Singapore has been a top destination for foreign professionals and entrepreneurs and the statistics show. With more than 1.2 million of foreigners choosing the city-state their preferred destination to work, understanding and choosing the right work visa in Singapore is crucial.
Why Are Singapore Work Visas So Popular?
Singapore has become a highly attractive place to work as it is now a world leader in business freedom and innovation. Singapore has a great reputation to entice the best and brightest foreign workers, and its success is mainly because nearly 40% of its workforce is made up of foreign workers and students.
Types of Work Visas in Singapore in 2023
All work visas are issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) with a total of 5 visas falling into this category, all of which are long-term visit passes. They are:
Singapore introduced a new Tech.Pass in 2021 to attract high calibre e-commerce, AI, and cybersecurity foreign professionals to supplement the existing local work force. This work pass is issued by the Singapore Economic Development Board. If you’re a professional in this space, this may be the right visa for you.
The table below breaks down the various work passes available according to 3 characteristics
Work Visa Type
Scope of Work
|Employment pass, Entrepass and Personalised Employment pass||Degree and Above||Above $4,500||Professional work such as Engineering, Technology, Management consulting, Medical, financial field and many others|
|S Pass||Degree or diploma or technical certificates,||Min $2500||Executive work such as Admin, Operational and more routine base type of work any industries|
|Work Permit||No Min Requirement||No Min Required||Foreign workers provide physical labour work working in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process or services sector.|
*The minimum qualifying salary will be raised from S$4,500 to S$5,000 in September 2022.
Comparing The Work Visas – Which is The Most Suitable for a Foreign Professional?
As there are many different types of work visas for a foreigner who possesses a degree or have a higher education background, let’s uncover the 3 types in detail below.
1) Employment Pass
The most common work visa in Singapore among degree holders is the Singapore Employment Pass. This work pass is most suitable for foreigners who are experts or specialists in their field. MOM has outlined a few success pointers for approval such as:
- Comparison of their skills compare against the local workforce and if they are able to contribute to the local economy
- Measurement of their salary against their job scope
Requirements for Singapore Work Visa
Below is a list of requirements that must be met by foreign workers in Singapore:
Foreign workers in Singapore must also comply with the following:
Moving forward, MOM announced a new employment pass framework that is point-based under the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). It is to launch in September 2023.
2) Entrepreneurship Pass
The next work visa is specifically tailored for 3 groups of individuals. They are foreigners or existing work pass holders who plans to start a new venture-backed or owns innovative technology businesses in Singapore.
- Entrepreneurs – individuals who have secured venture capital funding, have a demonstrated history of entrepreneurial experience or who is already in an acceleration in Singapore start-up programme
- Innovator – individuals who hold an intellectual property (IP) or is a technical expert that has an ongoing research collaboration with Singapore research institution
- Investor – individuals with good track record of investing in businesses with the aim of growing new or existing businesses in Singapore by starting an investment-related company
3) Personalised Employment Pass
The last work visa in the professional category is curated for top-tier professionals with an exceptional technical or domain expertise. As the name suggests, the PEP is a self-sponsored working visa that is not tied to any company, however, not renewable. They are most suitable for:
- Existing employment pass holders who earn a minimum monthly salary of S$12,000
- Overseas-based foreign professional with a last drawn monthly salary of S$18,000.
As the PEP is a self-sponsored Singapore working visa, it is straight-forward when it comes to understanding the requirements. Let’s take a deeper look into the 2 others – Employment Pass and Entrepreneur Pass.
Work Visa Comparison: Employment Pass Vs Entrepreneur Pass
The similarities for the 2 work visas are detailed below:
While both passes are similar in nature, there are distinctive differences that every foreigner should take note of:
1) Applicant’s position
- Singapore EP: Intended for company staff and executives
- EntrePass: For business owners or founders of a new company who holds at least 30% shares
2) Timing of application
- Singapore EP: Only can be applied after company incorporation
- EntrePass: Can be applied before company is set up or 6 months within date of incorporation
3) Main evaluation criteria
- Singapore EP: Recognised and relevant qualifications to job, including your company’s background
- EntrePass: Innovative business plan, future hiring plan, meeting spending requirements, and a proven entrepreneur track record
- Note: Educational qualifications are more important for Singapore EP as compared to EntrePass
- Singapore EP: Minimum S$4,500 fixed monthly salary – this will be increased to S$5,000 in September 2022
- EntrePass: No salary requirement
- Singapore EP: Valid for up to 2 years and renewable subject to approval
- EntrePass: Valid for up to 1 year but is subject to renewal on a yearly basis depending on the criteria
6) Processing time
- Singapore EP: Typically 2-4 weeks – however, longer time is expected during peak periods or if additional documents are requested by MOM
- EntrePass: Typically 5-8 weeks
Constraints of the Singapore S Pass Work Visa
The other work visa that is widely applied is the S Pass, targeted at skilled and semi-skilled workers. There are no restrictions of nationalities and S Pass holders are usually individuals who have fulfilled the requirements as specified by the company.
All companies in Singapore are subjected to a quota system that limits the number of S Pass holders in a company. For example, a company in the service sector must have more than 10% of their staff as S Pass holders. It is also mandatory for employers to pay a certain amount of monthly levy depending on the number of S Pass holders who have been employed.
Which Industries Are Employing Work Permit Holders?
The most basic work pass is the Singapore Work Permit (WP). A work permit allows low to semi-skilled workers in labour-intensive sectors such as the following to work in Singapore:
Similar to the S Pass, there is also a quota system for this work visa. The employer is required to pay a foreign worker levy, fulfil the foreign worker quota, and provide medical insurance for employees. Upon issuance, this pass is valid for up to two years and is renewable thereafter.
Why is Employment Pass a Better Choice?
If you are in a dilemma of whether you need a professional tier working visa in Singapore, we would recommend the Singapore Employment Pass which has long-term benefits.
Although both the Employment Pass and EntrePass grant you the ability to bring in dependants, the validity of the EntrePass is only a year but is renewable thereafter. Holders of EntrePass will not be able to bring in dependants on the first year. Only after renewing the pass, they will be able enjoy the dependant privileges.
For Personalised Employment Pass, there are 2 key disadvantages in the long run:
Therefore, Employment pass visa gives you more flexibility and advantages as a job seeker or as a foreign entrepreneur who plans to start their business in Singapore.
A foreigner needs to apply for an Approval-In-Principle EntrePass if the foreigner wants to register a business and act as a local manager of the business firm. The foreigner must also have a Singapore residential address in the above cases. After obtaining the AIP-EP, the foreigner will have to approach a professional firm or a service bureau for submitting the BizFile transaction on his behalf to register a new business.
To make sure that you are applying for the right work visa, you can make use of a tool offered by MOM which is the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT). This tool will help you check your eligibility and determine based on your nationality, education profile, working background/experience, and salary. From this, you will be able to know under which category you fall. Since MOM has enforced tight criterions on granting EP, this tool will give you a more definite and case by case answer according to your personal profile, position and condition. You may head to MOM’s site for the Self-Assessment Tool.
If the tool indicates that you will not qualify, do note that this Self-Assessment Tool only serve as a system to check your eligibility and criteria prior to your application and NOT the approval of your application.
For foreigners who wish to work and live in Singapore, they are required to have work visas, and the relevant work visa is Employment Pass (EP). An Employment Pass is a work visa that allows foreign professionals in managerial, executive or specialist role who have job offer in Singapore to relocate there and work.