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:
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.
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.
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.
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.