• Why Singapore PR Difficult to Attain and What Are the Future Trends

Singapore Permanent Residency (PR) applications used to be very lenient. In the year 2008, there was a high of 79,000 new PRs which raised concerns among Singaporeans. In turn, the Government listened and immigration policies were tightened. A quick look at the trends:

  • Year 2000 with 9.9% average annual growth of PRs
  • Year 2010 with 1.5%
  • Year 2013 with –0.3%
  • To Year 2018 with –0.8%

The numbers agree, and we ask “Why is Singapore PR so difficult to attain?”. We dive into it and analyse what future trends might be, and why starting a business in Singapore is now the best way to get a PR.

Singapore population size

Selective immigration policy of Singapore

PR is difficult to attain because Singapore has an obscure selective immigration policy. Compared to Australia who has a point-based system, your PR approval is completely up to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s (ICA) discretion. While the ICA has application guidelines, they won’t justify their reasons for rejection.

Anti-foreigner sentiments among Singaporeans

PR is difficult to attain because anti-foreigner sentiments among Singaporeans in 2010 brought upon tightened immigration policies during the 2011 general election. Singaporeans fear having too many foreigners would result in feeling like strangers in their own land and job competition.

In 2013, The Population White Paper (PWP) was released by the Government. It sets out the key considerations and roadmap for Singapore’s population policies to address its demographic challenge. In which, the Government reveals they have significantly tightened PR approvals granted each year from a high of 79,000 new PRs in 2008 to about 30,000 each year and maintaining the current rate between 500,000 to 600,000. In addition, they stress on the importance of new residents to fit into the society.

An ageing population and overpopulation

PR is difficult to attain because Singapore was experiencing a high 2.5% population growth rate and 3.3% workforce growth rate which is not sustainable. To address these issues, the Government took steps to significantly slow down the rate of workforce growth from 3.3% per year to 1% per year by reducing the intake of PRs and tightening policies on foreign workers.

Having said that, the general Singapore population is still reasonable. The consensus is that as long as companies are not unfairly hiring foreigners due to low cost or convenience, and foreigners make efforts to assimilate into Singapore society, Singaporeans are accepting of the situation.

Current position on PR’s and immigration

Singapore is not closing off to foreigners. Rather, having stricter evaluation of your integration to society, potential contribution and commitment to Singapore.

A speech by DPM Teo Chee Hean on the PWP at the Parliamentary Debate: “Singapore has historically been an immigrant society, …. We should continue to welcome immigrants who can contribute to Singapore, share our values and integrate into our society.”, where he solutions that younger immigrants will balance Singapore’s ageing population.

PM Lee Hsien Loong addressing the issue while Singapore deals with COVID-19: “Our population is small, it is not growing very fast. Soon it is going to level off. To grow our economy, we have no choice but to top up with foreign workers and work pass holders. …

Then for the upper levels, the Professionals, Management, Executives and Technical (PMETs) workers, we have the Employment Pass (EP). Here, the key issue is about controlling the quality, and making sure the people we bring in are those who are able to contribute to Singapore. So we have been using salary benchmarks as a proxy, along with other qualifying criteria.” to which he explains the tightening up of the EP qualifying salary criteria.

Profiles with the highest PR success rates

The future of PR applications is highly competitive. A rough estimation is that only less than 5,000 PR applicants are successful. Our advice is that if you are a PMET (holding EP, EntrePass or S Pass), consider taking time to improve your case before application.

Here are the roads with the highest success rates:

  • An investor part of the Global Investor Programme (GIP)
  • EntrePass as an investor setting up an investment vehicle in Singapore
  • Foreign entrepreneur running a business through an Employment Pass

We elaborate on the 3 roads in this article. All of the above are most likely to illustrate high qualifications and direct contribution through local business spending or paying of local salaried employees.

EP & Visa checker

Insight into more successful cases

Another guide is to consider an invisible point system with the below factors. Every action should contribute to your integration to society, potential contribution and commitment to Singapore.

  • Career, experience or work pass
  • Education or specialisation
  • Length of stay or local family
  • Age or family profile
  • Investments or economic contribution
  • Others: Local community involvement, tax payment etc

A look into our insight (nothing agreed to by ICA, just our experiences):

  • Working in the government sector or you have a bond, may have a higher success rate.
  • Studying in local universities might give you an advantage, even over candidates from top tier overseas schools with well-paid salaries. This is under presumption that studying locally sinks your roots into Singapore.
  • Certain nationalities have unspoken quotas.
  • Your industry and position matters.

    A quantum physics researcher in deep technology is more likely to get a PR compared to a lawyer in corporate services.

    However, an owner of an accounting firm is more likely to get a PR compared to a marketing executive in deep technology.

  • Having family members or spouse in Singapore, you have increased chances.
  • Having male children, you have better chances since he will have to enlist for National Service.

Our thoughts

Singapore is not as closed off as many think. We are just asking for more from our foreign applicants. If you fall under PMET, there is much you can do to improve your profile. You need to be an active direct contributor in making the life of Singaporeans better, usually through running a business in Singapore and having direct business spendings or hiring local employees. There is already such negative sentiment on foreigners replacing Singaporeans or taking jobs away. Simply having a good high paying job won’t cut it anymore.

You should also learn to build a compelling case and market your strengths and value proposition. Get a service provider to draft your application because the insight into what ICA is looking for helps.


Is PR status the same as Citizenship?2020-06-17T15:15:44+08:00

Although there are similarities between the two, PR status is not the same as citizenship. This is true in both Singapore and other countries alike. 

Can PR status be revoked?2020-06-17T15:15:16+08:00

Despite its title of “permanent resident”, PR status in Singapore may be revoked. It may take place upon the PR holder’s request. The government may also forcibly revoke one’s PR status if the PR has committed certain severe violations. 

Does Everyone who has an Employment Pass automatically have PR status?2020-06-17T15:14:43+08:00

The Employment Pass is merely a work visa. It does not confer PR status upon its holder. Therefore, Employment Pass holders are not automatically PRs of Singapore.

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6 Discussions

  1. Momo March 20, 2021 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article!
    I am a EU citizen married to a Singapore citizen. We live together in Europe and plan to do so for the foreseeable future, but I would like to apply for PR as we are planning to come to SG for short-term employments in the future and it might help to enter the country during COVID as well.
    I recently graduated with a law degree but have no work experience yet. I did an internship in SG on a Work Pass before.
    Does it make sense to apply for PR from abroad now, or are the chances slim?

  2. Rossa March 11, 2021 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Recently my PR application was rejected, what the next step should i do?
    Should i do appeal? if yes, how to do since it applied online?
    Or should i re-apply as new application?
    Your valuable advice highly appreciated. Thank you

  3. Sangeeta January 20, 2021 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    My daughter has studied and lived in Singapore for 7 yrs. She has moved to Europe last year for masters degree.
    Can she applied for PR in Singapore now?
    Do you provide services for PR in Singapore?

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