, we can assist you in the setting up and application process. All you need to do is to fill up our incorporation form with your ideal company name and our corporate specialist will be able to contact you with more information.

      Paul

  10. masud Karim February 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Hello sir, I’m a British citizen and want to setup a business in Singapore. mainly a trading business, take the order from my buyers in other Asian country (mostly garments machinery) and supply their machinerys and payment through proper banking channel. I want to setup in Singapore as income tax/ corporation tax is too high in UK. can you give some more details please? can I open business as a British citizen or I have to join with someone living in Singapore? do I need a visa for that? due to my business nature, I physically don#t need to stay in Singapore for long time, if needed I can go once in a month or when I got the order. please suggest.

    Thanks/masud

    • Paul Hype Page February 13, 2017 at 7:56 am - Reply

      Dear Masud,

      Setting up a business in Singapore is easy and fast with the right structure. You can start by setting up your company (Pte Ltd) in Singapore.

      We will drop you an email with more information of our Incorporation with Nominee director solution for your refers.

      Cheers
      Paul

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